CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Firefighters tackle blaze at famous Koko music venue

Flames seen at top of historic building

06 January, 2020 — By Richard Osley, Sam Ferguson, Samantha Booth, Tom Foot

Fire crews at the scene [Oliver Cooper]

FIREFIGHTERS remained at the Koko music venue, formerly the Camden Palace, overnight after a blaze swept through the roof.

The nightclub is currently closed for a refurbishment project and covered in an advertising billboard and scaffolding, but bright orange flames could be be seen at the top of the building from around 9pm. Crews got the fire under control but by midnight there was still some of the roof alight.

The fire continues [Awale Olad]

Eyewitness Wendy Oliver, who lives in nearby Royal College Street, said: “I’ve been going to this club all my life. This is a monumental building, the greatest club. It’s really sad to see it like this. I’m worried about whether they can save the old fixtures.”

Writer Amanda Blinkhorn, who also saw the fire, said: “I was leaving work at the Working Men’s College just before nine and the air was really weird. It felt musty and smelt like perfumes, joss sticks or incense. Ten minutes later I was waiting for the bus opposite M & S and the whole bottom of the high street seemed full of flames. I could see fire hoses pouring onto it but the flames were so high even from that distance you could see. I can’t imagine how it spread so quickly. I hope everyone is safe. It looked terrifying.”

Demetra Woolridge said: “I used to go clubbing here when I lived in north London as a teenager. I was passing on the bus and saw the flames, so I got off the bus. The flames were going up the scaffolding but it looks like they have got it under control.”

Meetings at the Town Hall opposite have been suspended and a large cordon is in place in Mornington Crescent.

Conservative councillor Oliver Cooper said: “There’s a fire at legendary music venue Koko in Camden Town, with smoke billowing out from inside. Three fire engines and dozens of firefighters currently on site.”

He tweeted later from the scene: “The fire at Koko is under control and now being pushed back. Hugely grateful to the London Fire Brigade for their swift response, but devastated by the potential loss of such a huge part of Camden’s culture.”

Council leader Georgia Gould said: “It was heartbreaking watching the Camden Palace. Koko up in flames this evening, 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.”

Holborn and St Pancras MP Sir Keir Starmer also praised the Brigade’s response.

Camden’s fire borough commander Simon Tuhill said earlier this evening: “I know they are working really hard to contain the fire which is in the roof area. We are using two of our aerial appliances to assist. As the building is under refurbishment there is some concern that there may be some gas cylinders near the fire so we are also using our drone to get aerial footage so that crews can be as safe as possible whilst fighting the fire.”

KOKO

A London Fire Brigade statement said: “Eight fire engines and around 60 firefighters are tackling a fire at a nightclub under refurbishment on Camden High Street. Part of the roof is alight. The Brigade Control took twenty-two 999 calls to the visible blaze. Please avoid the area if possible. The Brigade was called at 2056. Fire crews from Euston and surrounding fire stations are at the scene. The cause of the fire is not known at this stage.”

The venue is one of London’s most famous stages having hosted the likes of Iron Maiden, The Clash, Macy Gray, Ed Sheeran, The Rolling Stones, Madonna and Prince in the past, often as secret concerts. It has been known as Koko since 2004, but was previously named the Camden Palace, when it partly had a reputation for rave music events, and, before that, The Music Machine in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It had originally been a theatre and music hall, first opening on Boxing Day in 1900.

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