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The move to protective ownership is a revolution

The Snug is a grassroots music venue hidden away in the heart of Atherton, Greater Manchester [UK], and for years, we have championed new and emerging artists.

We created a place that welcomes everybody, and we cater for all. Our 100-capacity, distinctively cosy living-room-style space invites the world to come in, grab a brew or a beer and relax whilst appreciating those future up-and-coming household names.

Unfortunately, our landlord put the building up for sale, and with the impact of Covid, [it sadly] meant we weren’t in a position to purchase our beloved Snug, so we turned to Music Venue Trust for advice. This was fortunate, as they were just about to launch the Own Our Venues project. We were then accepted into their pilot scheme along with eight other shortlisted venues all at risk of closure. The number of venues that applied to be part of the pilot scheme highlights how real the problems are in the grassroots music venue community.

We are overjoyed that The Snug has become the first of many grassroots music venues to be put into a protective trust with Music Venue Properties [MVP]. Delightfully, the news went viral, and we cannot express the positive impact this development has had in the local area and beyond. As further venues come under the protection of the Music Venue Trust, they will hopefully also achieve the same results and positive impact in their areas.

The protection of grassroots music venues like The Snug, offers the space to nurture local talent but also provides a platform for varied work experience for local young people interested in the music industry. The security this provides us furthers our sense of community, and the pride of ownership in our venue is immeasurable.

“Who will headline festivals when the Rolling Stones have left the planet? Let’s not forget, the Rolling Stones started in grassroots music venues”

The MVP model needs to be adopted in every country in the world. It’s heartbreaking to read how many venues have already closed and how many more are in immediate danger of closing, being lost forever. The move to protective ownership is nothing short of a revolution; a real-life story of what can be achieved when a community rallies behind its cultural treasures.

Other communities and cities can look at MVP and see a model worth building and investing in. The message is clear: grassroots music venues are not for sale to greedy commercial landlords who don’t care what the business is, as long as they can squeeze more rent from tenants while spending little to no money on maintaining or improving the buildings.

We have to ‘own our venues,’ they are the research and development departments for the future of music. They are cultural treasures for everyone. For creative people to flourish and spaces for musicians to hone their craft, obtain feedback from audiences, network with other local musicians, make new friends, or even sell merchandise to fund recording-studio time.

Grassroots music venues are essential to a thriving ecosystem of the music industry. Without these venues, there will be no more stars of tomorrow. Who will be playing the arenas in 30 years’ time? Who will be the future stars to inspire the younger generations? Who will headline festivals when the Rolling Stones have left the planet? Let’s not forget, the Rolling Stones started in grassroots music venues.

Imagine a world without music, where the next generation of musical talent has nowhere to grow and develop. This is what will happen if our grassroots music venues are not protected. The world can learn from The Snug’s journey, by realising that cultural preservation is a collective responsibility and that grassroots music venues deserve to stand the test of time.

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MVT’s Own Our Venues scheme makes first purchase

Music Venue Trust (MVT) chief Mark Davyd has hailed a “huge moment for grassroots music venues” after the UK organisation announced the first acquisition under its Own Our Venues scheme.

The Snug (cap. 100) in Atherton, Greater Manchester, has become the first GMV to be bought by Music Venue Properties (MVP), the independent Charitable Community Benefit Society (CCBS) created by the MVT (unlike a charity, CCBS can raise money via community shares).

MVP has secured the freehold of the building occupied by The Snug and has placed it into permanent protected status. It has also committed to removing The Snug from the pressures of the commercial lease market by offering a rent reduction and a contribution towards building repairs and insurance.

“I can’t say this often enough – there are solutions to this,” Davyd tells IQ. “A total of 127 [grassroots venues] have closed or stopped putting on live music in the last 12 months. This one will never stop putting on live music.”

Own Our Venues was launched as a crowdfunded project in June 2022 as the first step in a long-term campaign to take control of the freeholds of music venue premises and bring them under a protected status of benevolent ownership. The project was made possible by more than 1,200 individual investors including £500,000 investment from both Arts Council England and Arts & Culture Finance.

“This is not complicated stuff,” adds Davyd. “With a pound on a ticket at [an arena show], you can buy one every five shows. The audiences are telling us they want us to do this. The communities around the country are telling us they want to do this. We’ve gone off and done it.”

“We’ve got another two that are already in the final stages of being completed and we’re hoping to announce those in the next quarter”

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.

The official launch event and unveiling of a commemorative plaque was held today (4 October) at The Snug, attended by many of those who helped bring the initiative to fruition.

“Lots of people in music industry told me this wouldn’t work. Well, it has worked,” adds Davyd. “So I’m super-proud that our team has made it happen. I’m super-proud of the community in Atherton. I’m super-proud of the music community across the country that’s invested in this. It’s a huge moment for us and it’s a huge move for grassroots music venues. But we’ve got to do a lot more of it.”

In addition to The Snug, MVP has also identified another eight venues – five in England, one in Scotland and two in Wales – for a pilot project that will allow the scheme to establish proof of concept.

“We’ve got another two that are already in the final stages of being completed and we’re hoping to announce those in the next quarter, and then we’ve got six more that we’re looking at in this round,” says Davyd. “But I want to make it clear that the fund is reopened. Right now, the people who’ve already invested can put more money in and if you haven’t invested yet, we’ve bought a music venue. – come with us and you can own them with us.”

PHOTO (L-R): Claire Mera-Nelson, John Whittingdale MP, Jennifer King, Mark Davyd Rachael Flaszczak, Jamie Lawson


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