KOKO, one of London’s most iconic music venues, has announced it will re-open in spring 2022 in partnership with “Gangs of London” producer Sister.
The historic live music venue, which first opened as the Camden Theatre in 1900, shut down in January 2020 due to a fire and resulting water damage.
Following three years of reconstruction and a £70 million ($96 million) redevelopment, KOKO will re-open as a 50,000 square foot live music venue, recording studio, broadcasting centre and members club.
There will also be a shop, pizzeria and bar on site for the public as well as a roof terrace, conservatory, dome cocktail bar, penthouse, piano room, library, hidden speakeasy, stage kitchen and vinyl rooms for members.
The entire venue — which includes multiple options for live performances ranging from intimate jazz club settings to in-the-round concert venues — has been built with the comfort and ease of artists in mind, offering high-spec broadcasting, recording and live streaming capabilities.
Over the last 120 years, KOKO has seen everyone from Charlie Chaplin to Madonna tread its boards. The world’s best known musical acts including Prince, Kanye West, Amy Winehouse, Ed Sheeran and the Rolling Stones have all played there.
Now, as well as enticing the world’s top performers — who can livestream from the stage kitchen or grand piano in the member’s bar before hitting the stage — KOKO is also planning to support emerging artists with a new radio station and charitable foundation.
KOKO has a long film and television history, having once operated as a Gaumont Pathe Cinema before being bought as a broadcasting center by the BBC in 1945. (Among the items in its rafters found during the recent renovation were costumes from the 1900s and film reels from the 1920s.)
The redevelopment was spearheaded by KOKO founder and CEO Olly Bengough in partnership with Sister, the global production outfit behind titles including “Gangs of London,” “Chernobyl” and “This is Going to Hurt.”
The Los Angeles- and London-based company, which was founded by Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider and Jane Featherstone, has since expanded into investments in creator-led businesses such as Ed Sinclair and Olivia Colman’s production company South of the River Pictures, Molly Stern’s publishing company Zando, podcast studio Campside Media and comic book publisher AWA Studios.
“It’s never been more important to support the next generation of artists and storytellers to collaborate, innovate and share their work,” said Murdoch in a statement. “Although we’ve all been eager for the return of live music, we’ve also been discovering new ways to engage with the artists we love through their creative endeavours in the digital space, keeping us united as a global community.”
“It’s this connective power of music and the arts that Olly and his team are harnessing as they develop KOKO into London’s first next generation global entertainment experience. At Sister we’re really excited to partner with KOKO and to use our collective expertise, networks and shared independence to forge creative collaborations and empower artists and audiences around the world.”
Bengough said: “After three long and epic years of construction and restoration, I’m excited to announce that we will be returning KOKO to the musicians, artists and fans next spring with a beautifully restored theatre and live music offering that will hopefully be a truly unique and unparalleled experience for everyone coming through the doors.”
A brief history of KOKO
1900 – Camden Theatre opens
1909 – Charlie Chaplin performs
1913 – Becomes a Gaumont Pathe Cinema
1945 – Bought by the BBC, “The Goon Show” is recorded here
1964 – The Rolling Stones record “Live at the Camden Theatre in 1964”
1978 – The Clash take up a four-day residency
1982 – Renamed Camden Palace
1983 – Madonna performs first U.K. show
2004 – Renamed KOKO after multi-million dollar redevelopment
2005 – Coldplay launch “X & Y” album
2006 – Hosts performances from Noel Gallagher, Thom Yorke, Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse
2009 – Katy Perry and Lily Allen perform intimate one-off shows
2010 – KOKO launches TV production company KOKO TV
2011 – Red Hot Chili Peppers launch “I’m With You” at a one off UK show
2014 – Hosts secret gigs from Prince, Ed Sheeran
2015 – Kanye West plays surprise show
2020 – Fire breaks out resulting in devastating water damage