I first stepped inside The Rising Sun in 2016. I remember seeing the pink glow of its elaborate interior spilling out of the open door and into the street. I took it as an invitation, and, with my four-pack of cheap lager, decided to step across the threshold. Once I’d made my way through a swirling crowd of students sporting a selection of elaborate haircuts, I made my way downstairs into the basement, where a trip-hop group known as A House In The Trees were halfway through their set.
The modest cellar was filled with nodding heads, gyrating bodies, and a blanket of cigarette smoke, which, when illuminated by the stage lights, was transformed into a serendipitous form of technicolour dry ice. What I’d managed to stumble into was one of the earliest concerts put on by The Rising Sun Collective, a group of ex-Goldsmiths University students who, the year before, had hauled their stuff into an abandoned pub and turned its basement into a live venue. Now, in 2022, this essential cultural landmark is under threat.
Nestled behind an imposing council block, The Rising Sun sits on the border between Peckham and New Cross; a spectre from another, more lenient time. Since 2015, it has been a refuge for artists of all kinds to create without being forced to pay extortionate rent prices. Far from insulating itself from the outside world, The Rising Sun Collective has constantly engaged in a dialogue with the local community; staging live events, hosting exhibitions, throwing surreal parties, and generally supporting the creative ecology of the local area. Over the years, the Rising Sun has been home to a dizzying number of pioneering individuals, including the members of Shame and Black Midi; jazz musicians such as Yussef Dayes and Obongjayar; and seminal electronic artist Jamie XX.
Since 2015, the residents of The Rising Sun had been signed to a rolling contract. In five years, there was not a single instance in which someone failed to pay their rent in full. And yet, with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, so too came the eviction notice they had long been expecting. Fearing the loss of yet another of London’s creative lifelines, the group decided to fight back, hatching a plan to raise a whopping £1.1million to buy the property as a housing co-op. Thanks to the generosity of the community and indeed, of strangers, they managed to secure the house, meaning that tenants will still pay rent but it will go to support the collective rather than being funnelled into the pocket of a private landlord.
However, the battle for The Rising Sun isn’t over just yet. With the purchase of the property comes a set of green energy improvements, which are a condition of the mortgage. In addition, the group need to find the money for repairs and the renovation of the loft into a ninth bedroom, all of which are essential for the financial model of the dwelling. While The Rising Sun may have been saved from being turned into luxury flats, its survival still hangs in the ballots. Its loss would represent not only the death of an essential incubator for the creativity on which London depends but also the end of one of the last spaces where individuals are actively chasing alternative ways of living and creating in the modern metropolis.
To find out more about The Rising Sun collective and invest in the future of this essential space, please visit the collective’s website.