Koko to return with extra venues and community spaces for musicians

Koko in full swing

Koko in full swing - Credit: Koko

A fly tower discovered during redevelopment work at Koko will be used to create a venue where artists can perform in the round or in a more intimate setting. 

The adaptable auditorium is just one of the new features at the former Camden Theatre, next to Mornington Crescent station, which closed for work in early 2019 and fell victim to a major fire last January.  

It is set to reopen in spring 2022 after a £70 million revamp. 

Koko in Camden's newly-restored dome.

Koko's newly-restored dome. - Credit: David Levene

A charitable foundation, radio station and membership scheme giving access to lounges and facilities are all in the works. 

The venue, which first opened in 1900, has hosted stars from Prince, Madonna and Kanye West to Charlie Chaplin and The Goon Show. 

The new-look Koko, with a four-storey extension, will house extra venues and spaces for musicians, and will have streaming and recording capabilities built in. 

Ellen's jazz club on the second floor of Koko

Ellen's jazz club on the second floor of Koko - Credit: Pirajean Lees

The venture is being launched in partnership with Sister, the company behind productions including Chernobyl and forthcoming titles such as This is Going to Hurt.  

Spanning 50,000 square feet, the new Koko includes the original Grade II-listed Victorian theatre, as well as an adjacent former 19th-century piano factory and the former Hope & Anchor pub, which was a favourite of Charles Dickens. 

It will include a shop, featuring artist collaborations, and a late-night pizzeria and tap bar hosting live performances. 

An artist's impression of the fly tower at Koko

An artist's impression of the fly tower at Koko - Credit: Pirajean Lees

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The fly tower – an area above the stage which housed rigging for stage set, curtains and lights – was uncovered during the redevelopment. The venue has worked with English Heritage to make the space usable so that performances can be held in a smaller space, with balconies above, or with the audience "in the round". 

Koko CEO Olly 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.  

“We are as committed as ever to protect our 120-year cultural legacy and to support the next generation of musicians and London’s dynamic and ever-growing music scene.”  

The roof terrace at Koko

The roof terrace at Koko - Credit: Pirajean Lees

Koko plans to launch a radio station to promote emerging musicians and a charitable foundation to support artists and protect the environment, beginning with projects in Camden. 

Elisabeth Murdoch, co-founder and executive chair of Sister, said: “It’s never been more important to support the next generation of artists and storytellers to collaborate, innovate and share their work.  

“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.” 

The new pizzeria, coming to Koko 

The new pizzeria, coming to Koko - Credit: Pirajean Lees

A membership scheme is being created, giving music lovers access to several floors of lounges, a new roof terrace and conservatory, the dome cocktail bar, a penthouse and recording studio, a piano room, a library, a hidden speakeasy, a stage kitchen and vinyl rooms. 

The Camden Theatre was opened in 1900 by the famous actress Ellen Terry and in 1909 hosted Charlie Chaplin. 

After the Second World War, during which it was closed, it was taken on by the BBC and was used for recordings including The Goon Show and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

The Rolling Stones recorded Live At Camden Theatre from the building in 1964, for the BBC’s ‘Rhythm and Blues’ show.

In the 1970s it became a live music venue – first The Music Machine and then Camden Palace – and has since hosted everyone from The Clash to Amy Winehouse.

Under Koko's bright lights

Under Koko's bright lights - Credit: Koko