Reporter: Laura Wild
Date online: 15 February 2012
Levi Roots - Rochdale High Street Foundation launch
The man behind Reggae Reggae Sauce, Levi Roots, shared his inspirational story with businesses from across the borough at the launch of the Rochdale Borough High Street Foundation.
The launch event took place tonight (15 February) at Rochdale Town Hall and Mr Roots, whose success came following his appearance on Dragon’s Den, told businesses about his experience in his keynote speech ‘You Can Get it If You Really Want.’
The Rochdale Borough High Street Foundation has been launched to focus on creating new, sustainable high streets for Rochdale - It is part of £1m worth of initiatives regarding the high street being implemented by Rochdale Council over the next 12 months.
The key aspects of the foundation were outlined by Pam Smith, Executive Director of Rochdale Council.
These include: Offering one-to-one support and master classes to businesses, bidding to be part of the Mary Portas Pilot, a purple flag assessment looking into the night time economy of Rochdale, addressing the perception of the borough, establishing speciality markets, running an ambassadors scheme and having a retail investment strategy.
Speaking to businesses from across the borough, Ms Smith said: “Together we can achieve great things in Rochdale.
“We have got to do things differently and make our high street not only a place to shop but a place to visit and a place to spend some time."
Speaking to Rochdale Online, Levi Roots said: “The best advice is about being yourself. I know about change and people say that Rochdale needs change, like other places, but that’s not what it is about, it has to be about what Rochdale is. So you guys have to find out what represents here and don’t change that, but big it up.
“Be yourself, I talked about that fact that most people didn’t think the name Reggae Reggae Sauce was a good one but I wanted it to be about me and that is why I kept the name Reggae Reggae Sauce because music and food are the two things that I love the most in this world so why would I want to call it anything else?
“If Rochdale has a history of a cultured background why change and be something else? Work with what you already have and people will respect you for that.”
Mr Roots reflected on changes he has seen in his home town of Brixton. He said: “It was the vision I think that people had, because Brixton didn’t change overnight it started by moving out a lot of people and I remember that. All the bad boys and all the people, they were getting flats in some nice areas and you know some of the bad boys were saying to me ‘Levi I just got a fantastic flat’ out of the way in Croydon or somewhere but they didn’t realise what was happening then because they were being moved out slowly.
“It is all about the plan and it was the plan that enabled them to do that so once that had been done the people that were coming in were the people that could do something for the area, could open new businesses. So when you go to the market there, Brixton market, it’s the same food but it’s not the same kind of people coming there – it was a strategic plan.
“If you go into Brixton Square, where there used to be people hanging about, now it’s nice and rosey and everything is fantastic and Rochdale can do the same.
“They have to have a long term vision of what they want and when they want it and they will be able to achieve that.
“The vision comes back into what we were saying, don’t change for anybody else if you have the vision you know what you want and you have always got to be yourself and keep that culture.”
Other speakers at the launch event included the owner of town centre boutique, 25Ten, Paul Turner-Mitchell, town centre business man and former Councillor, Greg Couzens and Retail Champion, Clare Rayner.
Mr Turner-Mitchell, Chairman of the Foundation, spoke about his business and said the key is for businesses to be different.
He added: “A new bold and distinctive approach is needed. The town centre is crying out for change and it is up to us to make it happen. With your help let’s build a better Rochdale.”
Mr Couzens said: “We can’t rely on the local authority to solve our problems – collectively together we can make a huge difference.”