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Published: 5 June 2008
Selom Awadzi, Kia Prempeh and Tunji Olomowewe
Selom Awadzi, Kia Prempeh and Tunji Olomowewe
Turning lives around at the Roundhouse

Stars lend support to fundraiser for scheme that puts young people on path to success

SINCE the Roundhouse opened two years ago, the former railway depot has become synonymous with glamour.
Next Thursday it will be business as usual when the Chalk Farm Road venue is transformed into a fundraising gala – aptly named the Roundhouse Rock & Roll Circus.
Some of the country’s biggest film stars, including Dame Helen Mirren, Alan Rickman and Ewan McGregor, are set to turn up alongside singers Suggs and Beverly Knight.
Organisers hope the evening, which cost thousands of pounds a table and features an auction, will rake in a cool £1 million. But the showbizzy veneer of the Roundhouse hides the far more sober and industrious work that goes on everyday behind the scenes, turning young lives around and inspiring teenagers.
Since its launch, the Roundhouse has seen more than 12,000 young people pass through its hallowed doors to take up its heavily subsidised and often free courses.
The majority of training the charity offers centres on the “creative industries”, be it television and film, music or dance.
While some may be cynical about the job opportunities these thousands of youngsters will be offered in such difficult industries, those same young people tell a different story. They are certain of one thing: the Roundhouse has changed their lives.
Take Selom Awadzi, 19, from Kentish Town. Thrown out of Haverstock School after one week when he was just 11, because of a problem with anger, he found it hard to socialise and admits he “didn’t really like people too much”.
Six years on, when he was 17 with a budding interest in theatre, he joined the Roundhouse and discovered a passion for sound engineering – now his chosen career.
“The Roundhouse has made me a lot calmer,” he said. “It helps nurture and train what you already have and what you need to succeed.
“People come here because they want to learn. They come here of their own accord. They’re learning their own professionalism.”
Mr Awadzi was one of the first to benefit from Gallery 37, a six-week programme aimed at motivating young people not in education, employment or training, which takes place twice a year.
Kia Prempeh, also 19, started at the Roundhouse as a peer mentor, providing support for other youngsters, when she was 15. She said that while the Roundhouse had helped turn youngsters away from a destructive path, its strength was to bring people from different backgrounds together.
“Every young person who comes here comes from a different place,” said the Kentish Town teenager, who was recently selected from more than 70 applicants for a job there. “I don’t think people are coming from a path where they’re about to do a crime but it gives them something to do just in case.
“I wasn’t doing anything constructive before I joined.”
For Tunji Olomowewe, 21, the creative organisation unexpectedly opened his eyes to a world of... suits.
While many may find wearing a suit to work unremarkable, for Mr Olomowewe, an internship at financial agency Bloomberg – and the suit – opened his eyes to a new vision of himself.
“I was wearing a suit. It wasn’t for the fist time, but for 10 weeks it did make me feel important [when] travelling on the train,” he said. “Business is a world I would never have experienced without the Roundhouse. I definitely see myself in the City in a few years, it opened my eyes.”
Now a university student, Mr Olomowewe, from Queen’s Crescent, says he had “no focus” before he started at the Roundhouse more than five years ago (when its projects were temporarily run from Haverstock School). Now a successful DJ who plays across the country, he admits: “I wouldn’t have taken a creative path, but the Roundhouse has allowed me to explore my hobbies.”
All three agree that without the Roundhouse they would not be pursuing the paths they have now chosen – and neither would they be rubbing shoulders with the stars next week, as both Ms Prempeh and Mr Awadzi will be when they take their positions as Roundhouse staff.
“Without the Roundhouse, you wouldn’t know about your abil­ities. The Roundhouse allows you to unlock that,” added Mr Olomowewe.
The high profile gala event – which provides, alongside trusts and private donations, roughly a third of the Roundhouse’s income – may be glamorous, but it is just the tip of a hardworking iceberg.

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