Photograph: West Leeds Dispatch

Putting people and paint first: Seagulls paints the town red

18 August 2015

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A west Leeds social enterprise which had humble beginnings in the kitchen of one of its founders is putting people and paint first.

Seagulls, based off Kirkstall Road, was co-founded a decade ago by Burley residents Cat Pearson and Kate Moree, and spent the first four years being based in Kate’s kitchen. In case you didn’t know, it sells recycled and remixed paint that would otherwise be thrown away.

Now it employs 15 people and is supported by a group of about 40 committed and passionate volunteers.

Kate said:

“We’re into people and paint. Everyone who volunteers here does so because they want to. Everybody gets something different, we want to give people a good experience, where they can come and build themselves up.”

seagull paints

Mixing paints at Seagull. Photo: West Leeds Dispatch

Cat and Kate initially bonded over their passion for social justice and the need for increased recycling and reuse awareness. Kate said:

“This was back in the day when residents of Leeds didn’t even have a green recycling bin. In many ways our aims are the same – to recycle paint that would otherwise be thrown out, to allow paint to buy the paint for a really cheap price and to promote awareness of recycling and re-using stuff.

“We’ve learnt it all as we’ve gone along – we had no business experience and were essentially volunteers ourselves for the first few years.

“”We also provide jobs and training and support to some marginalised Leeds residents, who may have learning diasabilities, or mental health problems or who are struggling to get back into the loop. We work with everybody! We have some long-term volunteers who have been with us through the years, some just come for six weeks. Some people just want to get a bit of confidence back.

“We try make sure this is a happy place to be. Volunteering underpins everything we do here.”

Rob volunteered at Seagulls for four years and now works there. He said:

“Seagulls helped me by offering me a job and giving me advice when I was looking for a place of my own. Seagulls is awesome, where else can you spend less than a tenner and actually get paint that stays on your walls?”

Cat was keen to push the re-use and recycle message. She said:

“We’re keen to encourage people to donate their half-used paint cans at the recycling banks at eight council waste sites. Once people donate we have a contract with the council to collect paint from the sites. The paint is then sorted, remixed and sold as a good value alternative. The council’s waste team have been very helpful and supportive for us.”

Often a tin of paint at Seagulls can cost perhaps a quarter of the price of a branded tin of paint in a DIY store – the tin may be a bit battered, but the paint inside is still in perfect condition. Seagulls, which featured on TV’s Secret Millionaire programme a few years ago, are also about to launch a colour bar for customers.

Seagulls paint 1

Building mosaics is fun and therapeutic! Photo: West Leeds Dispatch

Seagulls also runs Mosaic Community Arts Project, which sees artists and volunteers teach and support local community organisations, facilitating the creation of public art. One such piece of art recently saw a mural created with pupils at Stanningley Primary School.

Mally, who has mental health problems, benefits from attending Mosaic sessions. He said:

“Before going to Seagulls I never used to leave the house. I now go twice a week, it helps to get me out and it’s the best thing my support workers ever did for me.

“I love mosaicing. It’s a pleasant ebvironment and I don’t get judged because of my mental health, everybody is treated equally.”

For more information, contact Seagulls directly.


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