Music Venue Trust (MVT) 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 (GMV) purchased by Music Venue Properties (MVP), the independent Charitable Community Benefit Society (CCBS), created by MVT.

The official launch event and unveiling of a commemorative plaque was attended by MVT CEO Mark Davyd, The Snug’s owner/operator Rachael Flaszczak, John Whittingdale, Minister for Creative Industries, Claire Mera-Nelson, director of Music for Arts Council England, and 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 more than 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.  

Flaszczak 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-and-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. 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.”

Venue closures

According to MVT, 16% of GMVs have closed in the last 12 months; 93% of GMVs 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 £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund, MVT said there is more that 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 closely 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.

MVT CEO Mark Davyd 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.” 

Pictured (L-R): Claire Mera-Nelson, director of Music for Arts Council England, Rachael Flaszczak managing director of The Snug, John Whittingdale Minister for Creative Industries, Mark Davyd, CEO and founder of Music Venue Trust