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Leveling the Playing Field: Roundhouse Works Prioritizes Deprived Communities

The historic London music venue, The Roundhouse, has made a bold commitment to nurturing the future of the creative sector by opening its doors to an ambitious initiative: Roundhouse Works. This project aims to empower 15,000 young individuals annually, predominantly from disadvantaged backgrounds, to learn skills, develop self-assurance, and establish valuable connections within the UK's creative industries.

Roundhouse Works, set to become the most extensive creative hub for young people in Europe, will address the significant shortage of workers in industries such as broadcasting and technology. The creative sector in the UK is experiencing a strong rebound post-pandemic, contributing £109bn to the country's economy in 2021, yet barriers such as insecure work, unpaid internships, and inaccessible networking opportunities pose challenges for young aspirants. To combat this, 60% of the participants in Roundhouse Works will come from areas with high levels of deprivation.

The Roundhouse, originally built in the 1840s to store and maintain goods engines near London's first rail terminal at Euston, has a rich history of promoting the arts and culture. It became a cultural hub in the 1960s, hosting a multitude of music legends like Pink Floyd, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, and others over the decades. Despite facing funding issues that led to its closure in 1983, the Roundhouse has continued its commitment to the arts, reopening as a performing arts venue in 1996 and then undergoing a two-year redevelopment in 2004.

This new venture, Roundhouse Works, is housed in a sustainable building on the Roundhouse site. The facility includes a large music studio, a triple-height studio for circus and performance, and a dedicated podcast studio, among other multi-use spaces. The initiative will offer various membership options, giving access to work and studio space, talks, skills workshops, and networking events, with help available for childcare and travel costs. This move will effectively double the number of young people that the Roundhouse has assisted since it reopened in 2006, among whom are notable figures such as actor Daniel Kaluuya, musician Little Simz, and comedy writer Jack Rooke.

Despite the £8m cost of creating Roundhouse Works being covered by philanthropists, foundations, and corporate donations, there's been a noted absence of government funding. This lack of public support has been attributed to a shift in Arts Council England's funding strategy, which has seen much of its resources diverted outside of London. Regardless, the Roundhouse's chief executive and artistic director, Marcus Davey, argues that investing in youth creativity and diversity in the creative industries is a worthwhile use of public money, contributing to societal growth and "levelling up".

In addition to its commitment to nurturing talent, Roundhouse Works will provide financial and pastoral support through a dedicated team of trained on-site youth workers and staff. The centre will also offer affordable workspace for creative entrepreneurs and freelancers. Members will have access to one-to-one mentorship with industry experts, networking events, and workshops. These features have been successfully tested over the past three years with partners including Taylor Wessing.

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