Image courtesy of Grow, Hackney
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Grow, Hackney launches fundraiser to battle 400% rise in energy bills

Grow, a grassroots music venue in Hackney Wick committed to environmental sustainability, is fundraising to survive into its 11th year.

Grow, an independent performance space, bar and kitchen in Hackney Wick, is fundraising to generate £40,000 to survive another winter following rising energy bills and rent.

The grassroots music venue, part of an eco-system of creative spaces called Grow Studios on the banks of the River Lea, is one of the many venues in the sector struggling to generate enough income to stay financially viable.

Run by a group of artists, Grow is committed to removing financial barriers in the creative industries by extending opportunities to musicians and local people, fostering the next generation of performers.

Facing soaring outgoings, at least two grassroots music venues are closing each week, according to the Music Venue Trust (MVT). In 2023, 125 venues stopped trading, and of those that remain, 38% reported making a financial loss, making last year the worst for closures in MVT’s 10-year history.

In 2018, the rent for the Grow Studios buildings increased by 250%, rising another 33% in 2023. To assuage the financial burden for other creative tenants, Grow took on more studio space, adding to its rent to ensure the increase was not passed on to other artists.

As well as rent, the global energy crisis led to Grow’s costs increasing by 400% in 2022. As a venue with a community ethos, Grow tried not to pass the burden onto its customers and kept price increases minimal, adding to its present financial difficulties.

The venue has also been committed to paying its workers the London Living Wage since opening in 2014. The London Living Wage is currently £13.15, higher than the Government’s National Living Wage set at £11.44. It increased by 10% from the year before, adding to Grow’s financial outgoings.

The venue usually generates 66% of its annual earnings during the spring and summer, relying on this income as a reserve for the difficult months of autumn and winter. This year, Grow says it has been ‘impossible’ to build the reserve, leading to its potential closure in the winter unless it meets the shortfall.

As part of its campaign to survive, Grow has launched a fundraiser that aims to generate £40,000 by Wednesday 29 May. The money will go towards installing solar panels to drastically reduce energy costs while setting a precedent for sustainability in the industry.

Grow also wants to transition to a Community Interest Company (CIC), to enhance its ability to secure funding. Moreover, this week, the venue will apply to extend its terrace licence, which currently only extends to 10:30pm. By successfully extending its licence, Grow will be able to maximise revenue from its outdoor bar.

Jordanna Greaves, the founder and director of Grow, said: ‘We are at risk, there is no doubt about it. We don’t want to charge more and alienate our customer base by making it £7 a pint or charging £15 to come in.’

Before 9 pm, visitors can enter Grow for free to listen to music. When the venue does charge, tickets tend to be between £5 and £8. 

Drumming performance at Grow, Hackney
The music venue nurtures emerging talent. Image courtesy of Grow, Hackney

‘We’re trying to make sure our prices don’t alienate people who have been in Hackney for a long time, so we’ve kept our prices as low as possible for as long as possible,’ Greaves added. ‘There is a cost of living crisis, so we know it’s a challenge for anybody to go out and eat and drink as they might have done in the past.’

While it’s committed to keeping prices down, the 400% increase in energy bills in 2022 left Grow fighting to survive. ‘400% is huge,’ Greaves said. ‘Imagine a music venue – it has a sound system, lighting, heating, a kitchen powered by eco-electricity, and the suppliers have the same challenges as we all have.’

Since opening, Grow has used eco-electricity, eco-cleaning, and recycled products, and has sourced locally and sustainably whenever possible, leading to added costs.

‘We could transform into a different business, change our supplier and look for the best possible deal,’ Greaves said. ‘We could go with multi-national companies that would give us great deals, but it wouldn’t be Grow.’

Declan Cosgrove, the marketing and event manager at Grow, said: ‘It’s not easy to run a business like this, because you have to make sacrifices to make decisions that are not just for us, but for the environment. But we take pride in sustainable practise and want to make a difference and a change.’

As well as donating to the fundraiser, Grow is encouraging Hackney Wick locals who support the music venue to write a letter of recommendation to Hackney Council in favour of the extension of its outdoor licence. 

Music performance at Grow, Hackney
Late-night music. Image courtesy of Grow, Hackney

For more news about local campaigns, read our article about Hackney Wick FC’s campaign for a permanent home

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