Man's mission to make little known Liverpool square thrive

'Penelope' standing in the centre of Wolstenholme Square
'Penelope' standing in the centre of Wolstenholme Square -Credit:Liverpool Echo

A man is on a quest to promote a unique but lesser known part of Liverpool.

Jon Dunnington, 36, is the owner of Switch CoffeeBar in Wolstenholme Square in the city centre. He is the brains behind a new Instagram account and website of the same name that sprung up last month, showcasing what the square has to offer.

Jon remembers the square during the 1990s, when it was the centre of an emerging club culture, centred around the Cream nightclub whose name survives today with the Creamfields Festival.

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Speaking to the ECHO, Jon said: “I was a big fan of what it used to be. I used to frequent Cream quite a lot. I've seen the square develop. The amount of people before my time who used to come here, the square itself has got a lot of history.”

In recent years, the square has reinvented itself again, with a striking central sculpture installed in 2006 called Penelope by Cuban artist Jorge Pardo. There are also unique venues like the bar SipSin which is completely alcohol-free and Pattersons who have become renowned for their fried chicken. Jon feels Switch fits into this new trend.

He said: “We’re a coffee shop by day and bar by night. We change the environment, rather than just saying, it’s night-time, we do cocktails now. We change the environment to suit the customer’s particular needs.

“The footfall is starting to pick up. Dicey Reilly's sports bar has opened. Then we've got Sister Ray opening. With the inclusion of Sip Sin, Pattersons and the Roof Project, there’s going to be seven of us.”

Jon is originally from Stockbridge Village but now splits his time between Liverpool city centre and New York, where he works on his OVO Vodka company. While Jon feels he has a clear idea of what Wolstenholme Square should be, he feels it is not currently living up to its potential, believing many walk past it from the bustling Slater Street on a Friday or Saturday night without realising what's there.

Jon Dunnington (centre) with his OVO Vodka business partner Anthony Packwood (left) and Scouse Mixologist Jay Johnson
Jon Dunnington (centre) with his OVO Vodka business partner Anthony Packwood (left) and Scouse Mixologist Jay Johnson -Credit:PropelPR

He said: “There’s such a good variety. The cocktails at Shady Duck are phenomenal, Sister Ray is going to have high-end cocktails. I'd still consider us all to be independents. We're not trying to compete with independents on Bold Street but I want it to be an area where you can come, you can feel safe, and start your night.”

“There’s been a common problem with the council to address street lighting. If you look down from Slater Street, it looks like an alleyway. We thought, if we create this, not only can we educate the public, it creates more clout.

“We want to educate people walking past, letting people know this is an avenue to come to. The latest licence is Sister Rays which is 1am. We want the square to be somewhere where they do their pre-drinking.”

Jon is calling for increased street lighting and more signage showcasing Wolstenholme Square. He said that the middle of the square with the Penelope metal sculpture is owned by the council, but units on either side have been let out to private businesses. Therefore, he feels the council “must have known” that there would be an increase in bars in the area, and therefore should improve and promote the square.

When contacted by the ECHO, a council spokesperson said street lighting would be looked into. They added that the marketing of the square was “not the role of the council, albeit we do promote Liverpool’s overall night-time offer through initiatives such as Purple Flag status”.

The spokesperson added that the businesses could apply to become part of the Liverpool Business Improvement District Company (BID) who market specific areas of the city centre.

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