Iconic London Venue KOKO Closes Doors For Major Refurbishment
Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns – KOKO in Camden, London
The picture was taken during a sold out show by D Block Europe, Dec. 9, 2018.
KOKO the iconic 1,410-capacity venue in London’s Camden district, will close its doors next week for a year for refurbishment.
According to a report in the London Evening Standard, the refurbishment will cost some £40 million ($53 million) and will be led by architect David Archer, who has previously worked on other iconic buildings in the English capital.
The new KOKO, which is scheduled to open in spring 2020, will feature six performance areas, three restaurants and a penthouse suite, which will serve as a rehearsal and recording space, indicating that the venue will remain committed to hosting live music.
The 1,410-capacity main auditorium will not change. KOKO owner Olly Bengough told the Evening Standard: “This isn’t just about offering a music venue. In the Camden spirit of independence, auteurship and eccentricity, we want to offer an unrivaled experience.
“London is a forward-facing city. Where we lead, the world follows and we have to move with it. We’re protecting the culture, helping Camden and London.”
KOKO began life as The Camden Theatre and was opened on Boxing Day 1900 by actress Ellen Terry. In 1909, the theatre was renamed The Camden Hippodrome and became a variety theatre where Charlie Chaplin regularly performed.
It was a cinema between 1913 and 1928, although on so-called ‘Novelty Nights’ on Fridays, live acts would perform before films. The cinema closed in 1940; for some 20 years from 1945 the building became a BBC Theatre.
“Here they recorded shows such as the famous Goon Show, and ‘Rhythm and Blues’, which featured a performance from the Rolling Stones,” the history section on KOKO’s website states.
KOKO’s music legacy began in 1970, when it reopened as The Music Machine. Sex Pistols and Iron Maiden performed live, and it also hosted The Clash‘s four-day residency in the summer of 1978.
In the 1980s, when the venue was known as Camden Palace, the Eurythmics, The Cure and Camden’s own Madness performed, as did a rising star known as Madonna, who played her first U.K. show at KOKO.
The Camden Palace closed for refurbishment in 2004. Since reopening as KOKO in 2005, Queens of the Stone Age, Noel Gallagher, Kasabian, Thom Yorke, Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse, The Killers, Biffy Clyro, The Chemical Brothers, Katy Perry, Lilly Allen, Bruno Mars, Nick Cave and many more have graced the stage.
Madonna returned as a superstar, Prince played a secret show in 2007 and an official one in 2014. Other artists that played surprise shows at the venue include Kanye West and Ed Sheeran. Coldplay and
Red Hot Chili Peppers launched albums at KOKO.
Wiley, a Pollstar Hotstar last summer, will perform the last gig at KOKO in 2019 on March 5.