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Volunteering at the local trades club

Caroline couldn’t face seeing the devastation in her studio – so she volunteered at the local Trades Club instead, serving soup to over a thousand people left without food, light or heating in their homes post-flood.

Caroline Reed Caroline Reed

Hebble End Studios is a cobbled, winding complex on the Rochdale Canal packed with artists and jewellers and the Bicycle Den. Artist Caroline Reed talks about the aftermath of the floods, and how the local Trades Club has become a hub for the recovering community.

I spent the first four days at the Trades cooking pans of soup. We fed over a thousand people. The impact didn’t hit me then because I was permanently busy, all the time. We had no electric at the Trades, or at home. It was cold, it was damp. It was the people that hit me more than anything, the numbness. I was serving food and the numbness was horrific.

I don’t think the whole impact hit you until you walked around. The sheer devastation that was just immense. There were Christmas trees outside people’s homes with the decorations still on them.

I lost a lot of my artwork. Also a whole collection of art books I’d collected. I just finished an art degree this year and I lost my hardbound dissertation, all gone. I lost all the flooring.

The support was amazing, that’s what pulled me through it. The mosque in Halifax brought us a big pan of chicken curry – the best chicken curry I’ve ever tasted. People were bringing soup, home made cakes and bedding to the Trades Club. They came from everywhere. A restaurant in Leeds even delivered us a meal – amazing. We had no electrics, so we were cold and we had no lights, but we had food and we had a friendly smile – a place people could just come and have a hot meal. There were so many of us without electricity or heating, and equally there was no food because there were no shops.

We’re launching an art auction to raise funds for those affected and things have just snowballed. It started off in my head as a little thing and so far we've had offers of 200 pieces, from 100 artists from all over the world. What’s surprised me is the sheer amount of people willing to give up their work. I know what a piece of art you’ve made means to a person. Giving it away to help someone else is amazing. I didn’t sleep last night, I was up all night conferring with people on the computer about what they’re going to send.

The money will go towards the art community and the independent businesses. We can’t survive without them because they help us by putting our work in their shops. They’re not big chains, and they need our help.

I’m a very solo person, I can be withdrawn and I’m not particularly good socially. I don’t deal well with lots of people because I didn’t have much faith in humanity. But it’s restored that, it really has. That’s all I can say.

Last date edited: 4 March 2016