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‘Monumental moment’ for iconic Preston music venue The Ferret as future secured

Posted on - 10th May, 2024 - 6:00am | Author - | Posted in - Charities, Music, Preston Council, Preston News, Proud Preston, University campus, What's On in Preston
The Ferret team members outside the Fylde Road venue Pic: Michael Porter Photography
The Ferret team members outside the saved venue Pic: Michael Porter Photography

It’s the news live music lovers in Preston have been waiting to hear – The Ferret has been saved.

The iconic venue in Fylde Road has been placed into permanent protected status after being acquired by Music Venue Properties (MVP) under its groundbreaking Own Our Venues scheme.

Following the purchase, The Ferret‚Äôs operators have signed a ‚Äėcultural lease‚Äô – an agreement created by MVP to guarantee that, as long as The Ferret operates as a space for grassroots live music for their local community, they can enjoy the use of the building.

The future of the venue had been up in the air since 2022 when the landlord put the building up for sale.

Since then, Matt Fawbert, Director and Programme Manager at the venue, has spearheaded efforts to save The Ferret, which included hitting a £45,000 fundraising target thanks to a huge community effort.

Matt Fawbert performing at The Ferret with The Hiphopalippz Pic: Michael Porter Photography
Matt Fawbert performing at The Ferret with The Hiphopalippz Pic: Michael Porter Photography

Speaking about the purchase, Matt said:¬†“This is a monumental moment for The Ferret. We‚Äôre extremely pleased to be able to say that our venue is now safe and secure for years to come.

“We want to thank everyone who invested and 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 and 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.‚ÄĚ

Read more: The Ferret launches free live music industry training programme

Music Venue Trust (MVT), the UK charity that represents hundreds of grassroots music venues, announced the purchase, which sees The Ferret move out of the commercial marketplace and into community ownership.

Originally launched as a Community Share Offer in 2022, the Own Our Venues scheme has raised almost £2.6m from over 1,200 individual investors. The figure includes a £150k loan from Preston City Council.

Peter Kelly,¬†cabinet member for culture and leisure services at¬†Preston City Council, said:¬†“Grassroot music venues are an important fabric of any city.

“We are extremely proud to be able to¬†work together with Music Venue Properties and The Ferret Community Interest Company to save¬†this icon in the music offering of the city.”

The Lottery Winners at The Ferret Pic: Michael Porter Photography
The Ferret has hosted many an artist that has gone on to big things, including The Lottery Winners pictured here Pic: Michael Porter Photography

Like The Ferret, 93 per cent of grassroots music venues are tenants with the typical operator only having 18 months left on their tenancy. This issue of ownership underpins almost every other challenge that venues have faced during the last 20 years including gentrification, noise complaints, under-investment, poor economic models, and an inability to plan for the future.

The purchase of The Ferret follows the acquisition in October 2023 of The Snug in Atherton, Greater Manchester. A further seven venues across the country have been identified for purchase in this initial phase.

Mark Dayvd, CEO of MVT said: “The Ferret 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.‚ÄĚ

The Ferret Pic: Tony Worrall
The Ferret in 2020 Pic: Tony Worrall

Alongside the security offered by the new cultural lease, The Ferret is now directly supported in its ambition to bring music to its local community. 

Matthew Otridge, MVP, said:¬†“Just over two years ago The Ferret team found out their building was up for sale when a sign was mounted on the front of the building, but today they can look forward to working with an organisation that will support its ambition to bring music to its local community.

“The cultural lease MVP has created will help to alleviate many of the pressures of a commercial lease and will allow the operators to start focusing on their long-term goals for the building.

“Crucially, it also guarantees the community of Preston, and the artists who rely on this network, that this building will always be a grassroots music venue.”

Read more: Local band embarking on ‚Äėgruelling‚Äô tour of Preston and not even the surrounding areas

Adam Devonshire is one such artist who has played The Ferret with the now-chart-topping IDLES.

Adam said:¬†‚ÄúWe’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.

“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.‚ÄĚ

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This story was made possible by support from you, our readers, and a host of organisations in the city, through our Crowdfund Lancashire appeal, which unlocked support from the Lancashire Culture and Sport Fund provided by Lancashire County Council. You can see all our coverage and, if you know of an event or arts project in the city we should be covering, send details to contactus@blogpreston.co.uk.

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