Camden Palace Theatre
Camden Palace Theatre, now Koko
|Address||1A Camden High Street, NW1 7JE|
|Designation||Grade II listed|
|Architect||W. G. R. Sprague|
|Owned by||The Mint Group|
|Capacity||2,434 seated on 4 levels (1901)
|Years active||1900 - 1913 as theatre
1913 - 1939 as cinema
1945 - 1972 BBC studio
|Previous names||1900 Camden Theatre
1909 Camden Hippodrome Theatre
1913 Camden Hippodrome Picture Theatre
1945 BBC Camden Theatre
1972 The Music Machine
1982 Camden Palace
KOKO is a live-music venue, and former theatre in Camden Town, London, England. The building was known as Camden Palace until its 2004 purchase and extensive restoration led by Oliver Bengough and Mint Entertainment. Since, the club has been known as KOKO and serves as one of the premier live music venues in London.
The Camden Theatre opened on Boxing Day 1900. With a capacity of 2,434 it was one of the largest theatres in London outside the West End. The theatre was designed by the prolific theatre architect W. G. R. Sprague. The theatre was opened by Ellen Terry, then the most celebrated actress in England, who had lived in nearby Stanhope Street as a child.
The St Pancras Gazette, a local newspaper, commented as follows in a review of the theatre's production of an opera called The Geisha in 1901:
- "It is a matter of special gratification that the opera was presented at our beautiful local theatre on a scale of magnificence and completeness which would do credit to a West End theatre, but this is nothing new at the Camden Theatre, being rather a continuation of the policy with which the proprietors started their enterprise, viz. to offer nothing to their patrons but standard work, which has received the unmistakable approval of critics and public."
On 6 December 1909 it reopened as a variety theatre and became the Camden Hippodrome Theatre. By 1911 films were being presented as part of the programme and in January 1913 it became a cinema known as the Camden Hippodrome Picture Theatre. In January 1928, the theater was taken over by the Gaumont British cinema circuit.
Closed during World War II, it outlived many similar buildings, including Camden Town's other theatre, the Bedford Theatre, largely because it became a BBC radio theatre from 1945 and is Grade II architecturally listed since 1972. Among the first weekly series to be broadcast live from here were The Richard Tauber Programme [1945-47]. Later programmes recorded at the theatre included The Goon Show and Monty Python's Flying Circus album (2 May 1970) until the BBC moved to the Golders Green Hippodrome in 1972.
The venue was then renamed The Music Machine. The venue was the central location for the 1979 Disco Dance film The Music Machine. The venue was popular with new wave and first wave punk bands, hosting groups including The Boomtown Rats, The Clash and The Dickies. It was the last venue AC/DC's Bon Scott was seen drinking at before his death from alcohol poisoning in 1980.
In 1982 the venue was renamed Camden Palace. During this period it hosted the rock night "Feet First" on a Tuesday and trance electro night "Peach" on a Friday night. The nights were hosted by Steve Strange and Rusty Egan of electronic band Visage. Camden Palace was the location of Madonna's first UK performance.
2004 restoration and relaunch
By 2004 the Camden Palace was rundown and in a state of disuse. That year the theater was purchased by Oliver Bengough and his company Mint Entertainment. Bengough saw the potential of the theater and embarked on a multi-million pound restoration process lasting more than six months. The restoration process included all new technical facilities, enabling the scope of operations to be broadened to include live concert performances, club nights, corporate events and television production. The Daily Telegraph describes the modern interior amenities and the building's historic facade as "lend[ing] a sense of grandeur to any gig".
On Friday 14 November 1980, the Music Machine hosted an infamous gig by London mod revival band the Chords where onstage interactions between the band members ranged from frosty to outright hostile and following the gig, the Chords' frontman Billy Hassett left the band acrimoniously and was later replaced by Kip Herring.
Prince performed a secret show at KOKO in 2007, his first UK show in over 10 years, with David Walliams, Damien Hirst, Will Young, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, David Furnish, and Pete Burns in attendance. The American band My Chemical Romance also played a private show at KOKO in 2007, hosted by Radio 1. Later in 2007, The Disney Channel used KOKO to host Hannah Montana's Live in London, an exclusive one-off event broadcasted globally for her fans.
Since restoration, the club has attracted well known musicians including Al Murray, Irfan Latif, Don Broco, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Madonna, Christina Aguilera, Prince, Coldplay, Katy B, My Chemical Romance, Oasis, Bruno Mars, Thom Yorke, Amy Winehouse, La Roux, Skrillex, Lady Gaga, The Killers, Kanye West, Katy Perry, Lily Allen, Usher, Noel Gallagher, Swedish House Mafia and many others.
On Sunday 10 March 2013, Koko will host the last ever live performance by Wilko Johnson, best known as former guitarist with influential Canvey Island pub rock band Dr Feelgood, and his band, when he concludes his farewell tour, scheduled after he was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.
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- "Famous Face Make The Right 'MOVE' AT LONDON GALA". Hello! Online. November 8, 2006.
- Smith, Caspar Llewellyn (May 12, 2007). "Prince turns into a Pearly King". The Guardian.
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- Scherer, Antonia (March 28, 2008). "Hannah Montana Phenomenon Hits George at Asda". Disney Consumer Products.
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- Miller, Melody (May 7, 2011). "Katy B, Koko, London". The Independent.
- "History KOKO". KOKO UK.
- Guide to British Theatres 1750-1950, John Earl and Michael Sell pp. 102 (Theatres Trust, 2000) ISBN 0-7136-5688-3
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Camden Palace|
- Cinema Treasures history of Camden Hippodrome Picture Theatre
- History of the Camden Palace
- History of Camden Theatre with archive material