Will the Eldonians ever get their village back?
The Sunday Times dig up new revelations about the blighted community — plus the rest of your weekly briefing
Dear readers — yesterday was the equivalent of transfer deadline day at Post HQ. Applications are now closed for our new reporter role and a dramatic galactico signing will be announced in due course. Until the new blood arrives though, one more month of the old familiar, which we hope is a little more seasoned vets and a little less gammy knees and busted hamstrings.
And a thankyou to The Guardian, for shouting us out in yesterday’s editorial piece on the worrying decline of local journalism. You can read it here, but if you can’t be bothered, they wrote that us and our sister titles in Manchester and Sheffield were providing “hope” amidst an otherwise bleak picture. “Run on a shoestring, they provide a valuable service, but to relatively niche audiences,” it read. Here’s to you — the reader — our beloved (relatively niche) clan.
Today’s big story takes us back to Eldonian Village, subject of our five month investigation which we published in January. The Sunday Times have been working on the story too, and yesterday a large spread appeared in the paper. We’ll be looking at the new details, and what the future might hold.
At the weekend we looked into a topic dear to many hearts (ours included): dogs. Man’s best friend though they may be, Merseyside is a grim outlier in terms of dangerous dog attacks, with Knowsley and St Helens both among the top five local authorities for dog bite admissions. We asked why?
Last week paying members received two great editions. David Lloyd (mostly on Post hiatus as he sets up a magazine called Left Bank) returned to the fold with a writer’s edition covering everything from Victorian engineering to an AI-generated ode to Eurovision. Here’s a slither of Lloydian prose pie:
“I was slightly concerned when I heard of a school choir booked to sing Scooch’s Flying the Flag entry to greet visitors arriving at John Lennon airport. “Don’t you know there’s a line in there about oral sex?” I enquired. “Oh, that’ll make it funnier,” my contact replied. “Well, it was the last straw for Terry Wogan,” I offered. But, hey, Eurovision.”
Then on Thursday the New Statesman’s Jonny Ball took a break from New Statesman-ing to write about the Liverpool City Region, and what it really means as a concept. “Liverpool’s complex political culture can seem strange to outsiders,” Ball writes in a knowing understatement. Thankfully, he was able to unpack it.
Editor’s note: After a slow start last month we ended up adding a more-than-healthy 91 new members, a repeat of which this time around would take up to the big one. We can’t thank all of you enough for your support so far, but only 83 more lucky members will forever have the bragging rights of being one of the first 1000. If that sounds too good to miss, and if you value what we do and want to contribute to the revitalisation of high-quality journalism across the city region, please consider taking out a membership today.
This week’s weather
Monday 🌧️ Light rain and a moderate breeze with highs of 7°C
Tuesday 🌥️ Sunny intervals and a gentle breeze with highs of 4°C
Wednesday ☀️ Sunny and a gentle breeze with highs of 5°C
Thursday 🌦️ Sleet showers and a gentle breeze with highs of 5°C
Friday 🌦️ Light rain showers and a gentle breeze with highs of 6°C
Weekend 🌧️ Light rain and a gentle to moderate breeze all weekend with highs of 7°C
This week’s weather forecast is sourced from BBC Weather and it’s for Liverpool.
The big story: What next for the troubled Eldonians?
Top line: More revelations in the sorry saga of Vauxhall’s Eldonian Village were published at the weekend, this time in the Sunday Times. Journalists Matt O’Donoghue (the creator of December’s Radio 4 documentary on the village) and Hannah Al-Othman have delved even deeper into the village’s financial history. We’ll take a look at what they uncovered.
Recap: In January we published a long-read about the Eldonian Village, the product of a five month investigation. The residents of the Eldonians — which was set up as a “cradle-to-the-grave” community with a hall, nursery, old people’s home, leisure facilities and so on in response to the poverty that enveloped 1980s north Liverpool — were shocked to find out that almost all of their assets had been sold to offshore firms, often in the British Virgin Islands (BVI). Many of the asset transfers appeared to be connected to the Gwynn family, little known to many of the residents.
The Gwynns arrive: As we previously reported, the involvement on the Gwynn family, at least on paper, appears to have begun in 2014, when father Howard and his son Karl became directors of Eldonian Group, a company that had originally been set up to run the village’s assets on behalf of the charity that owned them, the Eldonian Community Trust (though the two companies separated in 2002). “The family were known for their ownership of the Pleasure Rooms, a music venue and later Rude, a strip club,” the Sunday Times’ article states.
