Having closed in 1983, the former engine repair shed and experimental arts venue faced dereliction and an uncertain future.
Camden and the Greater London Council acquired the lease and a number of proposals to revitalise the building failed over the ensuing years. From 1983, there were attempts to establish a Black Arts Centre at the Roundhouse enabling a programme of music, theatre and community projects.
Funding was not forthcoming and with the dissolution of the Greater London Council in 1986, Camden Council looked at options to sell the venue. By 1991 Camden Council invited invitations to tender for the sale of the Roundhouse with mixed results.
In 1991 there were plans to build Earth Focus by an educational charity, the Environmental Awareness Trust with a permanent two-floor exhibition whose centrepiece was to be a massive sixty-foot globe.
In April 1992 the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester who had transferred productions to the Roundhouse in the preceding years also took an interest. With the public support of actors Tom Courtenay and Vanessa Redgrave, they planned to use the Roundhouse as a London home.
By 1995, the Royal Institute of British Architects had other plans and came close to using their vast archives of architectural drawings within the Roundhouse. In fact by the early 1990s, over thirty organisations were reportedly interested in taking over the Roundhouse but none of them came to anything.
Then in September 1996 everything changed. The Norman Trust, led by local businessman Sir Torquil Norman, bought the building and set up the Roundhouse Trust to bring it back to life.
In 1999, Marcus Davey OBE was appointed Chief Executive of the Roundhouse Trust, to oversee and manage the redevelopment of the Roundhouse into a world-class performance space and a state-of-the-art centre for large numbers of young people to take part in new media and creative arts programmes.
While these plans continued to redevelop the Roundhouse, the old building was far from quiet. Elvis Costello, Suede, The Bluetones, Michael Clark Dance Company, Ballet Boyz, Michael Moore and the Royal Shakespeare Company all performed at the Roundhouse during this period along with De La Guarda who stuck around for a record-breaking eleven months.
Next: 2000s: Roundhouse Reborn