The Ferret in Preston saved by MVT’s ‘Own Our Venues’ scheme

The Ferret in Preston is the latest grassroots music venue to have been saved by the Music Venue Trust’s ‘Own Our Venues’ scheme.

READ MORE: Report shows “disaster” facing grassroots music venues: “The big companies and arenas are now going to have to answer for this”

The 200-capacity venue has hosted artists including Ed Sheeran, IDLES, Alt-J and Royal Blood, and will now be safe “for years to come” after becoming the second venue to be acquired by Music Venue Properties (MVP).

The ‘Own Our Venues’ initiative was first announced in April last year, and it aims to secure the long-term futures of grassroots venues by directly tackling the issue of ownership.

The Ferret has signed a “cultural lease” with MVP that states that as long as it continues to operate as a grassroots live music space for the local community, then they can continue to enjoy use of the building.

The Lottery Winners at The Ferret, Preston. CREDIT: Michael Porter

“This is a monumental moment for The Ferret,” said Matt Fawbert, Director & Programme Manager of the venue. “We’re extremely pleased to be able to say that our venue is now safe & secure for years to come. We want to thank everyone who invested & donated, but today we especially want to thank our friends at Music Venue Properties.”

“To have a landlord that is dedicated to live music and supporting grassroots music venues gives us the security & confidence to not only continue delivering great live music to the people of Preston, but also to invest even more in grassroots music and culture and create something very exciting in our city.”

#OwnOurVenues has been described as like “The National Trust, but for venues”, and in October, it was announced that the first venue to have been purchased by Music Venue Properties (MVP) was The Snug, a 100-capacity venue in Atherton, Greater Manchester.

The MVP is a Charitable Community Benefit Society (CCBS), which, unlike a charity, is able to raise funds via community shares. The project was made possible by over 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. A similar scheme has previously been used to protect local pubs, post offices and sports grounds.

Mark Dayvd, CEO of Music Venue Trust has said, “This second purchase by Music Venue Properties is further demonstration that, when the music community comes together around a great idea, we can deliver real positive change to the UK’s Grassroots Music Venue sector.”

Buzzcocks at The Ferret, Preston. CREDIT: Steve White

“The Ferret is the second venue removed from the commercial marketplace under the Own Our Venues scheme. It is now able to make long-term plans for its future, and the future of live music in Preston, as a result of a new cultural lease that provides it with permanently protected status. We have already seen the huge difference this has made for the Snug in Atherton, and we want to see this project rolled out to many more venues across the country.”

IDLES’ Adam Devonshire has also celebrated the news: “We’ve been fortunate enough to be looked after by the wonderful, hard-working team at The Ferret on a couple of occasions now, so can easily attest to how important a role it plays within the city and how vital a cog it is within the network of grassroots venues in this country,” he said.

READ MORE: The case has been made for a £1 ticket levy on all arena gigs – for the survival of grassroots venues and artists

“Venues like this are the backbone of the industry and they must be protected by all means necessary. Up The Ferret and all who sail in her.”

#OwnOurVenues has been backed by Sheeran, who described it as “an initiative I’m really passionate about getting behind. Small, independent venues are so, so important to the music community, and I’ve played some of my favourite gigs of my career in these rooms. We’ve got to do all we can to protect these beautiful venues that we’ve all come to love for years to come.”

It comes at a time of crisis for small music venues in the UK. Earlier this year, the Music Venue Trust delivered their full report into the state of the sector for 2023, showing the “disaster” facing live music with venues closing at a rate of around two per week.

Presented at Westminster, the MVT have also echoed their calls for a £1 levy on tickets for gigs at arena size and above and for major labels to pay back into the grassroots scene, arguing that “the big companies are now going to have to answer for this”.

The post The Ferret in Preston saved by MVT’s ‘Own Our Venues’ scheme appeared first on NME.

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