Own Our Venues scheme urges local councils to support its plan to safeguard the future of grassroots venues

March 13, 2023

The Music Venue Trust instigated Own Our Venues initiative is urging local councils around the UK to support its plan to take control of the freeholds of buildings used by grassroots venues. The call follows a move by Preston City Council to support the scheme.

MVT says that the vast majority of grassroots venues “are tenants with the typical operator only having eighteen months left on their tenancy”, and that fact “underpins almost every other challenge that grassroots music venues have faced during the last 20 years including gentrification, noise complaints, under-investment, poor economic models, and an inability to plan for the future”.

The Own Our Venues initiative – launched last May – is seeking to raise sufficient funds to acquire the freeholds of the buildings used by various grassroots venues around the country, so to “bring them under a protected status of benevolent ownership”.

Among the venues that would benefit from the initial phase of the scheme is The Ferret in Preston. It’s with that in mind that Preston City Council has provided a £150,000 loan to the initiative.

Confirming that support, Martyn Rawlinson – Deputy Leader of Preston City Council – says: “Live music venues are an important part of our city centre arts scene and, without independent venues like The Ferret, local bands would have nowhere to go to get the experience they need, playing in front of a live audience”.

“The Music Venue Trust have done a great job raising the profile of our struggling music venues across the UK”, he adds. “We felt that it was important that we did what we could to help support the Ferret’s campaign to raise the funds to purchase the building and stop it from being sold for commercial development. We wish the Music Venue Trust and The Ferret the best of luck in securing the funding they need”.

Commenting on that development from the Own Our Venues side, the scheme’s Ownership Coordinator Matthew Otridge says: “We are delighted that Preston City Council are supporting our efforts to save The Ferret and move it into community ownership”.

“Like The Ferret, the grassroots venues we are looking to purchase at this stage are at the forefront of the live music provision in their towns and cities – in fact, some are the only remaining live music venue. It is therefore imperative that other local councils follow Preston City Council’s lead and support this campaign in recognition of these vital cultural and community hubs”.

The Own Our Venues team say that they have now raised £1.8 million of their £2.5 million target, with plans to start purchasing the first venues next month.

Commenting on its involvement in the scheme, Matt Fawbert, General Manager at The Ferret, confirms that the biggest worry for his venue right now is that “the property is in the hands of a private landlord and they have put the property up for sale. It just shows, you can fight through the pandemic and you can get through all sorts of problems but the landlord could take this away at any point by selling the building. Help us save the Ferret, get involved now, let’s own our venues”.

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