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Sister backs London music venue KOKO to develop content and formats

KOKO has hosted performances by artists including Prince, Amy Winehouse and Madonna (photo: Sam Neil)

Sister, the production venture from Elisabeth Murdoch, Stacey Snider and Jane Featherstone, is set to work with the fledgling studio arm of North London venue KOKO as part of its investment in the theatre’s restoration.

KOKO, part of Camden’s vibrant live music scene for decades, will re-open in spring 2022 in partnership with London- and LA-based Sister after undergoing significant reconstruction and restoration over the past three years.

KOKO CEO and founder Olly Bengough is the majority shareholder in the 50,000 sq ft venue, while Sister is a minority shareholder with a 40% stake, C21 understands.

£70m (US$83m) has been invested in the restoration efforts, which have included the addition of new high-spec broadcasting, recording and live streaming capabilities built into the Grade II listed building.

This will allow musicians to perform live, coproduce, stream and distribute their music to a global audience with the newly formed KOKO Studio, with which Sister will work to develop new content and formats, the two said.

Sister has been behind shows including Chernobyl (Sky/HBO) and Giri/Haji (BBC/Netflix) and was set up by former Shine chief Murdoch, former Fox executive Snider and former Kudos boss Featherstone in 2019.

It is currently looking to forge partnerships with independent companies and grow a global ecosystem of creatives ranging from visual production to podcasts to publishing.

Seeking to “create a dynamic new global platform that will help empower the next generation of musicians and artists,” Sister said it will leverage its network of creatives and production expertise as part of its involvement with KOKO.

Artists to have performed at KOKO over the years include Prince, Kanye West, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Amy Winehouse, Madonna and Dua Lipa, while the venue was once a broadcasting centre.

It was once home to iconic radio programme The Goon Show and TV show Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which were transmitted live from the building during 30 years of BBC ownership between 1945 and 1975.

Having first opened as the Camden Theatre in 1900, it now extends to three historic buildings: the original Grade II listed Victorian theatre, a former piano factory from 1800 and the old Hope & Anchor public house, first opened in 1860 and reportedly a favourite of Charles Dickens.

Sister has previously invested in companies including Ed Sinclair and Olivia Colman’s production company South of the River Pictures; Zando, a publishing venture from Molly Stern; podcast studio Campside Media; and AWA Studios, a comic book and digital media publisher.

As part of its re-opening, KOKO has also set up a soon-to-launch radio station as well as a registered charity with a mission to empower future generations of artists and protect the environment, kicking off with projects focusing on the community of Camden.

KOKO will also offer membership for music lovers over several floors, giving access to a new roof terrace and conservatory, dome cocktail bar, penthouse and recording studio, piano room, library, a hidden speakeasy, stage kitchen and vinyl rooms.

Murdoch, co-founder and executive chairman of Sister, said: “It’s never been more important to support the next generation of artists and storytellers to collaborate, innovate and share their work. Although we’ve all been eager for the return of live music we’ve also been discovering new ways to engage with the artists we love through their creative endeavours in the digital space, keeping us united as a global community.

“It’s this connective power of music and the arts that Olly and his team are harnessing as they develop KOKO into London’s first next-generation global entertainment experience. At Sister, we’re really excited to partner with KOKO and to use our collective expertise, networks and shared independence to forge creative collaborations and empower artists and audiences around the world.”

KOKO CEO and founder Bengough said: “We are as committed as ever to protect our 120-year cultural legacy and to support the next generation of musicians and London’s dynamic and ever-growing music scene.”

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