Music Venue Trust has announced the first acquisition under its #OwnOurVenues scheme.
The Snug in Atherton, Greater Manchester, a 100-capacity venue, has become the first grassroots music venue 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 event and unveiling of a commemorative plaque was held today (October 4) at The Snug. It was attended by Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of Music Venue Trust, The Snug’s owner/operator Rachael Flaszczak, John Whittingdale, Minister for Creative Industries, Claire Mera-Nelson director of music for Arts Council England, Rhoda Dakar and Chris Prosser of the Music Venue Properties Board.
Local musicians were also in attendance: Ivor Novello winner Jamie Lawson and 16-year-old Jennifer King, who is a shareholder in MVP.
Unlike a charity, a CCBS can raise money 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. The venue’s current operators have signed a ‘cultural lease’, which is an 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.
“Alongside the security offered by the new cultural lease, The Snug is now directly supported in its ambition to bring music to its local community by a landlord that shares and supports that aim,” said a statement. “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.”
“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-and-coming artists for many years to come,” said Rachael Flaszczak, managing director of The Snug. “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. 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.”
We now feel secure and confident to plan ahead knowing the venue is in safe hands
Creative Industries Minister Sir John Whittingdale said: “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 £5 million in government support for grassroots music, we're securing the future of these much-loved venues and maximising the potential of our creative industries."
Sixteen per cent of grassroots music venues have closed in the last 12 months; 93% are tenants with the typical operator only having 18 months left on their tenancy.
Since the start of the Covid crisis, the sector has acquired over £90m of new debt. But despite receiving support during the pandemic through the government's £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, MVT said that more needs to be done to help operators of grassroots music venues recover and secure their longevity.
In addition to The Snug, MVP has also identified another eight venues for a pilot project that will allow the scheme to establish proof of concept. Five venues are in England, one in Scotland and two are in Wales. The project matches the aims and ambitions of the Community Ownership project, which attracts cross-party support and has already seen communities acquire local pubs, restaurants and post offices.
Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, 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, Arts Council England, said: “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.”
“We’re delighted that Arts & Culture Finance have been able to support this project through our Arts & Culture Impact Fund, and we’re pleased to welcome MVP to our growing portfolio of arts, culture and heritage organisations who are making real impact in their communities thanks to social investment,” said Seva Phillips, head of Arts & Culture Investments, Arts & Culture Finance. “We look forward to seeing this groundbreaking project transform the UK’s live music landscape.”
PHOTO: (L-R) Claire Mera-Nelson, Director of Music for Arts Council England, The Snug’s owner/operator Rachael Flaszczak, John Whittingdale, Minister for Creative Industries, Mark Davyd, CEO Music Venue Trust