Comedy stars break ground on Roundhouse creative centre

Groundbreaking ceremony Roundhouse creative centre

Groundbreaking ceremony at the Roundhouse's new creative centre. Back row (L-R) - Roundhouse Trustee, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Roundhouse CEO and Artistic Director, Marcus Davey, Comedian Hugh Dennis and Baroness Deborah BullFront row (L-R) - Roundhouse Poetry Slam Winner, Maureen Onunwali, Roundhouse Resident Artist, Laurie Ogden and Presenter and Producer, Cherise Hamiltn-Stephenson - Credit: Nici Eberl

Unforgotten star Sanjeev Bhaskar and Outnumbered comic Hugh Dennis helped to break ground on the Roundhouse's new creative centre.

Featuring three large rehearsal spaces, music, digital and podcast studios, the £7.5million extension is due to open at the end of 2022 and will enable the Chalk Farm venue to expand its work with young people developing careers in the creative industries.

Roundhouse CEO Marcus Davey said they could "double the numbers" from 7,500 to help 15,000, 11-30-year-olds from diverse backgrounds break into the world of radio, podcasting, music, and performance.

Roundhouse's new creative centre

Roundhouse's new creative centre will be a sustainable building made mostly out of wood. - Credit: Paddy Dillon Architect, Allies and Morrison, Reed Watts

"All this talk about levelling up, we were there years ago. We are all born with the ability to imagine create and innovate but not everyone has equal access, and it's really important to provide those opportunities to develop that untapped potential," he said.

"The centre will be a workspace for creative entrepreneurs to develop their skills and take their business ideas to the next level. They may have a brilliant idea but not know how to put a finance plan together, we can provide mentors and networks of support."

Highgate actor Bhaskar, who grew up above the family laundrette in Hounslow, said: "That old adage 'you have to be able to see it to be it' is true, I always wanted to be involved in film and TV, but didn't have the role models to look up to, and there was nothing that I or my parents could see by way of access or opportunities. Places like the Roundhouse don't only open doors but make it possible for young people to express themselves, collaborate, find out who they are, and provide teachers to help on that journey."

Roundhouse creative centre

Roundhouse Creative Centre - Credit: Paddy Dillon Architect, Allies and Morrison, Reed Watts

Bhaskar, who says all of his mentors were "remote", was inspired by Monty Python to make a go of comedy. He made his way by "making my own work," in a mid-90s comedy act that was a "test of my passion and endurance" before going on to appear in Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at No 42.

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Before that he worked as an arts development worker in East London where he saw at first hand how much the weekly drama club meant to the participants and the "ripple effect" of taking part.

"They weren't necessarily wanting careers, they just needed to express themselves and an escape from the limitations of their routines and confined futures."

And the actor, best known as DI Sunny Khan in hit crime series Unforgotten, said that while TV has become more diverse "it's also highlighted how far we have to go."

"Diversity for me has always been across culture, race, gender, age and geography. We need to see stuff which reflects the real world in which we are living and it doesn't always."

Set to start filming series 5 of Unforgotten next year with a new detective partner, he is delighted the show has "found an audience, that people have loved it and accepted me in a dramatic role. It's lovely and flattering."

He "knows nothing" about the new series, adding: "Every year I am just hoping I am still in it. When I went to audition I didn't expect to get the job, the only only reason I went was to meet the writer and tell him how much I had enjoyed his script. It's an emotionally honest show, there are no car chases. What sustains it is the tension that comes from character and the unravelling of lies."

As for wife Meera Syal, he says: "It helps that there is someone at home more talented than me who can talk through ideas and scripts, and who understands the industry, the inevitable down times and rejection."

Details on the Roundhouse's work with young people here