In this La Vida Liverpool exclusive we talk to the man behind New Brighton’s regeneration, Dan Davies. A successful businessman, Dan founded leading global company CPL Training, became Chairman of The Institute of Licensing and Board Member of UK Hospitality. Yet, instead of sitting on his fortunes, Dan has invested every penny of his money in his hometown.

Transforming the seaside town through creativity, culture and community spirit, Dan has created something very special in New Brighton through Rockpoint Leisure. From art and music to restaurants, bars and events, Dan has breathed new life into the area and here we talk to him about the past, present and future of New Brighton….

LVL: Great to chat with you as ever, Dan. Firstly, please could you tell us about your upbringing in New Brighton and where it all started for you?

Dan: I was born in 1973 and lived in Liscard, before moving down the road to New Brighton when I was 5 years old in 1978. The 80s was a real winter of discontent — I remember us not having central heating when we moved there and there was thick snow.

My era missed a lot of what New Brighton was founded to be about. The town was formed in the 1830s by James Atherton, a merchant and architect who built New Brighton on 170 acres of sand dunes called Rock Point. This is why my regeneration project is called Rockpoint Leisure we have The James Atherton pub.

James Atherton based the new seaside town on the resort of Brighton and it went on to have 2 piers, 11 theatres, the largest ballroom in Europe, the largest tower in the country and the largest open air swimming baths in the world. At one point there were 5 million people per day visiting this great resort. Unfortunately, due to governments and councils, all these reasons to visit were taken away and the town fell into decline.

I was raised in New Brighton during its decline. There was a fair bit of vandalism and crime — a far cry from the reputation it once had. My first job was as a paperboy for Mr. Carruthers’ shop and through reading the newspapers I learnt a lot about the world and politics and that the truth can be found in between all the varying perspectives. I read every paper and started questioning things.

LVL: Tell us about how you started CPL Training and became successful in business.

Dan: I worked in the hospitality industry from the age of 16 and by the time I was 18 I was the licensee at Coaster’s on New Brighton promenade. It was during this time I set up CPL Training with my mate in his flat — offering personal alcohol license training. There was a huge gap in the market for it because it was only being offered to people within the industry — we took it to the mainstream and we soon had 4 training centres across the country.

Within a few years we had 80 training centres and it became an international business — working with the likes of Heineken and Coca Cola. It kind of helped that we didn’t have any formal business training when we set up CPL because we did it our way, went against the grain and looked at things differently. We eventually became the market leader in the industry.

LVL: After becoming so successful, what made you decide to invest in your hometown instead of sitting back and getting rich?

Dan: Let me put it this way — I did a BBC Radio 4 interview back in 2019 and lots of things came out of that. I spoke with groups from all over the country including Love Wavertree, where businesses came together to fight the label of it being a bad place to live. A survey was done in Huddersfield where the thing local people wanted the most was to be proud of where they live.

Who wouldn’t want to be proud of where they live? With the history and heritage we’ve got here, let’s not allow it to get trampled upon! We can’t live in the past but we need to nurture local talent and support local businesses in order to move forward for a better future.

If we keep it independent we’re in charge of our own destiny and not just a blueprint town with the same big brands with no personality or individuality. Big corporates don’t care, they just care about profit, and there are people who are making decisions about areas they have never visited. I want to change that and keep it local.

LVL: What inspired you to introduce all the street art to New Brighton?

Dan: When I was in Brooklyn on a conference I saw some of the regeneration work they were doing there and at the same time I was asked as Chairman of the Institute Of Licensing to organise a select committee on the future of seaside towns. What I saw in Brooklyn was lots of street art and independent businesses and it made me think about how that could be done in New Brighton.

The idea of street art is to attract footfall of course but to also get people walking around exploring the area. The art is a great talking point and it brings the buildings back to life but it also gets people to engage with the local businesses and people.

We’ve had local kids getting involved in the project alongside local artists and internationally renowned artists. The whole project is all about promoting creativity and for New Brighton to be a hub for creatives — from artists to bands such as The Mysterines and Razzmatazz.

LVL: You’ve invested everything into this project and pretty much singlehandedly transformed the area. What is your message to the council and government?

Dan: New Brighton was a managed decline. We lost 2 piers, 11 theatres, the largest ballroom in Europe that the Beatles played in, the largest tower in the country, the largest open air baths in the world and went from being the 3rd largest seaside town in the country to the 68th. How was that allowed to happen? It’s quite frankly gross mismanagement.

I’ve put over £7million into regenerating New Brighton but the council seem to want to spend money on everything but this project. Some amazing things have been happening here — we’ve created projects with LIPA and John Moore’s University, we’ve been working with schools, music videos and movies have been filmed here. Nobody from the council or Liverpool region turns up. It’s deeply frustrating.

LVL: As well as fighting for New Brighton, you’ve also been fighting a cancer battle. How have you got through that and what has your mentality been like?

Dan: I think the main thing is I’ve carried on working. Even before chemotherapy sessions I worked on the project, much to the disapproval of my consultant, but I had to keep busy — when you sit at home you just tend to dwell on it. The way I look at things is it’s been an inconvenience having so much happening in New Brighton. You’ve just got to keep going.

What’s also kept me going is the local community. You bump into people on the street and they ask how you are, you receive messages from people saying keep the fight up. We’ve got a great community here and it’s something worth fighting for — I’ll fight for it on my death bed and until my last breath.

LVL: What’s going on with the project at the moment?

Dan: We’re keeping things independent. Two of the Rockpoint Leisure management team, Rob and Vicky, have opened Social 114 — a cracking little coffee shop, restaurant and bar. Rockpoint Records has become a real hub with a bar, food from The South Indian, a record shop and a tattoo shop and live music.

The Mysterines played at Rockpoint Records in the summer, a local band who are doing massive things globally. Many local artists, musicians and other creatives work from Victoria Road and there’s a diverse mix of people here. It’s a great place to be and there’s always something going on. We’re continuing to be a platform for local people and we’re remaining fiercely independent.

LVL: What are your thoughts about the future of New Brighton?

Dan: It depends on whether the council are willing to recognise this as a pilot project for regeneration. The House Of Lords has recognised the model, as have councils from all over the country and many authorities, institutions and universities. This is a project that is gift wrapped for them, an open goal that they shouldn’t volley into row Z again.

This isn’t about me. It’s about people who live in New Brighton and their hopes and dreams for generations to come. I created this project to turn the fortunes around of the town I grew up in and we need to attract and retain talent. It is vitally important that we work together to create somewhere we can thrive and be proud of where we come from. We’ve proved the concept, so let’s have some backing and make this seaside town great again.

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