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Scheme to save The Ferret receives £150k loan

9 March 2023

Charity calls on other councils to follow Preston City Council's example

'Own Our Venues', the campaign launched by the charity Music Venue Trust (MVT) is to make a radical intervention into the ownership of the UK's Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs).

The charity has received a boost to its fundraising campaign thanks to a £150k loan from Preston City Council. The fundraiser will close on Thursday 30 March 2023 and the charity is now calling on other councils to follow suit by investing in the scheme.

Visit Crowdfunder to help Own our Venues

About Own our Venues

'Own Our Venues', dubbed The National Trust for Grassroots Music Venues, was launched as a crowdfunded project by Music Venue Trust in May 2022 and is in the first step in a long-term campaign to take control of the freeholds of music venue premises and bring them under a protected status of benevolent ownership.

The Ferret in Preston - a long-standing venue which has hosted artists such as Ed Sheeran, Alt-J, Royal Blood and many more - is one of nine venues highlighted in the scheme.

Like The Ferret, 93% of GMVs are tenants with the typical operator only having 18 months left on their tenancy. This 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:

"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. 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."

Cllr Peter Kelly, Cabinet Member for Arts and Culture said:

"We are delighted to have been able to help Music Venue Trust and The Ferret with a loan to help meet their fundraising target and their plight to save the building from redevelopment.

We hope that MVT can find the remaining funds and the venue can be saved for the residents of Preston, and all the local bands that have the venue to thank for helping them on their musical journey over the years."

The 'Own Our Venues' concept is built on the Community Share model that has been so successful in saving and protecting local pubs, post offices and even sports grounds, and is seeking to acquire nine venues in its first phase.  

Further venue freeholds will then be identified and secured as and when they become available. On completion of purchase the venues will be offered an immediate rent reduction and help to contribute to building repairs and insurance, while also guaranteeing long term security and market resistant rents.

Since the launch of the 'Own Our Venues' initiative, hundreds of individuals, companies and organisations have already pledged their support to the project. These include high profile 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 among many others.

Arts Council England has also confirmed a grant of £500,000 to the project, which is not included in the crowdfunded total.

Matthew Otridge, Ownership Coordinator, Music Venue Trust 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 PCCs lead and support this campaign in recognition of these vital cultural and community hubs. We must Own Our Venues".

£1.8m of the target total of £2.5m has already been secured and MVT aims to begin purchasing its first venues in April.

Matt Fawbert, general manager of The Ferret, said:

"The biggest worry 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."

Investments in the Own Our Venues initiative, start at £100 and can go up to £100,000, with a guaranteed 3% APR return on any investments. Alternatively, those who would rather make a one off donation can do so. 

More information

About Music Venue Trust

Music Venue Trust is a registered charity, created in January 2014 to protect, secure and improve the UK live music network by securing the long-term future of iconic grassroots music venues such as Hull Adelphi, Exeter Cavern, Southampton Joiners, The 100 Club, Band on the Wall, Tunbridge Wells Forum etc. These venues have played a crucial role in the development of British music over the last 40 years, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills.  

The Music Venue Trust work to gain recognition of the essential role these venues fulfil, not only for artist development but also for the cultural and music industries, the economy and local communities. MVT aim to preserve and improve venues, making them more efficient and improving the experience for performers and audiences. The Long-term plan is to acquire the freeholds of as many of these vital venues as possible.   

Music Venue Trust is a Charity registered with the Charity Commission of England and Wales, registration no: 1159846. 

Community Wealth Building

Preston City Council actively applies and prioritises the principles of Community Wealth Building wherever applicable and appropriate. Community Wealth Building is an approach which aims to ensure the economic system builds wealth and prosperity for everyone.