I’m repost­ing a piece from 2012, an account of the floods in Heb­den Bridge and the sur­round­ing vil­lages, writ­ten by local long-term res­i­dent and cre­ator of many com­mu­ni­ty events, Tes­sa Gordziejko.

The Trades, Heb­den Bridge’s venue for so many great music nights, was giv­en a boost by Pat­ti Smith who did a gig there and donat­ed the proceeds.

Here is the sto­ry of those crip­pling floods of 2012 and the town’s sub­se­quent reinvention.

And if you’d like to donate to help the floods now, please give to the appeal here. Also, The Trades has organ­ised a Flood Fundrais­er to take place on Jan­u­ary 8th with Sly Antics and guests, plus anoth­er fundrais­er on the 20th fea­tur­ing John Bramwell (I am Kloot).

After The Deluge

Whilst most of the coun­try was gear­ing up to cel­e­brate the Olympics in the sum­mer of 2012, Heb­den Bridge was hav­ing a hard time. In June, and a month lat­er in July, the val­ley suf­fered dev­as­tat­ing floods which ruined busi­ness­es, homes and com­mu­ni­ty facil­i­ties. Shop­keep­ers found them­selves clean­ing out sludge from their shops for a week after­wards. Bars and cafes had to close.

A month lat­er, just as peo­ple were start­ing to get back to some­thing like nor­mal, it hap­pened again. Near­ly a month’s rain fell on the val­ley in three hours in an intense and localised mon­soon-like pre­cip­i­ta­tion. About 500 tons of rub­ble and debris were washed down into the val­ley and homes and busi­ness­es were again devastated.

New town hall Hebden Bridge
Etched glass at the new Town Hall development

As always, Heb­den Bridge respond­ed to this dou­ble cat­a­stro­phe with its char­ac­ter­is­tic cre­ativ­i­ty and com­mu­ni­ty spir­it. A week after the first flood, the Heb­den Bridge Fes­ti­val opened its vibrant, week-long arts pro­gramme with a day of street the­atre. The washed-off Hand Made parade was resched­uled, with spec­tac­u­lar floats and cos­tumes, and as part of the Lon­don 2012 Cul­tur­al Olympiad, a day of dance in the square was pro­duced by Imove, includ­ing the hilar­i­ous and inim­i­ca­ble Ponydance.

The com­mu­ni­ty ral­lied round, organ­is­ing fundrais­ers by local bands, cre­at­ing a fund to help peo­ple and busi­ness­es. Teams of vol­un­teers called round to affect­ed house­holds to see whether they need­ed help clean­ing up. Even the insur­ance indus­try for the most part respond­ed help­ful­ly and hon­oured poli­cies quick­ly (with a few notable excep­tions where busi­ness­es have still not opened due to dis­putes with insurers).

In  June 2013, Calderdale Young Writ­ers unveiled the first of their Word­stones in Heb­den Bridge, inspired by expe­ri­ences they had as part of the Cul­tur­al Olympiad work­ing with Simon Armitage as he cre­at­ed his Stan­za Stone poet­ry series In Mem­o­ry of Water across the Pen­nines. The Heb­den Bridge stone replaced a cop­ing stone which had been washed away in the floods.

In Decem­ber 2012, the organ­is­ers of The Hand­made Parade pro­duced a series of events in Tod­mor­den, Heb­den Bridge and Mytholm­royd  called ‘Val­ley of Lights’ a mag­i­cal win­ter cel­e­bra­tion whose cen­tre­piece was the sto­ry, told with giant pup­pets, lanterns, fire sculp­tures and artists, of the floods and how the val­ley com­mu­ni­ties rose again.

And indeed they have. Fif­teen months on, most busi­ness­es have re-opened, with a facelift and renewed vigour. On the worst-hit street, busy Mar­ket Street, The Book­case (book­shop), Muse Music (inde­pen­dent CD’s and vinyl retail­er), The York­shire Soap Com­pa­ny (won­der­ful­ly camp, colour­ful soap cre­ations), Ruby Shoes­day (shoes to die for) and the many cof­fee shops have all been refur­bished to cre­ate an even more wel­com­ing and live­ly envi­ron­ment. Once again, it’s a place where all your Christ­mas shop­ping needs can be met with­in one town and there’s music on every street corner.

Now let the music keep our spirits high
And let the buildings keep our children dry
Let creation reveal its secrets by and by, by and by
Jackson Browne – Before The Deluge 

Pho­to cred­it: T Gordziejko. Tes­sa has also writ­ten about Tow­ersey Folk Festival

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