A charity has raised £2.1m in a bid to create a National Trust for grassroots music venues across the UK. The Music Venue Trust’s campaign is backed by musicians Ed Sheeran and Frank Turner and industry giants Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music and Amazon Music.
The campaign was launched in response to the data that 35% of Grassroots Music Venues (GMV) have closed in the past 20 years. The total raised to date includes an Arts Council England grant of £500,000 which the charity hopes will secure the purchase of nine venues.
Mark Davyd, the chief executive of the Music Venue Trust, said 93% of GMV were tenants with, on average, 18 months left on their tenancies: “The people who own the buildings in which music is played and enjoyed are committed more to profitability than supporting the sector,” he said. “Unfair rent rises can make previously viable venues suddenly unsustainable, while venues in property hotspots find themselves turfed out to make way for a conversion to flats. Short leases hamper those venues which want to raise funds to improve facilities and make the possibility of government support less likely.
“Our answer is to put ownership of music venues in the hands of people who love live music – a project so radical it hasn’t been tried anywhere else in the world. We’re going to prove that this type of ownership can provide real long-term benefits to artists, audiences, and local communities.”
The charity has identified nine venues, in areas of high deprivation, whose landlords are prepared to sell their freehold to MVT. They include The Ferret in Preston, The Snug in Atherton, Le Pub in Newport, The Glad Cafe in Glasgow, and The Hairy Dog in Derby.
These venues were just the beginning of MVT’s plans, said Steve Lamacq, a patron of the MVT. “We’ll buy nine venues, then 90, then 900. We’re going to save as many of these venues, vital to our cultural and community heritage, as possible.
“These venues have played a crucial role in the development of British music over the last 40 years,” he added. “They have nurtured local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills.”