Harley Young chats with the developers of Liverpool’s upcoming hospitality venture

“We’ve actually got a lack of vessels in the docklands, for what is a riverfront city. Instantly, when I saw the opportunity, I knew exactly what it used to be, where it needed to go and banged heads with partners to come up with a proposal to submit to Mersey Ferries.

"Very quickly, we were invited in for a discussion where they said they’d love to run with our proposals,” explained Joshua Boyd, Liverpool City Region entrepreneur, who is working alongside Co-Founder Philip Olivier to give an old boat a new lease of life. 

Joshua and Philip will turn the former Mersey Ferry, MV Royal Daffodil, into a major hospitality destination. The ambitious project is expected to cost £2.5m and is set for completion this year with the pair having spent several years working on bringing the venture to fruition. 

Reborn as simply ‘Daffodil’, the decommissioned vessel will find a new permanent home as part of Liverpool’s Waterfront with planning granted for a berth at Canning Dock, next to Royal Albert Dock. The development will offer first-rate food, drink and entertainment, creating almost 100 local jobs.

Daffodil will be yet another amazing asset to Liverpool’s world class waterfront that’s rooted in strong local pride and impact.

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Daffodil, sailing under its original name, Overchurch Image: Daffodil

Under the original name of Overchurch, the Royal Daffodil embarked on her maiden voyage in April 1962 and acted as a cross-river transport and cruising vessel. She was then re-named in 1999 after an extensive refit which transformed her into a party and dance cruising vessel. She was eventually decommissioned in 2012 due to a breakdown in one of her two engines. 

For six years, MV Royal Daffodil lay in Birkenhead’s East Float Dock, inactive and unloved, until Philip and Joshua began their rescue mission in 2019 when they towed her to Bromborough to undergo an extensive rip-out. Her restoration has since continued at Liverpool’s Garston Dock.

“We’ve had five years, through the pandemic and all kinds of economic challenges, to prepare what will be a really outstanding landmark for Liverpool and the wider region,” said Joshua, adding “It’s also something that’s quite nationally significant. We’ve got this ferry vessel that was the last of its kind to be built and launched in 1962. It harks back to that MerseyBeat era with huge links to something that’s so culturally significant - not just for Liverpool, but for the UK as a whole from a music perspective,” said Joshua.

Daffodil - Episode One - Heritage from Natural Selection Design on Vimeo.

Experts from Liverpool maritime and engineering sector firms have been working closely with the team on the transformation.

Philip said “This isn’t just a business investment for me, my Father and Josh. This has been a labour of love. There has been a ferry across the Mersey for more than 800 years and they hold huge, historical significance to the region.

“As a picture-postcard image, the ferries are world famous. The people of Merseyside have an emotional attachment to these vessels and there's a lot of positivity around the coming future of this icon - we will be so proud to see it brought back to life.”

The team is set to work with the Department for Work and Pensions and Liverpool City Region Combined Authority via back-to-work training and Skills Bootcamps. The wide range of available roles across management, catering and service are now live and available to apply for on the company’s website

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Philip Olivier, Liverpool City Region entrepreneur Image: Daffodil

Daffodil will partner with La Salle Hotel School, a not-for-profit charity and community interest company based in Croxteth, to develop apprenticeships and traineeships for young people whilst supporting sustainable food growing and hospitality education.

Philip and Joshua are also aiming to secure funding for a mini museum-style exhibit in the Wheelhouse of the ship, intended to honour the history of the Mersey Ferries, their captains, crew and passengers.

“We’ve been given the opportunity to completely rebirth this heritage vessel in terms of its outlook and its function. It’s going to be something so visibly unique and we feel it’s quite outstanding because it’s never really been done before. There wasn’t a set formula for this. A huge part of the process has been innovation to come up with a repurposed use of this vessel, turning it into a restaurant, bar and an event space,” said Joshua.

Daffodil will offer three outside sun decks across two levels. These will be known as the Promenade Deck, Daffodil Garden and Funnel Deck - totalling more than 66 covers. The Upper Deck features a multifaceted space for a café, cocktail and wine bar with all-day dining, accommodating up to 63 seated covers.

On the Main Deck there will be an 84-cover restaurant and the Lower Deck features the Engine Room event space, capable of hosting live music and events. Daffodil will have space for up to 560 guests at any one time.

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The progress timeline Image: Daffodil
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The progress timeline Image: Daffodil

“There’s going to be four tiers to Daffodil. There’s the outside deck with a beautiful bar space. It’s bright, light and airy and will be used for breakfast service and all-day dining before transforming into a cocktail bar on evenings and weekends. Then below that there’s the restaurant which will have 84 covers - we’ll be releasing more details about who will be behind that at the end of January. 

“In addition to that, when we dry-docked the vessel in 2018, we removed all the engines and working parts to open up a huge 40-metre area which we’ve turned into the event space - a place where we can deliver a whole range of things from private occasions like weddings or corporate events and cultural offerings,” Joshua explained.

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Joshua Boyd, Liverpool City Region entrepreneur Image: Daffodil

Soon, the vessel will be towed to Cammell Laird shipyard in Birkenhead where it will be fully repainted before being towed to its final destination in Liverpool. 

“We are so excited about this re-launch,” added Joshua. 

“Daffodil will be yet another amazing asset to Liverpool’s world class waterfront that’s rooted in strong local pride and impact.

“We’re really proud to be able to create something that links the two sides of the river together and is able to retell these historic stories.

“Liverpool City Region’s Visitor Economy grew to £5.18bn value in 2022 with 55.84 million people flocking here from across the world. They expect world class attractions and that is exactly what Daffodil will be. A unique place for locals, visitors, the business community, foodies, culture and heritage fans.”  

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"Alexa, play Gerry and the Pacemakers." Image: Daffodil

Keep up to date with the developments of Daffodil by visiting their website - www.daffodilliverpool.co.uk

Follow Harley Young on X @Harley__Young

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