Camden community “devastated” after Koko fire

Long live Koko.

Local residents and businesses in Camden have spoken of the “devastation” and “heartbreak” at the fire that tore through the iconic Koko venue last night (January 6).

Just before 9pm, dramatic scenes saw eight fire engines and 60 firefighters attend to tackle the fire at the venue, which was undergoing a £40million refurbishment. While 30% of the roof was ablaze at one point, it was confirmed by 3am that the fire had been controlled and the rest of the venue had been saved – albeit apparently heavily damaged.

Koko in London was hit by a fire. Credit: John Keeble/Getty Image)
Koko in London was hit by a fire. Credit: John Keeble/Getty Image)

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The owners have since revealed that there we no casualties in the fire, adding that they’d be “doing their best to get the redevelopment of this iconic building back on-track.”

Katie Moore is the manager of the Lyttleton Arms – the pub opposite Koko which was seen as the go-to for pre and post-drinks for gig-goers at the venue.

“It was just a great community,” Moore told NME. “Gigs, great vibes, a family feeling. We knew all the guys that worked there really, really well. We all helped each other out and looked out for each other. It was a shame to see it gone, and absolutely devastating to see what’s happened to it now in such a dramatic way.

“Koko was crucial to us, we loved it. We looked after the fans before they went into Koko and when they came out. You could always tell what kind of gig it was by the types of fan we had in the pub. There was a change of scene all the time. It was always a great shared bit of fun.”

She added: “We loved having bands coming in and out. We were a little part of Camden Rocks, and Koko had the big finale of that, so having all the talent coming in was amazing.”

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As for the mood in Camden today around Morning Crescent after the blaze, Moore said that the atmosphere was “odd”.

“I’m just sat here with my teammates,” she said. “There are a lot of photographers about. We’ve had a few of the fire brigade in to use the facilities while they’re working hard over there.

“I really want it to come back, on a business level and a personal level. I’d love to be able to go back in there myself, and for it to make weekends great again.”

Camden Council leader Georgia Gould, meanwhile, also spoke of the sadness of the local community at the blaze.

“Heartbreaking watching Koko up in flames this evening,” she tweeted last night. “A building that holds so many memories and means so much to us in Camden. It was incredible how quickly the London Fire Brigade got it under control. We owe them so much for their swift and courageous response.”

Koko has been closed since March 2019 to undergo a £40 million refurbishment. It had been intended that the venue would re-open in the spring.

Having first opened in 1900 as a theatre venue, the building was last refurbished in 2004 after closing its doors as the Camden Palace in February of that year. It then re-opened in 2005 under the KOKO name. The new building work intended to create six new performances areas and introduce a radio station and broadcast station.

A number of artists, as well as figures from the world of politics and entertainment, also expressed their shock at the fire and their love of the venue.

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