An interesting new detail included in the Sunday Times’ reporting is that they seem to have unveiled the very first offshore connection. Karl Gwynn was a director of a firm called Stonebase Construction which was contracted to build shops in the village, a deal which saw Stonebase get some of the land. When Stonebase went bust in 2016, “the land was sold for £173,600 to a company registered in the British Virgin Islands tax haven”. It seems from there many of the sales quickly followed:
In June 2017, a 150-year lease for land in the village (originally granted to the charity) was sold for £50,000 to another company of which Howard Gwynn was director.
In August 2017, another 150-year lease was sold for £1. Then in 2020, these leases were sold together for £70,000 to a company based in the BVI.
The land of the leisure centre, the gym, the bowling green, the five-a-side football pitch and the car park was sold to the same BVI company for £160,000 by another of Howard Gwynn’s companies.
Later in 2017, the land of Eldonian Nursery became the property of a company based in the Caribbean tax haven Nevis. It was later sold to a firm in the BVI for £150,000 in 2020.
Another new detail revealed is that in January many of the assets seem to have moved back to the UK (though the land where the village shops sit is still held by a company in the British Virgin Islands). Abdou Amadou, a British national resident in Switzerland with “dozens of company directorships to his name,” is the director of the companies that now hold them. His companies are based in Harrow, northwest London. Amadou apparently did not respond to the Sunday Times’ request for comment.
Howard speaks: We were unable to reach Howard Gwynn for comment during our reporting, but he did speak to the Sunday Times, telling them that Eldonian Group Ltd had suffered “crushing debt” forcing the sale of several sites:
“Myself and my son Karl refute any allegation of impropriety on these matters and remain very confident in the conclusion of the investigation currently taking place. The outcome of the investigation will be a public affair, and we welcome any inquiry after this conclusion.”
What next? Today, the village’s assets are mostly closed down, fly-tipping sites or occupied by travellers. An investigation is ongoing by the Charity Commission into the running of the village. The charity’s trustees said in a statement that they “have engaged constructively and fully” with the commission. For the Eldonian residents, it’s now a waiting game.
Your Post briefing
Park strife: Below, behold a picture of Everton’s “Peace Garden”. Doesn’t that look like a peaceful mound of compost to you? Can you imagine yourself sitting peacefully against those hoardings, in the shade of that tree? The land of the “Peace Garden” used to belong to the council, but it was handed over to St Modwen's Developments Ltd in 2014 as part of the masterplan for the £150 million Project Jennifer, which promised a dentist, a doctor’s surgery and a library, but delivered only retail space and food outlets. A Freedom of Information request from 2018 shows that the half-acre land was given away for free because of the “wider financial and community regeneration benefits,” with the local authority seeing it as a fair trade-off given the scale of St Modwen’s investment. But Kevin Robinson-Hale, a Green candidate for Everton in May’s elections — who has previously described Jennifer as a “betrayal” due to the fact the local community received no Section 106 payments from the developers — disagrees. He told The Post: “Before giving land away for free to developers, the medical centre and dental surgery we were promised should have been prioritised over fast food restaurants. The land can now be sold whilst our community essentials are yet to be replaced”.
The trial of Thomas Cashman, accused of murdering 9-year-old Olivia Pratt-Korbel, is set to begin today at Manchester Crown Court. Olivia was shot dead in August last year after two men burst into her Dovecot home. Cashman, the alleged gunman, is said to have been in pursuit of convicted burglar Joseph Nee. Nee sustained shots to the leg and torso while Olivia’s mother Cheryl survived a shot to the wrist. Cashman’s trial is expected to last up to four weeks.
As a matter of pact: “Richard fucking Kemp won’t fucking budge,” one ex-councillor told The Post last week in what wasn’t a line from John Cooper Clarke’s Evidently Chickentown. It was, rather, a reference to the leader of Liverpool City Council’s Lib Dems, who was accused of putting a block on an election pact between non-Labour parties, where it was suggested opposition parties may not stand candidates against each other in some areas to give the best chance of unseating incumbent Labour councillors. Kemp rejected those suggestions entirely, telling The Post he has not been approached regarding any pact. “You can only have a pact around an agreed set of principles,” Kemp said. “I’m prepared to sit and talk to other parties about what we can do together, but just being anti-labour isn’t enough.”
