Leeds & West Yorkshire

Festival marks Calder Valley fight back from floods

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Media captionThe events coincide with the Christmas lights switch-on in each town

Recent celebrations in the Calder Valley have stood in stark contrast to the scenes of devastation brought by severe flooding in the summer.

Thousands of people have turned out for the Valley of Lights, an event to reinvigorate the worst-hit towns of Todmorden, Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd.

Night markets have been busy trading to a back drop of live music, fire dancers, parades, barges and street performers.

Five months earlier, the scene was very different.

In the space of two weeks in June and July, the equivalent of a month's rainfall brought destruction and the power to wipe out livelihoods.

'Floating' stock

Hundreds of homes and businesses in the towns were hit with people describing it as the worst flooding in living memory.

Many businesses are still impacted - some closed, some in temporary premises, others working around the flood damage.

Newsagent Janet Brookes remembers the flood siren being sounded on the evening of 22 June.

"The water was rising two feet every 20 minutes.

"When my son left the shop at 11:20pm there was short of four foot of water inside with things floating out of the door."

Since then it has been a slow process for Ms Brookes.

Halted by insurance pay-outs and building delays, she is currently trading in temporary accommodation, hopeful of moving back into her shop in the new year.

That same night, the manager of Russell Dean furniture shop in Hebden Bridge turned on the local news to see the scale of flooding inside his building.

Paul Ridgeway said: "The shop was all lit up and it looked like a swimming baths, you could see the water inside."

The extent of destruction meant the entire shop had to be refurbished with it re-opening on 1 September.

'No-nonsense attitude'

Mr Ridgeway said the floods had enabled them to make the business better.

"It allowed us to totally refresh the whole range, introduce new lines and what we've done has been very successful.

"Since 1 September we're been very busy and we've made the shop better than it was."

The varied stories and experiences of recovery are embedded in what the Valley of Lights Festival is about.

Organiser Chris Sands said: "The shops and businesses here are so unique and so many of them were hit badly.

"But people here have a real no-nonsense attitude and have just got on with making the best of it.

Image caption Many businesses are still impacted by the summer floods

"Our whole thing was to say, actually, we're alright and we're back in business."

Hebden Bridge played host to the festival on Thursday with one of the event's highlights.

Some 200 cyclists joined a night-time bike ride from Todmorden to Mytholmroyd via Hebden Bridge, as a symbolic gesture of uniting the towns.

The cyclists finished at the Dusty Miller pub, a place so devastated by the floods that re-opening was thought to be unlikely.

But the pub opened to welcome the cyclists on Thursday evening ahead of its official opening next Wednesday.

Landlord Angus Downie said: "It was just so fantastic to have people back in the building again and people we haven't seen in a long time because there's been no where for them to go.

"It was such a big boost for not only our business, but all the communities. The support has been absolutely overwhelming."

The Valley of Lights Festival finishes in Mytholmroyd on Saturday.

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