The Boxing Day floods took us all be surprise. One minute I was driving home and the next I was on a rescue mission to save our van. The water rose quickly and unluckily for us our mill yard backs directly onto the river. Thankfully there was enough time to save our van from the yard before the floods engulfed our buildings and the surrounding area. It was all very surreal, like nothing we had ever seen before. Kate and I spent Boxing Day evening on the phone to each other worrying, our 2 main concerns were about our health and safety- were we turning the flood water into a rainbow and could the old Victorian drainage system contain the sewage? When we managed to reach the yard 48 hours later we experienced relief that we were only confronted with mud, water and chaos of fixtures and fittings. Our health and safety had been exlemporary, there were no significant paint spillages and there was no sewage, phew!
Muddy river water was everywhere: our arts studio, storage rooms and paint disposal area had been submerged in over 1 metre of water and our paint store had been under approximately 70cm. In the yard whole IBC’s of paint had been picked up and upturned, with amazingly no paint spillages (due to our health and safety standards).
There was an over whelming feeling of disbelief in the yard and wider community that this was actually happening. A community flood response centre was set up at Open Source, (a social enterprise in the yard) becoming the nerve centre for the flood action group: supplies, resources, volunteers, communication and management coming out of Aire Place Mills.
After the feelings of relief subsided we were faced with the daunting task of how to proceed. There was mud and water everywhere, our arts workshop ruined and hundreds of paint pots ruined or covered in mud and it was cold. We were lucky it happened during the Christmas holidays as the support from local people was overwhelming and saw us through the moments of despair. We had been lucky, our office is on a mezzanine and we don’t have expensive machinery. There were many business much less fortunate than ours.
We were also lucky to be in the yard when a team of volunteers turned up from Trinity shopping centre. We call them our knights in shining armour as they brought large industrial cleaning machines to our paint store. They worked tirelessly with a T3 and Jet wash to eradicate our warehouses of mud. Roger and his team saved us weeks and weeks of work and we are forever grateful.
We are also grateful to Leeds City Council for letting us fill approximately 5 skips of damaged furniture, materials, art supplies and wood, all ruined by flood water. We felt supported by the council and got both financial and practical support.
It was clear in the immediate aftermath that many things would need replacing. We had to dispose of several tonnes of paint, replace the shop counter and shelving and pretty much start a fresh with our arts studio. We set up a Crowd Funding page and were amazed at the response. We have also been fortunate to receive flood funds from Leeds City Council, Leeds Community Foundation and The Rotary Club.