Newport celebrity Janet Martin, who has a long-established background in the arts and creative sector in the city, has applied to change the use of the former Pill Public Conveniences at Courtybella Terrace, Pill, into a performing arts studio. This is my unique take on this building.
The venue would be ‘small and intimate’ and would enable audiences of up to 25 to watch various performances including poetry recitals, monologues and small theatre productions.
Mrs Martin has previously been involved in arts projects at Robbins Lane Studios and Barnabas Arts House in Newport.
She told Business Argus: “I have fancied that building for 20 years and I have got some great plans for it. It will be open by the summer. It was in an absolutely shocking state of near dereliction, so we have already started doing some work on it.”
She said she wanted to show the people of Pill that something good could come out of the site, which has previously had a bit of a dubious reputation.
But she said the urinals were listed and she has offered the council three options in a bid for her to get listed building consent. These include moving all the urinals to her Robbins Lane site; keeping one as part of the disabled toilet in the refurbished building or photographing them and displaying the pictures in the refurbished building.
She said she already had acts wanting to book the space.
The former public toilets were put up for auction at Paul Fosh Auctions last year with a guide price of £4,000.
The Grade II listed gents toilet block, which was put up for auction by Newport City Council, eventually sold for about eight times the guide price after a man and women entered a bidding war at the sale held by Newport-based auction business. Mrs Martin said the person who ‘won’ the toilets withdrew and she eventually bought them through the city council.
The building has stood proudly in the Alexandra Road area, near the city’s famous docks, for generations. The disused WC came with a small parcel of land and borders an area of car parking.
Mrs Martin said in a heritage impact statement submitted with the planning application that Pill is ‘the most interesting, diverse, challenging and real area of Newport’.
She said it is ‘rich in history, beautiful architecture and cultural diversity’.
The impact statement, drawn up by Cardiff-based architects WPM, said: “Janet recognised the importance and potential of the former public conveniences some time ago, acquiring it from Newport City Council in a bid to save it from dereliction and demolition and to realise the benefits that its reuse could bring to the community.”