Polishing the old Dome at KOKO – photo: David Levene
You may have a distant memory of a pumping, blasting live music show over at KOKO. It was one of the most glam stages to cram your way forward towards, with Victorian-styled theatre boxes decorating the vast vertical space rising up and up to floors above. But the afterglow of a great gig and perhaps a faded band t-shirt is all you could have held onto, as this majestic venue at the Mornington Crescent southern end of the Camden strip has been offline in renovation for a long time.
Excitingly though, a fire, flood, pandemic plus 3 years and £70 million later, KOKO is about rejoin the Camden live music scene. It’s a bold new vision for the music experience. It will be way bigger, now encompassing 50,000 square feet across the entire block combining the main theatre with the space from a piano factory from 1800 and the old Hope and Anchor pub. The new building will be a flowing maze of performance spaces, bars, restaurants and creative spaces. Prior to this renovation the capacity was around 1,400 and we can guess that now it will be more scatter in the different performing spaces.
The first new gig at KOKO is schedule for 06th May – check all the KOKO listings here.
According to the club: “KOKO will return to the public offering a multi-tiered experience including a new shop featuring artist collaborations and a late night pizzeria and tap bar hosting intimate live performances. At the centre of the restoration will be the unveiling of the spectacular and immersive new ”Fly Tower venue” and gallery (the large volume of space above the stage) which was a surprise discovery during the three year development process. Having worked closely with English Heritage to unlock this new space, artists will have the opportunity to perform in the round on a 360 stage or in a more intimate setting, giving music fans a truly unique experience of what the theatre would have been like in early 1900s.”
KOKO will also be the premier digital studio space in Camden if not all of London. The building is wired for live streaming production and will host production suites. KOKO also promises to run a new radio station for emerging artists. There is also a tie-in with the Sister digital production company.
Says KOKO owner Olly Bengough: “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. We look forward to welcoming everyone back to KOKO in Spring 2022”
The new KOKO imagined in an increasingly posh Camden
Finally on top of giving the Roundhouse, Forum and Electric Ballroom enough of a challenge for audiences, KOKO will open a members club to rival the likes of Soho House.
It all sounds really incredible and worth the wait. Stay tuned as we try to get inside there soon and share some photos.
KOKO is an impressive investment into North London, yet £70 million is nowhere near the biggest spend 0n property in the area. Camden has been swamped in a tsunami of upgrades and renovations over the last 10 years – with more on the way. Some of the biggest projects in UK and Europe are here – The Camden Market, Kings Cross, the new Morrisons development and now a new plan in Kentish Town in the Murphy’s Yard. Check our notes on the developments here. Literally £ billions are coming into the area from all directions north, south, east and west. With the threat of this gentrification diluting Camden’s heritage, the new KOKO is the first, best hope for maintaining and taking the music scene here forward, digital and global.
Starry night at KOKO past. What excitement will be in store for the future of this venue?