Kirkstall was the scene of an incredible display of community spirit today.
Forty eight hours after the Boxing Day floods devastated this part of West Leeds, today was the day when people came together, rolled their sleeves up and got dirty to help their stricken neighbours and local businesses.
And it wasn’t just one or two people – it was a veritable army who came out.
At 10am, more than 40 hardy volunteers descended on the Kirkstall Bridge Inn to help clean up the historic pub, which had been inundated with up to six feet of river water barely a month since the last flood there.
— Tom Riordan (@tomriordan) December 28, 2015
Kirkstall resident Paul Long, who runs the Incredible Edible Kirkstall Group, said
“There’s been an amazing sense of community spirit shown by local residents to support those affected by the flood.”
— Lucinda Yeadon (@Lucinday) December 28, 2015
Manager Ian Forster posted his gratitude on Facebook this evening:
“Thank you, thank you, thank you awesome people of Kirkstall who came and helped our little pub recover.”
At the other end of Kirkstall, at the bottom of Kirkstall Road, Open Source Arts set up a Kirkstall Flood Clean-up – Action Room page on Facebook to co-ordinate the clean-up in the area. Volunteers from across West Yorkshire came to help – with more than 700 people signing up in less than 24 hours following appeals on social media (and via The Dispatch).
Open Source Arts’ base in Kirkstall Road acted as the central point for volunteers, a drop off point for donations and resource, plus acting as a food and recoop space.
The volunteer zone there had hot drinks, seating, computers to administer the help and helped get food ready to feed people.
The Open Source Arts Centre only opened in Kirkstall Road on 21 December. By Boxing Day it was under a foot of water.
Nearby social enterprise Seagulls Paint had also suffered devastating damage during the floods, but, again, was grateful for help it received from volunteers:
— Seagulls Paint (@SeagullsPaint) December 28, 2015
This afternoon Kirkstall Road had reopened to traffic – but the street was lined with sodden furniture and stock from the shops hit by the floods.
Shopkeepers were mopping water out of their properties and stood in small groups outside, talking about the damage. It was a very different scene to 24 hourse earlier, when the busy arterial road into Leeds city centre had been turned into a river.
Matthew Pedder, who runs the Tyranosaurus Pets store, said he’d had groups of strangers knocking on his door to see if they could help. Mr Pedder said he was still waiting to see how much longer his power would be out and appealed for help to temporarily house his reptile collection.
Sheesh Mahal Restaurant owner Azram Chaudhry said he’d been touched by the response of customers and friends to his plight. He also told the YEP that restoring trade to his flood-hit restaurant could run into “hundreds of thousands of pounds”.
Posting on Facebook, heartwarming comments from local residents and Sheesh Mahal customers included:
“Azram. Hope there’s not too much damage. If you need any help with clean up let us know – I’ve sent email via your website. Keith & Sue Trout.”
“Azram, we are so sorry to hear of the damage the flood has caused. If we can help in anyway please get in touch. Sending love, Jason and Samantha.”
And several organisations have started to run successful crowdfunding campaigns, including Blueberry Hill Studios, who we featured on The Dispatch earlier today.
Mention must also be made of the sterling job Leeds council workers gave to make roads passable again once the flood waters had receded:
— Helen Freeman (@HelenLcc) December 28, 2015
After two days of despair and heartbreak, this was the day the people of Kirkstall came together and reclaimed their community from the flood water. Inspiring stuff, although for the victims of the flood many more hours of hard work remain.