Published On: Sat, Jan 21st, 2023

Netflix star Dave Fishwick reveals how a 37p chip supper changed his life | Films | Entertainment

Dave Fishwick attends the world premiere of Netflix's 'Bank of Dave'

Dave Fishwick attends the world premiere of Netflix’s ‘Bank of Dave’ (Image: GETTY)

A working-class lad who left school with no qualifications and became a multi-millionaire? “Bonkers”. A decade-long struggle to set up Britain’s first home-grown new bank for more than 120 years? “Bonkers”.

A Hollywood film about his life, created by one of the writers behind Mission: Impossible and starring James Bond’s Rory Kinnear as him, with Def Leppard making a cameo appearance? “Absolutely bonkers!”

Yet Burnley hero Dave’s story is there for all to see on Netflix, with movie Bank Of Dave already on its way to becoming a number one hit on the streaming channel.

Dave, 51, can still remember the moment he got the phone call from Mission: Impossible writer Piers Ashworth, who was looking for a quintessential British story which could mirror the success of his most recent hit, Fisherman’s Friends.

Dave’s story had already been told in documentary form on Channel 4, but Piers wanted to give it a film makeover.

“Piers had been having dinner with the voiceover guy of the documentary series about me and he told him about my story; how I left school at 16, became a builder’s labourer and was now building my own high street bank,” he explains.

“So Piers watched the programmes, he read my book and then he called me to say, ‘My name is Piers and I want to make a story about your life’.

“I told him, ‘You’d better get yourself down to Burnley, then, hadn’t you?’ It was bonkers. So, he came to Burnley and explained what he wanted to do. I asked if it could be filmed in the places where we did business and where it all happened – he agreed – and that was that.”

While the story focuses on the battle by Dave – a human dynamo of a man who positively fizzes with energy – to be recognised as a bank by the establishment, his rags-to-riches tale is just as fascinating. Born and bred in Burnley, his parents were poor but very hard-working – his dad worked two jobs, fixing looms and farm labouring, while his mother was a weaver.

Bond star Rory Kinnear plays Dave Fishwick in the movie

Bond star Rory Kinnear (L) plays Dave Fishwick in the movie (Image: GETTY)

He grew up in a small house with an outside toilet and was told at school he was “either going to be a bum, or a loser, or both”.

Having left school at 16, he was an unhappy builder’s labourer when he had what he still equates to a Damascene moment at a fish and chip shop.

“I’d ordered some food and then I realised that the price was 37p and I only had 34p in my pocket,” he recalls.

“I told the lady, ‘I’m sorry, I don’t have enough pennies, just take a few chips off’. So, she took some chips off and put them in the bin.

“I thought that was so mean and I also realised I didn’t want to be poor any more. I knew I needed to get into business and do something with my life.”

Always obsessed with cars, Dave started cleaning up and selling old vehicles that were being part-exchanged by local dealerships. Soon he had enough money to open his own garage and one day someone brought a filthy van in. He cleaned it up, made an even bigger profit than he made on cars and soon went into vans and then minibuses. Eventually he owned the largest minibus dealership in the country while investing his profits in property.

He’d fulfilled his ambition; he wasn’t just not poor, he was rich, really rich. Dave is now estimated to be worth around half a billion pounds.

His next, strange idea to go into banking happened by accident. In 2008, after the financial crash, banks stopped lending money to small businesses so the people who were buying his minibuses could no longer afford them.

“I thought that if I believed in these people and the product they were buying – which of course I did as I was selling them – I could start lending them money,” he recalls.

“And that’s what happened. And do you know what? They paid me back, and I realised this banking malarkey is not that difficult and I could help other businesses. So I opened what is called a community lending operation (Burnley Savings And Loans) – from the start I wanted to make a difference for my community. My first plan was to open a bank. I went to London to meet one of the banking heads. He asked me, “Where are you from?” When I said Burnley, that clearly put him off. He wasn’t impressed by my school or by what my parents did for a living – that really did put him off.

