Ahead of the 30 March closure of Music Venue Trust’s (MVT) Own Our Venues fundraising campaign, Preston City Council has provided a £150k loan to help save the city’s The Ferret grassroots venue.

MVT launched its crowdfunded project in May 2022 with the aim of taking control of the freeholds of music venue premises and bring them under “a protected status of benevolent ownership”. So far £1.8m of the target total of £2.5m has been secured and MVT said it aims to begin purchasing its first venues next month.

Preston’s The Ferret is a long-established venue that has hosted artists including Ed Sheeran, Alt-J and Royal Blood. It is one of nine venues benefitting from the scheme. MVT said that, like The Ferret, 93% of grassroots music venues (GMV) are tenants with the typical operator only having 18 months left on their tenancy. It said the issue of ownership underpins almost every other challenge that GMVs have faced during the last twenty years including gentrification, noise complaints, under-investment, poor economic models, and an inability to plan for the future.

Cllr Rawlinson, deputy leader of Preston City Council said, “The Music Venue Trust has done a great job raising the profile of our struggling music venues across the UK. 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.

“Having MVT as its new landlord would give the venue greater security and confidence in its future and allow the team to continue to invest in the city’s grassroots music scene.”

MVT said that since the launch of the initiative, hundreds of individuals, companies and organisations have pledged their support to the project. They include investors such as Ed Sheeran, Frank Turner and musician-turned-venue-owner Ben Lovett, alongside major music industry companies such as Sony Music Entertainment and Warner Music. Arts Council England has also confirmed a grant of £500,000 to the project, which is not included in the crowdfunded total.

MVT ownership coordinator Matthew Otridge said, “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 GMVs 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 PCC’s lead and support this campaign in recognition of these vital cultural and community hubs. We must own our venues.”