Artist-Run: Inside Peckham’s Rising Sun Collective

Housed in a former pub, the Rising Sun is an artist collective and housing co-op in one. Poppy Richler talks to collective members Chloe Curry, Scott Bowley and Ally Andrews about the power of sharing and taking money out of the equation

Based in Peckham, The Rising Sun is a collective and housing co-op for creatives. Six years ago, a group of Goldsmiths students fell in love with the ex-Truman Brewery and transformed the beer cellar into a rehearsal space, repurposed the main floor into a living room and built in-house facilities to explore their musical passions. The space quickly turned into a hub for low-key gigs and parties, with bouncers employed to patrol the madness. Fast-forward and these parties have taken a backseat. In their place is an ever-growing array of creative endeavours.

With eight bedrooms, a live events space, and a recording and film studio, this converted pub is a haven for artists taking refuge from a city increasingly affected by skyrocketing rent and cuts to the arts. Providing workshops, industry contacts and affordable workspaces for their residents, as well as operating as an LGBTQ+ and POC safe space, The Rising Sun is a functional support model for creative communities everywhere.

The Rising Sun has won battles to keep their house through a series of gigs, loan stock plans and community support, but are now looking to the future. Having raised a staggering £1.1 million in total, they’re now looking to act on plans for green energy and residential expansion. A few weeks back, we spoke to Chloe Curry, Scott Bowley and Ally Andrews about the collective’s foundations, residents and next steps.

You must get a lot of applications for residency. How does this process work?

Scott Bowley: We seem to have a continuous waiting list of people wanting to move in. Most are well known to us, so this means it’s difficult to choose. Ultimately, it comes down to the

consensus of the remaining residents. Most of the original crew no longer live here, but they’re all still involved in the collective. Most people in The Rising Sun Collective don’t actually live here – you don’t need to be in-house to be part of our world.

The list of creatives who have passed through your doors is immense – Jamie XX, illustrator Esme Blegvad, lighting designer Matt Knowles and many more. There’s a real multi-media element to the Sun. Have you noticed that residents push themselves out of their creative comfort zones, based on the people around them?

Chloe Curry: Yes! We all aid each other, and people have gone on to make careers out of the stuff they’ve learnt at the Sun. It’s the true power of sharing knowledge.

There’s a lot of focus on the music within the Sun. Could you tell me more about the visual side of things?

Ally Andrews: The last exhibition we held was an installation in the basement. The concept was to create a sensory environment where you were blindfolded, let in, and left to discover the space through sounds you created by moving. It became a dance with the objects hanging from the ceiling, and it was fun to understand your surroundings through senses. I wouldn’t have access to a space like this if it weren’t for the Sun.

How does the physical space of The Rising Sun welcome creativity?

SB: The building retains many of the original characteristics from its pub days, so it’s an inherently social space. To fully embrace the pub aesthetic, we recently got hold of an old upright piano for the living room that people tinker away at. There’s also a huge beer cellar that we’ve converted into a recording studio at one end, and an adaptable creative space that gets used for gigs, rehearsals and art installations at the other.

AA: As an emerging designer, the database of people I’ve met here is like nothing I could’ve ever experienced anywhere else. For example, right now I get to apply for placements, and everywhere I’m applying for are friends of the house in some way or another. It’s great to have a mix of ages and experiences, too. I hope that once I get into the world, I can do the same for the collective.

SB: For a lot of us living here, the cheap cost combined with the convenience of having our live/work space all in one place has made all the difference between being able to make a career out of our creative practice versus just treating art as a hobby.

The minister of culture is intent on decreasing funding to the arts. How does The Rising Sun fit into opposing this?

SB: Sucks, doesn’t it? It’s nothing new though. Ten years of austerity didn’t exactly do wonders for the arts. This government is complicit in eroding large parts of our culture. I wish this wasn’t the case and organisations such as the Creative Industries Federation, Musicians Union, IVORS Academy and Night Time Industries Association are all regularly campaigning to change policy. We’ve lent our support to a few campaigns as a collective over the years, such as the #SaveFabric and #FixStreaming campaigns. There’s still plenty we can do.

We’ve set up a housing co-operative model whereby the rent from people living in The Rising Sun covers the cost of all the communal areas (studio, rehearsal space, exhibition space, etc.) so we can afford to share this all with our community for free. We have a huge range of talent coming through to share the space with us on a regular basis, many of whom could not afford to hire a commercial studio. They also wouldn’t get the same community aspect at a commercial studio – there are plenty of musicians who could pay for a high-end commercial studio, but choose The Rising Sun because of that community aspect. This range of backgrounds and experience is one of the things that makes our collective successful. Money is removed from the equation as much as possible.

For those who don’t have the financial security to invest, what other options are there to support the Sun?

CC: We have t-shirts, mixtapes, or event tickets available on our website. There’s a donation button too, and any donation is received with a smile.

Where are you in terms of fundraising and what are the next goals?

CC: We’re proud to say we have the money for the house! We’re now raising money for green energy and essential improvements. The green improvements are a condition of our mortgage lender, and we have to build a ninth bedroom to sustain the financial plan, otherwise the rent for the eight current rooms would be unaffordable. With our aim of needing to raise £1.1 million in total, we are only £10k short of that now!

The fun thing about our financial plan is that once all debts are paid off, it becomes an exponential pot whereby you could expand into another property or aid other young co-ops needing investment. You’re either expanding your operation or the co-operative model so it’s a win-win!

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