Company Drinks 2018
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham
October 2018

Drinks Range 2018

Kathrin Böhm

Company Drinks started as a new type of enterprise five years ago. We are a public and collective space where different groups, interests, forms of production and economic logic meet and merge. In the East End tradition of “going picking”* we started with the simple suggestion to resume going picking but with one major difference: this time we would keep what we pick; use the crop to make our own drinks; brand and label them; then sell them in our home borough of Barking and Dagenham, across London and further afield. “Going Picking” has always happened for social and economic reasons. Although much has changed since the last hopping days around 70 years ago, these motivations remain equally important and intertwined.

We took on the former Outdoor Bowling Pavilion in Barking Park last September and the location and size of building are perfect for us. Our ‘Club Room’ can host up to 60 people and is used for everything from Christmas Parties to panels discussing Postcapitalism. We keep collecting books for our small library on Hop Picking Heritage, Growing Food and Alternative Economies. The Making and Training Kitchen is used for family and kids’ workshops (up to 20 people), and we have moved our cordial production there.
Each step of Company Drinks’ production cycle is publicly accessible. Community groups and individuals can join in on an ad hoc basis and some become regular volunteers or get more permanently involved as part-time staff. In 2018, we launched two new strands: our weekly Growing Club and the Centre for Plausible Economies. Alongside our Picking Trips, Molecular Fizz Labs, Hopping Afternoons and Communal Lunches, these new strands offer regular sessions to be involved with the different aspects of Company Drinks.

Are we, finally, financially self-sustaining?
We are asked this often and the answer is: of course not. Our communal way of making drinks is not cost-efficient but we do generate a third of our income by selling our drinks and skills.

But are we a successful as a company?
The answer is: of course. In straightforward statistical terms, 60% of new small businesses registered in London don’t survive their first five years but we have. In more complicated Company Drinks terms, we have established a diverse stream of monetary and non-monetary income and support, which secures our year-round programme for the coming years. Our new base in Barking Park is a great resource that we are growing into an open-door communal space for many of our own activities as well as for friends and colleagues, near and far.

We still have no business plan as such but we have a clear idea that it’s worth investing in communal and collective structures which allow us to produce and consume things together, while also culturing a shared future in which our immediate environments remain a source of both food and friendships.

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