‘It’s a love for the business but also a way of life’

Photo Neil Cross'David Cam, retiring from his post as the Pleasure Beach Company Secretary
Photo Neil Cross'David Cam, retiring from his post as the Pleasure Beach Company Secretary
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Blue Peter’s loss was Blackpool’s gain...

For after graduating from university one of the first jobs David Cam applied for was to replace outgoing Blue Peter presenter John Noakes.

The BBC turned him down, David joined the Pleasure Beach instead and the rest, as they say, is history.

Tomorrow David, 58, is retiring from his role as company secretary and a director of the Pleasure Beach after 32 years devoting himself to “manufacturing fun.”

His links to the park actually go back even further - his dad also worked there 32 years and David joined as a 16-year-old in 1971 working in the catering section during his school holidays.

Post-degree, when Blue Peter said thanks but no thanks (he has the typed rejection letter from legendary producer Biddy Baxter framed on his office wall), David’s next plan was to train as a planning lawyer.

But he needed to raise some cash, and decided to take a gap year during which he was taken on by the park’s late owner Geoffrey Thompson as his personal assistant.

“Basically I was his gofer,” says David.

“When I was at the Pleasure Beach before I had been flipping burgers and selling ice cream, but this job opened my eyes to the world of business and the science of manufacturing fun.

“I was asked to do all sorts, from drafting a contract to finding a supplier of pot-bellied pigs.”

David left after a year to train in the law, but at the end of the 12 months was back at the Pleasure Beach as assistant company secretary.

His first six months were spent in the US, first as guests of the Gurtler family who ran a similar family theme park, Elitch Gardens in Denver, Colorado.

There he learned the tools of a trade that has seen him meet royalty, including that of the celebrity kind.

He adds: “I learned an awful lot and after three months I then drove the 23 states of America and visited a different amusement park every day.

“On February 15, 1981, I was back in my office at the Pleasure Beach and it has been a complete adventure ever since.

“The biggest day of my career was the day we opened the Big One in July 1994.

“Geoffrey and I had been to America to look at the concept of mega-coasters. We rode a 200ft tall rollercoaster and it was such a thrill.

“But that was built on a green field site, and we had to fit the Big One into the Pleasure Beach which was already full of rides.

“From concept to opening took three-and-a-half years and on the day it opened we had the biggest party ever with a big stage across the Prom.

“Visitor numbers for the whole of Blackpool went up 35 per cent on the basis of that ride, and it remains an icon for Blackpool to this day.”

The success of the Pleasure Beach is a barometer for the success of Blackpool as a whole, and championing the resort has always been in David’s heart.

As a teenager when he took part in the World Scout Jamboree in Japan, he even took a giant stick of Blackpool rock to present on behalf of the council.

Over the years he has served on external bodies including the British Association of Leisure Parks, Piers and Attractions and is a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire, while he endeavours to bend the ear of every politician who comes his way about the need to put prioritise tourism.

He pioneered family bars and the introduction of the now familiar brown and white tourism signs.

Which is why it is good news to hear he has no intention of relaxing on his laurels for too long after retirement.

David, who is married to Malaysian-born Jin Ee with whom he has two grown up children Edward 25, and Honor, 23, plans a holiday before taking on roles as an advisor with the Pleasure Beach, and for the council through the Blackpool Business Leadership Group.

He said: “There are a lot of people coming to Blackpool but still not enough. People’s impressions of the town have become blurred and there is still a lot to be done to turn around the image of Blackpool.

“The biggest single challenge of my career has been the constant and relentless battle to try and get tourism recognised as an industry.”

It is an indication of the passion which has driven David throughout his long career.

He explains: “It is a love for the business, but more than that, a way of life and total dedication to what you do.

“That’s what makes the Pleasure Beach what it is, and there are a lot of people like that here.”

Which means hopefully the park remains in good hands for the future.