Coronavirus: Finding a Silver Lining in a Dark Cloud
Liberty Rose Architects - Committee Member Libby Watts' New Practice
March 2020 was the start of an unsettling period for most business in the UK and beyond. However, it was the beginning of the creation of Liberty Rose Architects. For me, a silver lining and hope in a storm of unemployment, closed doors, and uncertainty.
At the start of March, I thought the next 9 months of my life would be on the road, travelling the UK, learning about traditional crafts and conservation methods, in the form of the SPAB Scholarship. An opportunity I had prepared for, worked for and dreamed of for a number of years before I was selected in late January.
In order to undertake this incredible career and life defining experience, I had handed in my notice to what, at the time, I believed was not far off my dream job, an Architect for Donald Insall Associates — one of the leading conservation practices in the UK. However, a week before the SPAB scholarship was due to start, I had the dreaded call… ‘the scholarship has been postponed due to concerns regarding Coronavirus’. It took a while for this to sink in, I was now jobless, homeless, and without purpose for the next 12 months.
Each year 3 individuals are selected as SPAB scholars. This year the selected 3 were Amy Redman (an Architect), Lucy Newport (an Engineer), and myself, Liberty Watts (an Architect). Although the scholarship was postponed, we had been introduced to each other — the only other people who understood the situation which we now found ourselves in.
For those of you who know me, I’m not one to sit still, I need constant mind stimulation, career goals and life challenges. So, for me this was a huge knock to my career, my life, and general mind set. At the time it felt as though I had not just taken a giant leap backwards, but had fallen off the stepping stones which pathed the way to my goals. However, after a few weeks of thinking and speaking to friends and family, I decided I had to turn this year into an opportunity — I had been given the gift of; time, freedom, and new beginnings.
Throughout my career I have been aiming towards one key goal: to run my own practice, specialising in the care, repair, and adaption of historic buildings. This was the end goal which my stepping stones were slowing building up the knowledge and experience to undertake.
Therefore, I seized this opportunity which I had been given, and began the process of setting up my very own practice: Liberty Rose Architects Ltd. I realised I didn’t need the steeping stones; I was free and could take a leap of faith! This practice was to become my solace for the coming months.
So how does one go from unemployed to Company Director of a successful practice in a couple of months?
I have been asked on many occasions ‘How, in a time of such uncertainty, have you managed to start a practice, and become busy and successful so quickly’. I have thought about this on numerous occasions. Firstly, I would like to say, that I do not take this ‘busyness’ for granted and understand that the tide can turn at any point — running your own company is a risk — however in the situation I found myself, I had nothing to lose!
Also, I think a key element to note is that for me, the success is not shown in the accounts; the true success of Liberty Rose Architects, is that this company has allowed me, within this dark storm, to find light, to have purpose, and to do what I love. I cannot say for certain what the key to the success has been, however, one thing I can say is that I have thrown myself with full force into this dream. It has become my career, my hobby, and my life and I think this passion for what I do has been one of the key drivers for its success.
I do not believe there is a rule book, which if you follow will ensure a successful company. The company is personal, the journey is personal, and the goals which you aim to achieve are personal. It is only with passion and commitment that a company can thrive.