The London artist collective at risk

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(Image credit: Daniel Hambury / Press)

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Wednesday 9 February 2022 at 11:00 GMT

I first entered The Rising Sun in 2016. I remember seeing the pink glow of its ornate interior pouring out the open door onto the street. I took it as an invitation and decided to step over the threshold with my four-pack of cheap lager. After fighting my way through a whirling crowd of students with an assortment of elaborate haircuts, I went downstairs to the basement, where a trip-hop group called A House In The Trees had half finished their set.

The humble basement was filled with heads nodding, bodies circling, and a blanket of cigarette smoke that, when lit by the stage lights, morphed into a random shape of Technicolor dry ice. What I had stumbled upon was one of the earliest concerts by The Rising Sun Collective, a group of Goldsmiths University alumni who, the year before, had lugged their stuff into an abandoned pub and turned its basement into a live venue. Now, in 2022, this important cultural landmark is under threat.

Nestled behind an imposing council building, The Rising Sun sits on the border of Peckham and New Cross; a ghost from another, milder time. Since 2015 it has been a haven for artists of all kinds to create without having to pay exorbitant rents. Far from isolating itself from the outside world, The Rising Sun Collective has maintained a constant dialogue with the local community; Hosting live events, hosting exhibitions, throwing surreal parties and generally supporting the area’s creative ecology. Over the years, the Rising Sun has been home to a dizzying array of pioneers, including the members of Shame and Black Midi; jazz musicians like Yussef Dayes and Obongjayar; and pioneering electronic artist Jamie XX.

Since 2015, residents of The Rising Sun had an ongoing contract. In five years there hasn’t been a single case where someone hasn’t paid their rent in full. And yet, with the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic, came the long-awaited eviction notice. Fearing the loss of another of London’s creative lifelines, the group decided to fight back and hatched a plan to raise a whopping £1.1million to buy the property as a housing cooperative. Thanks to the generosity of the community and also from strangers, they managed to secure the house, which means the tenants continue to pay rent, but it is used to support the collective rather than going into the pocket of a private landlord.

However, the battle for The Rising Sun is not over. With the purchase of the property comes a number of green energy improvements that are a condition of the mortgage. In addition, the group must raise the money for repairs and converting the attic into a ninth bedroom, all of which are essential to the apartment’s financial model. While The Rising Sun may have been saved from being converted into luxury apartments, its survival still depends on the ballots. Its loss would mean not only the death of a key incubator for the creativity on which London depends, but also the end of one of the last places where individuals actively seek alternative ways of living and creating in the modern metropolis.

To learn more about The Rising Sun collective and to invest in the future of this important space, please visit the collective’s website.

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