Seagulls: Rags to rollers Leeds firm paints success story

The founders of a painting social enterprise could do nothing to gloss over its bank balance in 2012.

The not-for-profit Seagulls Redecorate firm, which uses recycled waste paint to revamp spaces at low cost, was facing a fight to stay open amid crippling £20,000 debts.

But the business, which is one arm of the Seagulls environmental organisation, received a small funding grant and employed out-of-work decorating lecturer Kelly Young who revived the scheme.

In just 10 months at the firm, based in Aire Place Mills, off Kirkstall Road, Leeds, she got rid of its debts and is looked to take on apprentices for the first time.

Co-founder Cat Pearson, from Armley, said: "It was very much a case of we are going to have to close it. There are still worrying times but less than they were – it's going from strength to strength and it’s getting there but we’re not out of the woods yet."

She said the business now paints as part of larger contract work as well as at the homes of underprivileged and isolated people. Now, with dog mascot Harvey in tow, the company’s three full-time decorators and a small army of 40 volunteers, of which many are in long-term unemployment, are doing everything from repainting council buildings to older people’s houses.

Cat added: "Harvey does like to help out and do a bit of painting, he's very useful – we don’t need the Dulux dog when we’ve got the Seagulls dog."

Seagulls recycles paint dumped at council waste sites and repurposes it to redecorate properties, sell to the public from £1.50 a litre and run community art events.

Kelly, 34, who initially only signed a six month contract due to the uncertain future of the company, said: “For the past 10 months it’s got better and better each month and there’s no point in thinking negatively about these things. People aren’t moving but are redecorating and making their houses look nice.”

The Cookridge resident said Seagulls Redecorate is almost entirely self-funded and needs more work so it can continue to grow into a sustainable business.


Social enterprise Seagulls was set up in 2001. Its co-founders, who met while volunteering for a community project in Burley, set the organsation up to tackle the issue of waste in Leeds, while helping to provide work and training opportunities.

Its three arms – paint reuse, decorating and arts – have seen it save and reuse over 400 tonnes of waste paint.

Seagulls Redecorate, set up in 2008, was boosted by a third decorator at the start of this year, meaning it now offers female-only redecorating if needed.

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The above article first published in 2013.