Celebrity florist offers ex-cons a rosy future

Six former criminals have turned their backs on drug trafficking and violence under the unlikely tutelage of a celebrity florist.

Six former criminals have turned their backs on drug trafficking and violence under the unlikely tutelage of a celebrity florist.

Paula Pryke, whose clients include politicians, TV stars and actors, has trained the ex-cons to open their own shop in north London.

The shop, coincidentally in the shadow of Pentonville prison, has been filmed for a documentary series called One Last Job. Handing over bouquets, one florist has "hate" tattooed across his knuckles.

The project has not all been plain sailing. Two of the six have left since the shop opened three months ago and two more were bought out by the remaining pair, Cliff Stevenson and Judith Thomas, both aged 40.

Mr Stevenson joined the project just two days after serving four years for assault. "Doing this has changed my life, the whole thing has just been amazing. We have learnt so much and I love creating the displays," he said.

The ex-prisoners were recruited for the Jamie's Kitchen-style series through adverts in cafés, launderettes and snooker halls. Producers also took to the streets to find the right characters, although none of those who agreed to take part were initially told they would be working with flowers.

Mr Stevenson and Ms Thomas, who served two years for drug trafficking, work from a glass-fronted shop in Caledonian Road called, appropriately, A New Leaf. With a nod to their backgrounds, their business logo features a manacled flower.

Ms Pryke, who gave the group eight days of training as well as work experience, said: "I think everyone who comes in contact with flowers gets a certain buzz and a certain passion, and I suppose if I could convey a little a bit of that for them and that changes their lives, then I'd be happy."

Hilary Rosen, executive producer of the three-part Channel 4 series, said: "We had a couple who said 'oh no' when they found out it would be floristry, but no one backed out at that stage. They were amused and amazed by the idea and they went for it."

They are not the first ex-prisoners to find a new life in the floristry trade. The Great Train robber Buster Edwards famously ran a flower stall outside Waterloo station.

Last year prisoners at Leyhill prison, Gloucestershire, won a gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show, after two silvers in previous years.

For the first six months the staff of A New Leaf are working under the Government's New Deal scheme, which allows the unemployed to work while drawing benefits, although this ends in August.

Channel 4 provided start-up funds and loans but the business is owned and run by its staff. If they fail to turn a profit, they will lose their livelihood.

The series, which is to be screened later this year, aims to show the difficulties faced by ex-offenders who try to overhaul their lives.

Life and Style
life
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Life and Style
One in six drivers cannot identify a single one of the main components found under the bonnet of an average car
motoringOne in six drivers can't carry out basic under-bonnet checks
News
news
Environment
Fungi pose the biggest threat globally and in the UK, where they threaten the country’s wheat and potato harvests
environmentCrop pests are 'grave threat to global food security'
News
i100
Voices
Pupils educated at schools like Eton (pictured) are far more likely to succeed in politics and the judiciary, the report found
voices
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash
tvSimon Cowell blasts BBC for breaking 'gentlemen's agreement' in scheduling war
Arts and Entertainment
Shady character: Jon Hamm as sports agent JB Bernstein in Million Dollar Arm
filmReview: Jon Hamm finally finds the right role on the big screen in Million Dollar Arm
News
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
people
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Sport
footballAnd Liverpool are happy despite drawing European champions
News
i100
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Head of Marketing (Online & Offline, Media, Digital, Strategy)

£85000 - £100000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Marketing - Slough, Berkshi...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Data Feed Administrator

£15,000 - £20,000: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone