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Music Venue Trust launches initiative to buy up grassroots venues

The Charitable Community Benefit Society will aim to purchase venue freeholds

By Joe Goggins

Pexels shot of a crowd at a gig
(Photo: Pexels)

The Music Venue Trust (MVT) has launched a new initiative aimed at buying up properties that host grassroots gigs.

The Trust have announced today (May 23) the formation of the Charitable Community Benefit Society (CCBS), which aims to purchase the freeholds of grassroots venues. The investment project will allow music fans to buy in at a return of 3% APR, with the pooled cash going towards buying the venues outright in a bid to avoid being beholden to third party landlords.

Without having specified as such in their statement, the MVT are likely to have been handed added urgency by the ongoing battle to save Sheffield’s legendary Leadmill. Having raised over £4.1 million for their #SaveOurVenues campaign as independent stages faced financial ruin during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Trust is confident it has the necessary fan backing to make a success of the CCBS, and by way of demonstrating its potential, it has singled out nine independent venues that would make suitable candidates for purchase, should they receive the requisite backing.

Preston’s The Ferret, Atherton’s The Snug, Newport’s Le Pub, and Glasgow’s community-led Southside haven The Glad Café are among the initial establishments to be singled out. In addition, the MVT has designs on The Hairy Dog in Derby, Sunbird in Darwen, The Polar Bear in Hull, The Palladium in Bideford and Bunkhouse in Swansea.

The pilot project to buy these venues, by the end of 2022 if all goes according to plan, is aiming to raise £3.5 million through the plan’s first share offer. From there, they will “continue to identify and purchase venue freeholds as and when they become available,” per a press release. “We will continue to raise funds through selling community shares and borrowing against the freehold we have purchased,” the MVT went on.

The Trust’s CEO, Mark Davyd, outlined the ambition of the project. “The long-term security and prosperity of grassroots music venues depends almost entirely on one thing – ownership,” he explained. “Too many have been at the mercy of some commercial landlords whose motivations revolve primarily around profit. We have lost over a third of our venues in the last 20 years and with over 90% having only 18 months left on their tenancies we are at the cliff edge and could see the decimation of our sector if we don’t do something radical about it.”