Camden’s KOKO has been reinvented as a place where you can hear yourself think. Phil Ward reports

If you thought lockdown was a chance to tidy the loft, you ain’t seen nothing. How about transforming a cherished if crumbling London venue, steeped in showbiz history and nursing a rave hangover, into a labyrinthine luxury hang-out for the cool crowd? Retaining the original Victorian theatre, too…

That’s what London entertainment entrepreneur Olly Bengough and his team have been doing while the rest of us were queuing at the supermarket. In truth, the planning started seven years ago and the build three years ago, as Bengough invested £70 million into a new vision for KOKO, the dawn-of-20th Century theatre in North London’s Camden that has seen it all. It’s not the first time that Bengough has revived the venue’s fortunes but, judging by the commitment to its long-term future, this renaissance will run and run.

Throughout all this maze of uniquely designed spaces, every dimension sets the bar of consistency and quality very high, from content to cutlery. It’s a clear statement by Olly Bengough and hugely encouraging that it also encompasses the critical factor of sound – so often overlooked until the cushions have been chosen. In this instance, Bengough sanctioned the installation by London-based Sound Services Ltd of nearly 200 loudspeakers made by Funktion-One, the brand that Tony Andrews has built over the last 30 years based on his enduring passion for the virtues of point source. If various aficionados of lifestyle will pass through these rooms, nodding approvingly at the upholstery, the audio-aware will not feel left out.

Olly Bengough is acutely aware of this. “The really important thing is the range in the depth of sound from room to room,” he says, speaking exclusively to Lighting & Sound International. “It brings a luxury feel to each space as the audio shifts between them, each one customized and bespoke ­­– which I think is really unusual for a membership club like this. The sound is tailored to each experience. Instead of there being just one audio style throughout, it matches each interior making each one unique.

Read the full article in the May 2022 issue of LSi Magazine.

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