Music Venue Trust Announces First Acquisition Following Multimillion-Dollar ‘Own Our Venues’ Campaign

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(l to r) Arts Council England music director Claire Mera-Nelson, The Snug owner/operator Rachael Flaszczak, media, tourism, and creative industries minister John Whittingdale, and Music Venue Trust CEO Mark Davyd outside The Snug in Atherton, Greater Manchester. Photo Credit: MVT

A little over six months after announcing that Own Our Venues had raised close to $3 million, Music Venue Trust (MVT) has revealed the first purchase executed under the campaign.

Music Venue Trust, a nine-year-old charity that says it aims “to protect, secure and improve the UK’s vital grassroots music venues,” just recently confirmed the initial acquisition made by the adjacent Music Venue Properties. The latter is designed to develop a commercial portfolio as part of a larger goal of providing “long term security for Britain’s fantastic venue operators.”

Funded through the aforementioned Own Our Venues initiative, Music Venue Properties is specifically classified as a “charitable community benefit society.” Among other things, that means the MVT-associated entity “can raise money via community shares,” according to the involved organizations.

(Music Venue Properties “reopened the community share” earlier this month and seems to be accepting additional investments, the relevant crowdfunding page shows.)

All told, Music Venue Properties has thus far attracted support from north of 1,200 “individual investors” – on top of a “£500,000 [currently $611,729] investment from both Arts Council England and Arts & Culture Finance,” per the MVT. And it’s this capital that bankrolled the above-noted purchase of a 100-person-capacity Atherton, Greater Manchester, venue called The Snug.

Music Venue Trust held an “official launch event” to commemorate the buyout, and The Snug’s owner and operator, Rachael Flaszczak, was on hand for the happening. Meanwhile, Music Venue Properties has “secured the freehold of the building occupied by The Snug” and “placed it into permanent protected status,” the MVT relayed.

“The venue’s current operators have signed a ‘cultural lease,’” Music Venue Trust elaborated of the arrangement, “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.”

Additionally, Music Venue Properties has committed to “offering a rent reduction and a contribution towards building repairs and insurance” to these current operators, according to the MVT’s formal announcement message.

The same source, emphasizing COVID-19 lockdown measures’ far-reaching impact on live entertainment, notes that “the sector has acquired over £90m [$110.11 million] of new debt” in the UK since 2020’s beginning. 16 percent of UK grassroots music venues “have closed in the last 12 months,” the text proceeds, and 93 percent of the venues “are tenants with the typical operator only having 18 months left on their tenancy.”

Bearing in mind the less-than-ideal points, related considerations, and broader economic uncertainty, Music Venue Properties is said to have “identified another eight venues” – five in England, two in Wales, and one in Scotland – “for a pilot project that will allow the scheme to establish proof of concept.”

“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,” MVT CEO Mark Dayvd added in a statement. “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.”