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Architect Mark Wray's chosen design for Prescot Market Place

Operator announced for Market Place

by Lisa Bennett

An operator has been appointed to run the café and community space at Market Place in Prescot.

Gaynor La Rocca and her husband Francesco have been granted the lease to run the new premises as part of the £500,000 transformation of Market Place being delivered through the Prescot Townscape Heritage Initiative.

The appointment follows a tender process earlier this year when Knowsley Council asked for bids from interested community groups or companies who could offer a high quality food and drink provision within the new café and bring the area to life with community activities and events.

Creative experience

Gaynor is the Artistic Director and CEO of Prescot based MATE Productions and Francesco, a property lawyer with Weightmans LLP, is also an actor with MATE Productions with a huge passion for food.

Gaynor has extensive experience of organising large and small scale high-profile creative events, most notably during her 4 years as a Creative Communities Manager for Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008.

Gaynor La Rocca – Artistic Director of MATE Productions

In 2000 she established Merseyside Arts Theatre & Education (now MATE Productions) in response to a local need for a high quality community theatre company that would provide exciting training opportunities and experiences both for aspiring professionals and talented community performers.

Gaynor and her team have produced over 40 successful productions and since 2013 they have been delivering an exciting youth and community engagement programme in partnership with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Shakespeare North Trust with their popular outdoor touring Shakespeare productions and schools programme.

Francesco La Rocca – Touchstone in As You Like It 2016

Family business

For the new venture at Market Place, Gaynor and Francesco will be supported by family with experience of running successful restaurants. Her father in law, Filadelo La Rocca owned and ran a number of successful restaurants and cafes in Prescot, Rainhill and Widnes and opened Rocco’s an Italian restaurant on Eccleston Street in Prescot in the late seventies and ran this for over 10 years.  He has recently relocated back to the UK and will bring his many years of catering experience to support the initial set up and running of the café.

Gaynor said:

“Francesco and I are overjoyed to be given this opportunity. We already have a long-standing relationship with Prescot which we consider to be our home. Our vision is to create a community cafe, a meeting place for friends, a centre for activity, entertainment and conversation in the heart of Prescot.


“We plan to host a range of events, including comedy nights, poetry evenings, film nights, book clubs, arts and craft clubs, parents and toddler groups and in the outside space there is potential for open air cinema, markets, pop up performances, Christmas events, summer events – the possibilities are only limited by imagination.


“We want to work in partnership with the fantastic teams that are already doing so much in Prescot to develop a programme of creative community and social events that will animate and bring Market Place to life all year round.”


Cllr Andy Moorhead, Leader of Knowsley Council said:

“I am delighted that the La Rocca family have been selected to run this unique establishment. They are all very clearly passionate about Prescot and have a fantastic vision for making Market Place a focal point for the town.


“We wanted Market Place to become the heartbeat of the Town Centre and we offered a peppercorn rent to community groups and social enterprises on the basis they deliver a year round events programme across Market Place.   Furthermore, the physical transformation of this space will be the biggest single project of our £4m Townscape Heritage Initiative and an important part of our vision for Prescot’s renaissance.


“This area is an integral part of Prescot as it will link in with the planned Shakespeare North Playhouse, town centre connectivity improvements and other developments to deliver a new building and space that will truly enhance the character and appearance of Prescot’s conservation area.”


The design of the new look Market Place was selected though a global RIBA design competition in 2017 and Armitage Construction Ltd has been appointed as contractor to transform the space.

Work will start in April and is expected to be occupied by Gaynor and Francesco  by September 2018.