Music Venue Trust buys first venue under “National Trust of venues” public ownership scheme

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has announced the first acquisition under its public ownership scheme – find all the details below.

The #OwnOurVenues initiative was first announced in May, following the news that legendary gig spaces like North London’s Nambucca and Sheffield’s Leadmill were closing their doors or under threat, respectively.

Having been backed by Ed Sheeran, the scheme aims to secure the long-term futures of such venues by directly tackling the issue of ownership.

The campaign has been likened to “The National Trust, but for venues”. Earlier this year, a similar stand-alone initiative was launched by Sister Midnight in a bid to become Lewisham’s first community-owned venue run by shareholders.

Today (October 4) the MVT has shared details of the first grassroots music venue to have been purchased by Music Venue Properties (MVP), the independent Charitable Community Benefit Society (CCBS), created by Music Venue Trust to progress its plans to revolutionise cultural ownership in the UK.

The official launch of The Snug – a 100-capacity venue in Atherton, Greater Manchester – took place this morning, as did the unveiling of a commemorative plaque.

Many of those who helped the #OwnOurVenues scheme to fruition attended the opening, along with some local musicians – Ivor Novello-winner Jamie Lawson and 16-year-old Jennifer King, the latter of whom is a shareholder in MVP.

Unlike a charity, a CCBS can raise funds via community shares. The project was made possible by over 1,200 individual investors including £500,000 investment from both Arts Council England and Arts & Culture Finance to secure these vital community assets for the long term.

MVP has now secured the freehold of the building occupied by The Snug and has placed it into permanent protected status, per a press release.

The venue’s current operators have signed a ‘cultural lease’, which is an innovative agreement specifically created by MVP to guarantee that, as long as The Snug operates as a space for grassroots live music for their local community, they can enjoy the use of the building.

As a result, The Snug is now directly supported in its ambition to bring music to its local community by a landlord who shares and supports that goal. This relationship is reflected in a commitment by MVP to remove The Snug from the pressures of the commercial lease market by offering a rent reduction and a contribution towards building repairs and insurance.

Rachael Flaszczak, Managing Director of The Snug, said: “The Snug being purchased by Music Venue Properties means everything to me, my team and our community, as it allows us to continue to provide this very important space to up & coming artists for many years to come.

“We now feel secure and confident to plan ahead knowing the venue is in safe hands with people that have a shared vision of the future of new music.”

She added: “To be the first of many serves as a light of hope that the preservation of grassroots music venues can be done when people pull together to make things happen, and The Snug can keep showcasing the cultural life within our community.”

Creative Industries Minister Sir John Whittingdale explained: “The UK’s incredible grassroots music venues are the lifeblood of our world-leading music sector, launching new talent and supporting thousands of jobs in local communities.

“Thanks to initiatives like Music Venue Trust’s Own Our Venues campaign and an extra £5million in government support for grassroots music, we’re securing the future of these much-loved venues and maximising the potential of our creative industries.”

Additionally, MVP has identified a further eight venues for a pilot project that will allow the scheme to establish proof of concept. Five of these spaces are in England, with one in Scotland and two in Wales.

The project closely matches the aims and ambitions of the Community Ownership project which has attracted cross-party support and has already seen communities acquire local pubs, restaurants and post offices.

Mark Dayvd, MVT founder and CEO, said: “The #OwnOurvenues project is a cutting-edge initiative and this first acquisition of The Snug is the culmination of a long-held ambition of Music Venue Trust.

“It shows a way forward not just for music, but for community ownership right across the UK. We hope we have created a template that can be replicated wherever a community highly values a cultural asset.”

Darren Henley, Chief Executive, of Arts Council England, added: “Our grassroots music venues are important cultural spaces that bring the joy of live music to communities across the country. Not only do they breathe life into towns and cities, but they also make a big difference to the careers of emerging artists.

“We’re determined to continue to back this crucial part of our live music infrastructure, working alongside partners across the music industry, including Music Venue Trust.”

Back in January, a report from the MVT indicated that grassroots venues in the UK were “going over a cliff” – shutting off the pipeline of future talent without urgent government action and investment from new large arenas.

Last month NME reported that the UK was set to lose 10 per cent of its grassroots gig spaces in 2023. There have since been growing calls for the “major leagues” of the music industry and larger venues to do more to pay into the ecosystem and save them.

The MVT subsequently wrote an open letter to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, and spoke to NME about how the situation was “as dire as it can be” with more than one grassroots venue closing every week in the UK.

In other recent news, the barrister acting for Leadmill boss Phil Mills accused the new owner Dominic Madden of “arrogance” during a hearing to determine the future of the beloved Sheffield venue.

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