Grow, Hackney is a self-organised DIY creative space with bars and a kitchen which is part of an ecosystem of studios. It has been carved out of an old sausage factory by the River Lea in Hackney Wick. They work in partnership with artists, musicians, DJs and community groups and hosts a diverse programme of events, including: live jazz and blues, open deck reggae, sustainability workshops and meetups, comedy cabaret, fundraisers, talks and art/film festivals.
Grow provides a platform for emerging and established artists and community groups, giving people the opportunity to grow their practice, reach new audiences and create a space to share and relax. They support artists with guidance, sound engineers, equipment and marketing and then share the profit. This means the programme is diverse and interesting with locals mixing with international artists.
It's not just a space for artists and musicians, As important, is the experience of the people who come to Grow and the Grow team. They want to create conditions of transparency, equality and a place to be free from the neoliberal spectacle, whilst introducing the ideas of sustainability with the aim to put people and the planet before profit.
Grow products and ingredients are locally, sustainably and ethically sourced wherever possible in order to minimise the environmental impact and the money spent at the venue goes back to local economies; to enterprises that support charities, in order to avoid those who invest in unethical practices. They also pay London Living Wage and are powered by eco-electricity.
Crucially, they refer to Grow as 'an experiment'. They do not claim to have worked it all out. They believe that although we live in troubling times we need to grow together to learn how to navigate a climate emergency, huge inequality and political instability.
Grow asks how to challenge a dominant power structure which favours the rich and creates great injustice? How can they empower people to make individual and collective change to help our wellbeing and of the planet?
It has largely been a political decision for them not to audit and 'tick box' their perceived successes and impact. For Grow, to create a space with less division means less categorising of differences and more celebrating a shared vision for a better world.
However, it has left Grow with only a collective instinctual sense of what is working. With support from the Future Ventures Foundations Grow aims to experiment with more in-depth research and analysis to tease out what works so their learnings can be shared with others about how music, art and community at a local level can have a significant and positive effect on people and planet.