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Friday, 1st March 2024

Mark Davies, a man working on a plan for Drogheda’s night life

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Drogheda's Night Time Economy Advisor Mark Davies pictured in Café Nero earlier this week. Photo: Andy Spearman.

By Andy Spearman

One of the legacies of the Covid lockdowns was that many people got out of the habit of socialising at night. Staying at home watching TV shows, drinking cans at home became the norm for many.

Thankfully the situation in Drogheda is picking up again thanks to a lot of work put in by a group of volunteers most of whom work in what is known as the night time economy – pubs, restaurants, cinemas, music venues, theatre etc.

These efforts have been given a big boost recently by a Welsh man called Mark Davies who has been brought in by Louth County Council, with government funding, as Night Time Economy Advisor for Drogheda.

He and I have met briefly on several occasions but earlier this week we sat and had a long chat over a cup of coffee.

“What I like about this job is that it has brought all the different points of my career together” Mark said,

Born in London to Welsh parents, Mark studied international politics in university which doesn’t sound that relevant to his new job but it was the nineties, the Brit pop era, and he fell in love with live music and started playing in bands.

After University Mark got a job in project management in the telecoms industry. Again, not that relevant but later Mark joined Cardiff Council where he worked with neighbourhood partnerships, understanding their challenges and creating action plans for them.

Mark progressed to working on a programme called Street Scene which was about getting people involved in their local area which resulted in real differences such as reductions in littering and anti-social behaviour.

From there he joined the community safety team which resulted in him becoming the Chair of the night time economy group in Cardiff.

Mark was still very involved with the indie music scene in Cardiff and South Wales writing songs, recording and performing live with his band called The Fjords (pictured below) who played festivals alongside bands such as the Manic Street Preachers, Katatonia. Welsh superstars, the Stereophonics, gave the Fjords studio time to record a few tracks.  Their last ever song was called “Cusco.”

Mark Davies (centre) pictured with his band the Fjords back in the nineties in Wales.

All this experience of business, local government and organising gigs and festivals equipped Mark well for the job he is embarking upon in Drogheda as one of only nine Night Time Advisors in Ireland as part of a two year pilot programme.

“We’ve all been asked to tailor what has been happening locally and to work with what’s already there  and we’re very lucky in Drogheda that there’s some fantastic work already underway – Love Drogheda , Arts Centre, Integration Board, they’re all doing great work” he said.

“My job is to bring this all together and also to develop new ideas. We’ve got to work out what people want in the future and that includes pubs, art centres, and cinemas and a lot more besides.

 “I’ll be asking people if they still want live meetings with people, the human interaction which is what towns and cities are all about.”

Marshalling the goodwill that is already there was a recurring theme of our conversation. “There are so many good people working hard to make a difference” Mark said. “Hopefully I can support all of that.”

Mark’s focus is not just on the pubs and clubs scene though. He’s looking to start conversations with people with other wishes for their night time pursuits

He calls them the activators, people who want to meet up with others with similar interests whether it’s a sports club such as softball or a board game club or whatever.

“I need to speak to those people with an idea or a dream to bring footfall back in to the town centre at night” he said.

“There’s all these initiatives and ideas out there – things like the Spiral Night Market which was started by two young ladies with a vision to have markets where it’s not just crafts but it’s also a social experience.

“There are some fantastic grassroots musicians in Drogheda but they just need venues to play in. A lot of venues have either shut or changed their business model during covid to survive.

“We need to encourage venues to look at their long term audience again, to develop a reputation for the style of music they put on and to develop a reputation for putting on good bands from a particular genre of music.

“It takes a while but it’s worth it because people know they’re going to get their indie music, trad or metal, whatever it is that you offer.”

 

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