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#22 - Sir Torquil Norman / The Roundhouse / 1996

Torquil leica cropped

Kaajel and I met Sir Torquil Norman in the cafe at the Roundhouse. I had already heard a great deal about him not only from Caroline Bartram, who put me in touch with him, but also from my encounter with Ubah Egal, who worked at The Roundhouse in its early days, around year 2000. I heard from Ubah how much room Torquil gave to young people - both physically and metaphysically - in terms of really engaging with young people from the local area, asking them what they wanted, and what they needed in order to reach their aspirations in music and performing arts. And with the young people who were working there too - making sure they were involved in Board meetings, so that (paraphrasing what Torquil said) the Roundhouse was not something set up by a load of fusty old official people for young people, but something that was really formed through conversation, engagement and collaboration. An ethos that is still very present in the whole feel of the place.

What I didn't know though was that it was all thanks to the commercial success of a very small toy called Polly Pocket that the Roundhouse was able to be what it was. Taking this project on was no small undertaking, requiring the passion, energy of many people - but also money. The roof had to be entirely rebuilt, the place soundproofed so neighbours wouldn't complain, and rats in the cellar dealt with. And people had to paid for a long time before any cash started coming in again. The Norman Trust was set up as a charitable foundation from the money generated by Ms Pocket.

At the very elegant age of 82, Torquil stands so tall I felt dwarfed. And yet his character is so open and warm I can see how he has achieved what he has. And why so many speak of him with such fondness and loyalty.

The video was made in the main theatre space of the Roundhouse. It was a great honour to meet Torquil.


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