On Monday afternoon at 5pm me and my daughter Ffion launched my brand new website. We'd been in the studio all afternoon, stopped for tea and her home made cake while we made the finishing touches and talked about how we would celebrate when we had finished. Then we packed up, said goodbye to Julia who was wrapping up her prints for the people who had supported her new book in her crowd fund. She had a neat pile of parcels waiting to go to the post office in the morning.
Everything was as it should be.
The next morning at 6.45 I switched my phone on and everything changed. I opened a message from my friend Mandy. 'Such a terrible fire at Burlees House. Your studio...everyone's studios...I am hoping for the best it can be'.
What? No. Shock. Out of bed, out of body, a scramble for the nearest clothes, shaking, feel sick. Breathe. Breathe. Stay calm. Out into the rain. Hand on mouth. White as a sheet. We hold hands all the way. Letting it sink in. Tears coming. No it can't really be true. Just a bad dream.
The fire had been burning since 2.30. The damage was done. We watched in shock as the firemen sprayed gallons of water on the wreckage and we tried to wrap our heads around it.
With the shock and the early start it didn't occur to me that everyone would be in the Town Hall. Samantha from Setbray who have owned the property for forty years and have offices at the top welcomed me with a huge hug and I sobbed big belly sobs. She knew what the space meant to me. The town hall was looking after everyone with teas and coffees and kindness. Hebden spirit is rising again.
I took in my surroundings. Neighbours including Bec and Chris and Peggy their dog, Tim and Sarah their son in his dressing gown and slippers and their dog Lottie had all been there for hours after being been evacuated from their houses in the dead of night. The following photos are theirs.
The last couple of days I have felt like I am floating. It's been a blur. This morning I saw footage of our space. Just not knowing what it looks like in there has been so strange. Everything is ruined but not gone. I'd imagined it was all been gone as I had been told that there was no floor so I'm just wrapping my head around that new information now. The floors are unstable in my main room so they couldn't go in, the ceiling is down, it's black and wet everywhere. It's an absolute disaster.
Our side of the building looks better than this one. Bec and Chris live right next door and invited me for a cuppa and a close up view fro the back of their house. They had a scary night, not knowing if their beautiful house would catch fire or if the mill would collapse on them. I am pleased to say that the house is intact.
Nobody knows how or where the fire started yet. There are assumptions but nothing is proven yet. The forensic team are coming in a few days. It may be weeks until they know what they will do with it but it is a listed building and the outside structure is intact so hopefully it will be rebuilt. It will all take some time.
The last product I made before it everything went up in smoke was a Rosebay Willowherb lamp, otherwise known as FIREWEED, named so because it thrives after fire.
I am finding a lot of strength in that.
I have found myself saying 'yes I have lost everything' but I haven't lost EVERYTHING. Not by any means. My creativity is very much intact. Everything that made that space came from me, and I know I can create something new again. I may be losing business and for the first time in twenty years not have anything to sell but I haven't lost my customers. They, you are being so absolutely incredible. I have had more messages of support than I can physically read. And Hebden Bridge, my goodness me. I don't know where to start. It is the most resilient and supportive community and I am profoundly grateful to be held here.
There were 16 or so business who used the building and everyone needs support. There has been a crowd fund started by the Calderdale Community Foundation for everyone here and my customers encouraged me to start my own pot too. You can support me here.
If you're not on my mailing list you can support me by joining it here. I will let you know when and how I rise from the ashes.
Thanks for all of your support. I am so grateful. x