Sir Torquil Norman graduated from Harvard and Trinity College, Cambridge. He gained his pilot’s licence at eighteen and completed his National Service in the Fleet Air Arm. When he left the airforce he bought a Piper Comanche aircraft and took up skydiving. A hobby he shared with his late wife.
After working as an investment banker in America for eleven years, he returned to the UK in the 1960s and subsequently entered the toy making industry. He later founded Bluebird Toys and created some of the icon toys of the 1980’s, such as the Big Yellow Teapot House, the Big Red Fun Bus, and the very successful Polly Pocket.
He is a long term Camden resident. He famously bought what is known today as the Roundhouse,for £3 million in 1996 “as an impulse buy,” having read it was proposed to be turned into an architectural museum. He then raised £27 million from public and private sources, including almost £4 million more of his own personal funds, to restore the crumbling Victorian former railway repair shed into the Roundhouse.
Sir Torquil, who had previously received a CBE, stepped down as chairman of the Roundhouse Trust in 2007 and was knighted the same year for his “services to the arts and to disadvantaged young people”. In 2007 he won the Beacon Fellowship Prize for his work with young people through the Roundhouse Trust.
This film was made on a Roundhouse workshop in partnership with Chocolate films.
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Questions & Answers
- What's your first memory of London? I was born in London. My first memory is of playing by the Serpentine.
- What do you miss when you're away from London? I miss my friends and draft beer.
- What's your favourite neighbourhood? Camden.
- What's your favourite building? The Roundhouse.
- What's your ideal day out in London? Walking along Regents canal to Limehouse.
- What's your ideal night out in London? A trip to the theatre, followed by a smoochy dance. I used to dance at the cafe de Paris.
- What's your most hated building? The building known as the Cheese Grater.
- What's your favourite open space? Hyde Park. I used to take my children there.
- What's your favourite bar, pub or restaurant? Cottons in Camden. I love a Brizilian cocktail called Caipirinha. You should go there and try one.
- What's the most interesting shop? Camden Market.
- What's been your most memorable night out in London? The Roundhouse Gala.
- How would you like to spend your ideal day off in London? At the Hard Rock cafe with my grandchildren.
- Where would you take someone visiting from out of town? The Royal Opera House.
- What's the worst journey you've had to make in London? Walking home on New Years day, after watching the fireworks by the Thames.
- What's your personal London landmark? The Post Office Tower. Friends have told me it reminds them of me. Probably because I'm so tall.
- Who's your favourite fictional Londoner? One of Charles Dicken's characters.
- What's your favourite London film, book or documentary? The Lavender Hill Mob.
- If you could travel to any time period in London, past or future, where would you go? The 1950s. London was great then. The roads were quiet and you could drive everywhere.
- For you, who is the ultimate Londoner? Leon Kossoff.