CV; Darren Hughes co-founder of liverpool club phenomenon, cream

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The Independent Culture
In five years Darren Hughes, 31, has helped to create a dance brand that packs 3,500 bodies in to an old ammunition warehouse every weekend. Cream also happens to turn over pounds 5m every year.

At school I played Charlie in a production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; theatre was a passion but my aspirations were to survive school and no more than that. I enjoyed it but it wasn't the best school in the world so I tip-toed around the unsavoury elements. I tried to stay on at school but they wouldn't have me so I went to college and did some more O-levels, I then did a psychology A-level and enjoyed that, so I applied to do psychology at Manchester Polytechnic. I loved Manchester, I started my degree there in 1987, which was when clubbing became part of me.

I've not had a traditional graduate career but in a weird way I use my degree every day. Marketing is what I'm about and I've realised that my degree creeps into areas of my work. I left polytechnic in 1990 and went back to my home town of Chester, where I was a waiter for 12 months. That was an important time, it gave me a chance to think about things - let's just say it gave me a boot up the arse.

I moved to Liverpool because of a relationship I was in at the time. There, through a mutual friend, I met up with James Barton, my partner. He was running the 051 Club at the time and I said to him we should do something together - in October 1992 we opened up Cream.

I was an ex student signing on but James had some cash. We started small with no big marketing costs, but the highest attention to detail. It wasn't really a hard time because even before the money started rolling in it was good just to be kept busy. With a capacity of only 400 it was very small - it was for us, our mates and people like us. In August 1993 we opened up another part of the club, which increased the capacity to 2,000, and it was at that point that we widened our net in terms of our marketing. Now Cream is not only a club, it has expanded to merchandising, record compilations and we have spread our wings to other territories and that's where we see the future business.

Up until about two years ago we used to employ outside security firms but there was an incident where it became apparent that we didn't have the last say. The last straw came when my girlfriend at the time was manhandled by one of the doormen. At that point it was quite evident that that wasn't the way to run things, it took a while for us to realise and act on it but that was part of the learning curve - now we have our own security.

When I was waiting on tables I realised that whatever I ended up doing I wasn't going to settle for something I didn't love. I never got depressed when I was waiting; it really is about what you make of it. Being happy in your work is understanding where your skills lie and applying those skills. Ultimately you are never going to succeed if you don't truly believe in what you do. I have been amazingly lucky to do what I love - what started as a night out has become a lifestyle brand.

There was a big growing-up process, the party stopped a couple of years ago but at the same time because my role is ostensibly as the promoter of the operation I am the one who is at the club every weekend. I am the face of Cream and people like to see me with a smile. I have got one foot in that lifestyle and one foot behind the computer. Sometimes it's difficult to juggle those two worlds but if that is my only whinge it isn't a big one is it?

Interview by Michael Greenwood

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