Parade finally move in!

8th December 2023

Remember when we announced that we were leaving our studio of 7 years at the Estates Office for pastures new? We said that we’d be working from home for the next 6 months whilst our new studio was being refurbished. Well, that was December 2021 and so, as you can tell, the refurbishment took a liiitle bit longer than anticipated.

The Background 

Much as I loved the Estates office and all of the great people that we met and worked alongside in the historical building, I’d always wanted to buy a little place for Parade one day. A place that we could put our stamp on and make our own, and of course, become an investment for the business, rather than a monthly expense. The search for the new Parade Studio began in January 2019 when I found my dream building - a beautiful period property with loads of history and a former bakery. As a former ‘Baker’ myself (in name, not occupation) I took this to mean fate. Offer accepted, I waited patiently for the legals to be completed. I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. The title deeds were messy and complicated, no solicitor could fathom them out and it seemed that the property was indeed unsaleable. So after a gruelling 18 months of patiently waiting, I cut my losses and walked away from property number one. Such a shame - I see the building 5 years later, still unoccupied and falling into further disrepair. 

Property number two was also not meant to be. Although I offered the asking price, a cash-rich buyer swooped in and took the deal off the table.

Third Time Lucky

In the summer of 2021, a property came on the market that met my criteria and budget (or so I thought) and on a whim and after only one viewing I offered the asking price which was accepted that day. Looking back, the owners probably thought it was their lucky day and couldn’t wait to get shot of it. The property was in fact, two properties being sold as a job lot. Buy one, get one free as I like to think of it. One for Parade and one to rent out to another local business. And so on the 18th December 2021, I got the keys to 3 and 4 North Street, Newport. And that night was probably the last good night’s sleep I’ve had.

Rather than renew my rental lease at The Estates Office, Parade moved out before the Christmas break and the renovations on the new studio commenced, ready for a spring/summer opening. 

But you’ve all seen Grand Designs right? Then you’ll know, these things never quite go as planned. 

Welcome to 'The Crack Den'

The properties were clearly run down (number 3 was far worse than 4) so we knew we had our work cut out. The distinct smell of stale marijuana and the remains of other more controversial drug apparatus, meant that number 3 (planned for Parade) was instantly referred to as ‘The Crack Den’. The name stuck and it’s going to be hard to ‘kick the habit’ and call it anything else. Even my son made me a beautiful Mother’s Day card this year saying ‘I hope you have a nice day and well done with the crack dens’. It meant a lot, son, thanks!

As it turned out, the property, before I purchased it, was in fact home to squatters. Having asked my husband to ‘ring up and sort out the electricity supply’ to get power into the building, I was poured a large glass of wine after he came off the phone. A strange celebration, I thought, but it was Christmas after all. But the wine was to try and soften the blow of the revelation that the building had been ‘de-energised’ from the outside due to unpaid bills and could not simply be switched on. In fact, it meant a 3 month wait, a road closure, a dug up pavement and a hefty £4,000 bill. More wine was consumed that afternoon. 

And so, pretty much on day one, we were already behind schedule and over budget. Deep sigh.

Other unwelcome problems we faced included:

  1. The discovery that not only were the squatters enjoying the recreational use of marijuana, they were growing it in the attic too. Whilst they clearly stripped the plants of every last leaf, they left us with the less-desirable remains of their operation; about 200 tonnes of earth, grow bags and dried roots and stalks for us to painstakingly dispose of. I’m surprised that the ceiling had not fallen through with all the weight above it. 
  2. The removal of two cast iron safes from the back room of the office. One of them was 5ft tall and concrete-lined. How the previous tenants ever got them into the building in the first place, I will never know. I advertised them on Facebook Marketplace for free if anyone had the apparatus and brute strength to remove them. Thankfully 2 gentlemen with a hydraulic pallet lift and a scrap metal lorry turned up to tackle the matter in hand. I think it nearly broke them (it certainly broke a banister spindle and dented the walls) but they did it. I kindly asked if they ever managed to break it open, I did not want to know if there were valuable contents inside. Because that would have broken me. 
  3. The property was tested for asbestos. Of course, the results showed that some areas were positive. This meant ceilings needed to be removed by specialists before we could allow tradespeople to work in the building safely.

We’d lined up a number of tradespeople ready to tackle the big jobs. We’s proceeded to install new windows and doors and a new central heating system, but it soon became clear that so much more needed doing and that rather than patch things up, it was far more sensible to start from scratch, despite the escalating costs. The whole building needed rewiring, the rising damp was a far greater problem than we initially realised, and new plumbing for the proposed kitchen, toilets and boiler was required. It was looking likely that we were going to have to ‘make-do-and-mend’ for longer than we had hoped and that number 4 North Street was going to be put on hold for a bit longer.

Newport City Council Grant

And then, in March 2022, a good friend of mine sent me a link to some information from Newport City Centre Council for possible ‘City Centre Property Enhancement Funding’. For once in my life, it seemed that I was actually eligible to apply. I completed the expression of interest forms and was met with a positive response by the council, since I was actually the ‘ideal’ candidate for such funding. Improving the look of not one, but two properties in the city centre and providing suitable business accommodation and therefore bringing employees and clients into the area, utilising the City’s services and amenities.

Now, if anyone has ever filled out a form for grant funding, you’ll know that these things are by no means an easy feat. Every other problem we encountered ’till now seemed like a walk in the park compared to this. But since Newport City Council were able to provide funding for up to 50% of the costs involved, I simply had to proceed and try my luck. It took months to complete the application process with so many cost variations involved by three different suppliers, but eventually, the application was submitted. It was hard waiting to see if the application had been successful as works on the property literally had to cease until a decision had been made. I questioned if we were wasting valuable time by not being able to proceed with the renovations and more importantly - I was unable to give Lauren and James an update on how much longer we would be working from home.

But if the whole process has taught me anything, it’s patience. And in January 2023, we were informed that our application was successful, but that we could not start works until the new financial year in April. So we appointed Wentwood Builders for all the works and lined up all our ducks ready to finally start. 


Once the builders were in, progress happened quickly. Of course there were dramas along the way. New revelations that had not been budgeted for, but it was great to see the building finally taking shape. Number 4 did not need as much work as number 3, and so apart from the new boiler, and new windows and doors, these renovations have been carried out by my wonderful family. My husband, my son, my dad, but mostly - my wonderfully hard-working in-laws who are quite literally the most inspiring, hard-working people I know. Even in their 70s (nearly 80’s!) they turn up in their building gear, with all the equipment they need, on time, and graft morning ’til night. And with zero moaning. We look forward to enjoying our new garden that they have created for us in the summer months! And to say an enormous thank you for all their efforts!

The whole place has been gutted and looking a million miles away from the crack den it once was. It’s now a crisp, white box and ready for us to add our Parade finishing touches. I’m so happy to announce that the team are FINALLY in! 2 years to the day that we moved out of The Estates, we’re back together as we should be. Working from home does have its benefits, but as creatives we thrive off each other, working collaboratively and bouncing ideas around through conversation rather than on Teams chat. I want to thank Lauren and James from the bottom of my heart, for their continued patience and understanding, I could not feel any prouder of them. They have been of huge emotional support for me during this time, even as they both go through their own home renovations themselves. Dream Team.

We’ve done a great job working from home, meeting in person weekly and on screen every day. We’ve continued to produce work we’re incredibly proud of and meet with clients at their offices rather than ours. But we look forward to welcoming our clients back at our studio with fresh coffee and doughnuts as standard. Thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way. Onwards and upwards! x

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