“Then he told me, ‘So you’ve not been to Oxford or Cambridge and you don’t have the correct parents’. I replied: ‘Whoa! What do you mean by correct parents?’ And he said, ‘People who have been in the Banking Association’.

“I realised that unless you are part of the club you have no chance. It’s no wonder that there hasn’t been a new High Street bank open for over 120 years.

“But I thought, I am going to do it anyway. And that’s how the whole thing started. I got the lawyers involved and I have been fighting for the cause ever since.”

Dave Fishwick took on the establishment to set up Britain’s first home-grown bank for 120 years

Dave Fishwick took on the establishment to set up Britain’s first home-grown bank for 120 years (Image: GETTY)

For many Britons, it’s a cause worth fighting for. The traditional banks have been closing High Street branches and scaling back lending for years. Yesterday it was announced that another 40 local branches are to be lost as Lloyds and Halifax announced more closures.

Officially Dave’s community bank – which offers higher rates of interest for both loans and savings than traditional banks – still can’t call itself a bank and is legally named Burnley Savings and Loans. He started lending in 2008 and launched his “bank” in 2011, before applying for a banking licence, which was turned down.

The 2012 documentary series showed his efforts, including a call for Parliament to reform the banking system, but his fight continues. In all issues, his company acts like a bank: with loans, savings and credit cards. For Dave, the main difference is a piece of official paper that would allow him to call it a bank.

He is a huge amount of fun to be around – engaging and warm – but there is steeliness there, too. His battles against the banks are perhaps much fiercer than are shown in the film.

“I dislike bankers with a passion,” he tells me. “You’ve got people that go hungry every day in Britain, but they’ve just lifted the bankers’ bonus rate, by millions of pounds again. I’d love to inspire other people to challenge the banking system. I only have the one Burnley Savings and Loans, because I’m running other businesses too, but I’d love it even if this film inspired just one person or more to do what I did.”

So far, his bank has loaned more than £30million to the people of Burnley, with all its profits going to local causes.

But the film is much more than a story about Dave’s fight against the banking world. It is also about the little man versus the establishment. Dave was thrilled when Rory Kinnear was cast as him – laughing: “He looks more like me than I do!” He continues: “He turned up at my door and the first thing he said was, ‘Dave, meet Dave!’ He’d been working with a voice coach and a movement coach, looked at all my documentaries and he had all my mannerisms. It was seriously bonkers.

“Rory is awesome; a proper actor. He’s in Bond, and the good thing is that if he ever needs to take a day off, we look so alike I could fill in for him!”

Meanwhile, Dave was able to pull in a personal favour to get his friend, Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville, cast as the dastardly scion of the banking establishment, Sir Charles. The pair met at a Bafta ceremony where it turned out Hugh was a big fan.

“I’ll never forget being at the Bafta ceremony for one of my documentaries and I saw this man coming towards me,” Dave recalls.

“My wife and I have seen him in loads of movies and he kept coming nearer and nearer until he stopped right by us and said, ‘Excuse me Dave, my name is Hugh, would you mind terribly if I had my picture taken with you?’ And I said, ‘Of course not, I’m a big fan’.

“He is a massive movie star but he’s also just really kind and very genuine. So, when they were casting for the banker role I said, ‘Hugh would be brilliant, give him a ring’. And he said he’d love to be in it.’

Meanwhile Def Leppard, after being pitched the story, were taken with the idea of a northern community coming together and spent a day filming a segment where they put on a performance to help the Dave of the movie.

The real Dave was on set to see it happen. “They were singing Pour Some Sugar On Me and there was Rory, with all my mannerisms, on stage with them singing,” he smiles.

“And I met them and had my photo taken with them. And I remember thinking, ‘How does a lad from Burnley who sells buses end up on stage with Def Leppard?’ If nothing else ever happens in my life that is so cool; my life has peaked.”

Beyond bonkers.

  • The Bank of Dave is on Netflix now.

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