TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Waiting for the curtain to rise

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The Independent Culture
At one stage, employees of the Roundhouse in Camden, north London, took to crawling around their Portakabin for fear of being shot at.

The grandiose plans to turn the former 19th-century locomotive shed into a centre of excellence for black arts were in that much of a mess. In The Roundhouse - A House Divided, a BLACK BAG SPECIAL (9pm C4) produced by Malcolm Frederick and Keith Lakhan, Darcus Howe attempts to answer the question daubed on the boards surrounding the deserted building: 'Why is the Roundhouse still empty?' Is it, as another piece of grafitti suggests, 'a disgrace'? With the help of Yvonne Brewster, Norman Beaton and others, he traces the fall and fall of the black arts centre project first championed by the Greater London Council and Camden Council in the mid- 1980s.

Since then the Roundhouse has done a convincing impersonation of a money pit, swallowing up pounds 4m without being any nearer opening. The eventual cost of structural repairs to a site riddled with asbestos far exceeded quotations. The management made plans for developing an adjacent car park without confirming that the owners, who wanted to build a magistrates' court there, would sell it to them. An arts festival there - '12 Days at the Roundhouse' - lost pounds 400,000. And four employees who complained about working conditions - the Roundhouse Four - were dismissed. If it ever opens, the Roundhouse could stage its own production of A Comedy of Errors.

(Photograph omitted)