Koko thanks firefighters who saved historic music venue

Fire chief used to go clubbing in the venue

Saturday, 15th February 2020 — By Samantha Booth

Camden New Journal 2020-02-17 at 15.04.07 (2)

The firefighters who saved the Koko [Photo: David Parry]

CAMDEN’S famous Koko venue paid a loving Valentine’s Day thank you to the London Fire Brigade for helping to save the theatre from being ruined in last month’s dramatic blaze.

Sixty firefighters worked to extinguish flames in the roof of the Grade II listed nightclub near Mornington Crescent,  previously known as the Camden Palace and the Music Machine.

As the New Journal revealed last week, owner Olly Bengough wants to rebuild the 120-year-old copper dome which investigators believe acted as a chimney during the fire and helped protect the theatre below. The renewed dome will have an immersive cocktail bar.

In the early hours of Friday morning, a new bespoke hoarding was erected at the front of the building with hearts for the firefighters. The artwork thanking LFB was created by award-winning graphic designer Richard Turley.

Mr Bengough said: “It’s a special day. It’s really amazing that we get to thank the London Fire Brigade. It’s really important to get some closure as well. It’s been a big month for all of us and a lot to deal with and now is the start of a new chapter for my team and i think for Koko and for Camden. We are on our way back now.”

Mr Bengough said on Friday that interim reports say the fire is a “construction related fire”. Detailed investigations are ongoing.

The building was nearly a year into a £40million refurbishment project, which included the dome becoming a bar.

Simon Tuhill, fire borough commander for Camden, confirmed the blaze was not started deliberately.

He said: “Coming here today and seeing this and my guys here, it’s amazing. We go to fires all the time but you don’t get a lot of recognition. People are very happy but normally when there is a fire it’s the worst day of someone’s life and whilst they are grateful to you and they will say thank you in passing, that event has been very traumatic for them.”

He added: “So to come back and make a positive out of something that is so terrible is quite unusual for us so its really nice for my guys to get that recognition. Then if you couple that with its such an iconic building – so i have no doubt some of this lot [fire crews] used to come here clubbing or listen to live bands.”

“When I was younger I used to come here, so actually it gives me a real buy in because its a venue that I used to come to and the fact we’ve saved that – I would have been distraught if this building had burnt down so the fact that we saved that means a lot to me personally as much as it does professionally. It’s really important.”

Camden’s culture chief Councillor Jonathan Simpson was sat in a meeting at the Town Hall over the road when he saw the flames last month.

He said: “I immediately phoned the team at Koko and let them know and they were down on site very quickly working with the Fire Brigade. I think really this is an incredibly lovely beautiful gesture to acknowledge and thanks the fire brigade for the work they did on the night to save the building.”

Koko has produced a limited edition cap – costing £25 – with all proceeds being donated to the new London Fire Brigade museum due to open in 2023.

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