We believe culture rooted in our communities and places changes lives.
On Boxing Day 2015, Storm Eva caused flooding across 20 miles of Calderdale, including six market towns, 2,781 homes and 1,635 businesses. Following the emergency response, Calderdale Council, as lead flood authority, began a major recovery programme to deal with this devastating incident.
The Council recognised the need to support communities on a personal and emotional level, and on Storm Eva’s first anniversary, planning began to deliver a community-driven festival to bring local people together, engage them creatively and celebrate their amazing resilience. This ambitious cultural response was financed through the Council’s Flood Recovery Fund, strongly supported by our Councillors and leadership team. Calderdale Council and the Community Foundation for Calderdale (CFfC) developed a cultural response for the first time.
509 Arts was chosen for its innovative proposal to unite communities through creativity. We used culture to harness our stories, fears and hopes in response to the devastating floods, attracting additional funding from Arts Council England, Big Lottery and Tipping Point. We secured more match funding than any other comparable project in the North for many years.
Community storytelling is at the project’s heart: hundreds of people gave voice to their experiences. 509 Arts worked with a specialist team to develop business and community engagement. A strong sense of place underpinned the activity and embedded ownership. There were many ways to get involved; local businesses and residents came together to build community pride and enjoy the celebration.
The creative elements were outstanding:
- Water Marks – six local commissions in the affected towns, providing unique responses to the floods through storytelling, sound-sculpture, film and puppetry.
- Calderland – a large-scale community opera featuring a choir of 200 local adults/children.
- The People’s Fair – a two-day event showcasing local creativity, businesses and community organisations, held in The Piece Hall.
The project built strong partnerships. Using existing cultural networks maximised community reach. Notable new partnerships with Calderdale College and St Augustine’s Centre built trust and excitement.
Sustainability was built into the project and we are working with a broad network of partners on a legacy programme. Already in place are Big Lottery funding to continue the community engagement post, and ‘in principle’ agreements from the CFfC to support legacy and from The Piece Hall to support The People’s Fair.
- 28,382 people attended The People’s Fair. All stallholders felt it had a positive impact on their business, they developed new networks and would take part again.
- Calderland – 2,420 people attended three performances involving a 200+ strong community cast.
- Positive media coverage included 40 editorial pieces (over 9 million circulation) and a BBC Inside Out broadcast about community participation.
- Businesses engaged: 71
- People’s Fair stallholders: 40
- People employed: 78
- Events and workshops: 142
- Participants: 1,197
- Audiences: 17,041
“Calderland was pretty blinking magnificent. Until tonight I hadn’t realised how much we needed to come together to remember Boxing Day 2015 in such a defiantly human, creative way.”
This cultural response to a devastating flooding incident was a unique large scale, ambitious project built on community participation and collaboration concentrating on the stories told by local people. It was an inspiring example of what the public, voluntary, community and arts sectors can achieve when they work together. It restored people’s sense of pride in who they were and where they lived.
The artistic content was second to none. The 509 Arts team drew from the very best of Yorkshire based creative talent. For example; Mike Kenny the BAFTA winning writer and Richard Taylor winner of 2 UK Theatre awards for his musicals worked with hundreds of local people of all ages and all levels of experience to collect and interpret the stories of the valley from a broad and diverse range of voices in producing Calderland – the people’s opera. The score and the libretto have been made freely available to community groups in the valley for future performances.
What the judges had to say:
“This community driven festival brought together local people at a challenging time for the community. Allowing hundreds of people to give voice to their experience allowed the community to support each other; that voice was found through arts and culture. Engaging in creativity allowed Calderdale to celebrate its resilience.” Culture Counts