Tiny music venue The Snug saved after fans buy shares

8 months ago 153

Body Water play The SnugImage source, The Snug

Image caption,

Manchester rock duo Body Water played The Snug during Independent Venue Week

By Mark Savage

BBC Music Correspondent

A former bakery that is now a popular and sweaty concert hall has had its future secured by a new scheme billed as "the National Trust for venues".

The Snug in Atherton, Greater Manchester, is the first grassroots gig venue to benefit from the Music Venue Trust's "Own Our Properties" plan.

Launched in May 2022, the project lets fans invest in threatened venues, protecting them from rising rents.

The Snug's Rachael Flaszczak said the purchase "means everything".

"We now feel secure and confident to plan ahead knowing the venue is in safe hands with people that have a shared vision of the future of new music," she said in a statement.

The venue, which has a maximum capacity of 100, has recently hosted gigs by Mark Morriss of The Bluetones and Tom Hingley from Inspiral Carpets, alongside up-and-coming acts like The Short Causeway and The Lounge Society.

During the day, it doubles as a coffee house - but the landlord wanted to sell the building, putting the entire venture at risk.

The Music Venue Trust says venues like these are increasingly under threat from rising business rates and energy bills, and commercial agents hiking up rents.

The organisation says 127 venues have closed or stopped scheduling concerts since last summer, meaning the loss of 4,000 jobs, thousands of chances for new acts to perform and more than £9m in income for musicians.

The 835 venues in the trust made an average profit of 0.2% of sales last year, "as close to nothing as makes no difference", said chief executive Mark Davyd.

The Music Venue Properties (MVP) scheme is a 10-year plan aimed at counteracting that.

It operates as a charitable community benefit society, which allows investors to purchase "community shares" in a venue. That enables the MVP to buy the freehold, while shareholders receive annual returns on their investment.

The scheme has raised £1.5m from 1,200 individual investors, as well as £500,000 grants from both Arts Council England and Arts & Culture Finance.

Image source, The Snug

Image caption,

The venue provides a space for young bands to perfect their live shows before graduating to bigger halls

The Snug's owners have now signed a "cultural lease" with the MVP, which guarantees them the use of the building as long as they operate as a space for grassroots live music for their local community.

The handover was marked on Wednesday morning in a ceremony attended by Ivor Novello-winning musician Jamie Lawson and 16-year-old Jennifer King, who is now a shareholder.

Also in attendance was creative industries minister John Whittingdale, who said: "The UK's incredible grassroots music venues are the lifeblood of our world-leading music sector, launching new talent and supporting thousands of jobs in local communities.

"Thanks to initiatives like Music Venue Trust's Own Our Venues campaign and an extra £5m in government support for grassroots music, we're securing the future of these much-loved venues and maximising the potential of our creative industries."

The MVP has identified eight other venues that could benefit from the scheme, including The Bunkhouse in Swansea, Hull's Polar Bear Music Club and The Hairy Dog in Derby.

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