And finally, if you’re all council shennanigansed out, something a little more heartwarming. 81-year-old dinner lady Brenda Rotherham has hung up her apron after 50 years serving the children of St George's Catholic Primary School in Maghull. Rotherham’s half-century tenure began in 1973 when she agreed to fill in for a lady who was off sick but never returned. She hasn’t looked back. “I wouldn't [have] been leaving now if my legs weren't bothering me,” Rotherham said, adding: "I love the people, it's like a family…It's just like being a nan to all of them. I just love them and will miss them.” Have a wonderful retirement, Brenda.
Home of the week
A short walk from Crosby beach (ex-Everton manager Carlo Ancelloti’s favourite beach, no less) sits this three bedroom semi-detached house. It boasts a modern kitchen, French doors leading out on a patio and a large, secluded garden. It’s on the market for £280,000.
📽️ Celebrate International Women’s Day through the lens of the electronic music scene at Future Yard on Wednesday. They’ll be screening Underplayed, a film following several female electronic artists struggling for the recognition of their male counterparts. The screening is followed by a Q&A, and you can buy tickets here.
♟️ Assemble your friends who take Monopoly too seriously and plunge them into financial misery on Tuesday at Melodic’s boardgames night. The games are “old skool” according to the flyer and you can just turn up and join in. Details here.
🎶 Sir Bryn Terfel returns to the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic after his triumphant turn in 2017’s Falstaff, this time taking on another iconic role in the operatic universe: Gianni Schicchi in Puccini’s opera about the “life of a scheming yet ingenious peasant”. There are two showings, Friday and Sunday, ticket prices vary.
🎨 Celebrate Mother’s Day with something more memorable than last minute garage flowers. The Bluecoat are running a workshop to transform a cherished photograph into a set of prints. All materials and equipment are covered by the ticket price, you only have to bring the photo.
Our favourite reads
“The vivid orange of the Golden Goose arcade. The deep saltwashed blue of the folding RNLI doors. The flaking yellow and green of the New Palace,” writes Kenn Taylor in this piece for Caught by the River about New Brighton past and present. Taylor evokes an era lost in the Wirral town — rubbery hot dogs and smiling plastic signs — and a sense that pervaded through his own life: “Why was everything so run down, would it ever get any better?” Now, New Brighton feels new again, a place of murals and street art and renewed colour. Decay continues to hover in the background,” though. “Change for the better seems fragile.”
The words “Levelling Up” might sound tantamount to two nails hammered into a coffin containing your own sanity at this stage, but if that somehow isn’t the case then you should read this (paywalled) piece in the FT, looking at how national stagnation has overtaken regional inequality as the country’s primary economic concern. Writer Martin Wolf sees the UK as being in a double bind: with deep regional inequality — “the legacy of a long period of rapid productivity growth in London and the South East, while the rest of the country was deindustrialising” — now compounded by a stagnant London and South East. With Jeremy Hunt’s budget delivered in just over a week, we’ll see where the government’s priorities lie.
And a piece from 1981 courtesy of Russell Davies in the London Review of Books, looking back through John Lennon’s artistic life in the immediate wake of his death, and unearthing the beautiful bleakness hidden at its core from the start. Davies explores the “confessional” nature of Lennon’s songwriting, from its hidden roots in the Beatles’ early catalogue to its outward speak-my-mind-ness at the latter end of his life. “He would have preferred the beat of ‘Help’ to be matched to the heaviness of the message,” Davies writes. “Because for all his hallucinatory excursions, both in and out of the drug trance, Lennon was a literal-minded soul”.
Photo of the week
Coming to Liverpool in two months: Lord Of The Lost celebrate their victory on stage at the preliminary round of the Eurovision qualifiers in Cologne. They will represent Germany at the Eurovision final in May. Photo by Rolf Vennenbernd/picture alliance via Getty Images.
Letters from readers
I can see us all lining up outside the arena on the evening of Eurovision, all done up in our best sparkly gear, with foil pom poms, all delightfully singing that Eurovision Anthem. Maybe not quite Beethoven's Ode to Joy, but maybe people felt the same about that back in "Arl Lud's" day when he was trying it out on the equivalent of a "free and easy night", around the Beer Halls of Vienna, so keep at it, and who knows? ‘I’ve seen the future and it’s in Birkenhead’, Baz
St Helens and North Sefton (Formby, Ainsdale, Birkdale, Southport etc) are definitely not and never will be Scouse or consider themselves part of the Liverpool city region. In fact canvassing around during the PCC & Metro Mayor elections most people in those areas didn't even realise that they got to vote for the Liverpool region Metro Mayor or the PCC, no doubt something that suits the incumbent and their guaranteed labour membership vote, ‘Who runs Liverpool, anyway?’, Mal Webster