23rd June 2000 at 01:00
Once upon a time there was a hard-working engine shed in Camden Town, north London. It was a spacious, sturdy, round building to which heavy Victorian engines were sent for repair, and underneath it there were strong walls built in a labyrinth rather like a subterranean colosseum.

The busy Victorians didn't need the underground space and it filled with rubbish. Many years past, the engines were sent elsewhere, and the round building was forgotten until, in the 1960s, a prince in the shape of playwright Arnold Wesker came along to kiss the forgotten shed back to life. The Roundhouse became a popular arts centre and even the truly wicked Rolling Stones made magic there, but this new incarnation was not to last either. But now, in the 21st century, there really does seem to be the chance of a fairy-tale ending - or rather beginning.

The Roundhouse is becoming a centre - hub seems a better word - with a dual purpose. Upstairs, a beautifully redesigned, glass-balconied multi-media performance space will be a venue for contemporary music, theatre and spectacle, but downstairs there will be an even more innovative and exciting space, or rather series of spaces, collectively known as the Creative Centre.

The Victorian mud and rubble have been removed and the brick-lined labyrinth will be transformed into studio spaces, equipped for television, radio, film, music recording, fashion design and the internet, which will draw all the other activities together. Eventually, some 15,000 young people a year, aged 13 to 23, drawn particularly from those who have been excluded from school or who have not found employment, will benefit from courses, possibly doing several over a number of years. Marcus Davey, the chief executive, and his staff do not intend to impose solutions, but to offer opportunities. Outreach work has begun in the area already, with young people working with internationally-known musicians in Rockshop which led to a performance for hundeds of their peers.

More fairy godmothers are needed to fulfil the dream by October 2003. The whole project will cost pound;21 million. Information: 020 7424 9991 New technology is integral to Acquis, a pan-European project for students aged 16 to 19 who may be thinking of a career in the theatre. This has given rise to a new term - "cyberthesps". Four partnership theatres, the Royal National Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland (the Abbey and Peacock) in Dublin, Laboratorio Nove, Florence and Theater WerkstattTheatre+Schule, Munich, are collaborating to provide vocational training in all aspects of theatre, from lighting to marketing, online. The participants, in 10 youth theatres, schools and colleges from each country, will apply their ideas to one of the plays that were performed during the National's new writing scheme for young audiencs, BT Connections.

Students will be assigned a web mentor who will tutor them online. Plans and designs will be displayed on the website and the project will culminate next spring when students will take part in a video conference and their work will form a touring exhibition. For information: 020 7452 3312; Artists come face to face with each other in Encounters: New art from Old at the National Gallery - or, more accurately, the viewing public sees their work hanging side by side, contemporary artists inspired by well-known paintings from the past. There are some revelations: the 12 pencil, crayon and gouache portraits of gallery warders by Hockney inspired by Ingres make you look at the staff with new eyes. Hockney concluded that Ingres's swift, accurate portraits must have been made with the aid of a camera lucida, a prism on a stick, patented in 1807, which allows the artist to see the sitter and the work simultaneously. He set about finding one and produced each portrait after a day's sitting.

Paula Rego's three strong, vital and unsentimental scenes of human relationships - an arranged betrothal, an older woman teaching a younger how to use her feminine wiles and a dying man cradled, 30 years later in the woman's arms - are said to be inspired by Hogarth, but one would welcome them in any context. Likewise the Anthony Caros - three domestic room-like sculptures, part of a set of six, linked with Duccio's "Annunciation".

Louise Bourgeois's installation, all glass, dripping water and changing light, is a spectacular and atmospheric comment on Turner's "Sun rising through vapour" .

Often there is only a small reproduction of the "master", but in two cases the original can be compared with the interpretation. Lucian Freud spent months working in the gallery at night to create his own versions of Chardin's exquisite "The Young Schoolmistress". His results are close to the original, on show here, in composition and share the same unflinching preference for realism, but they are distinctive and new nevertheless. Howard Hodgkin's "Seurat's Bathers" is exhibited next to the famous pointillist original, but, despite its energy, seems to offer little in the way of insight.

There are two education initiatives associated with the exhibition sponsored by Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. Wild at Art runs through the school holidays and will provide children at two London schools, in Mile End and Plaistow, with activities based on the exhibition and culminate in a visit to Encounters. There is also a web-based initiative for secondary students which will allow them to access material about the permanent collection and the artists taking part in the exhibition. This will go live in October. Information: 020 7839 3321;

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