Equinox flood update: Broken, battered, but never beaten!

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Equinox flood update: Broken, battered, but never beaten!

It’s been a tough few months here at Equinox HQ, but love, compassion and a strong community spirit is helping us recover! Kaptain kombucha is back in action and our brews are bubbling nicely again. Here's our amazing story…

On Boxing Day 2016 at 7am, after months of heavy rain, flood sirens sounded as the river Calder and nearby canal burst their banks. Within an hour, the green and gorgeous Calder valley- home to Equinox’s artisan brewery- was six feet underwater.

Hebden Bridge resident Lisa Sciobtha posted this image of the town on Facebook on Boxing Day morning. Hebden Bridge resident Helen Baron posted this image of the town on Facebook on Boxing Day morning. The scene was the same all over the valley.

Children lost the Christmas presents they had received a day earlier, families were made homeless, cars were floating around in the streets, and in the pretty low lying towns of Hebden Bridge, Todmorden and Mytholmroyd, small businesses were completely devastated...including ours.

We lost thousands of pounds of vital brewing and bottling equipment and machinery, our computers were beyond repair, and the clean-up operation alone lasted almost two months. It was a bloody nightmare, as we say in these parts. But here at Equinox, we always try to see the glass as half-full, so here's the positive spin: the floods were so bad we’ve had to build a brand new office and a shiny new expanded facility, which is great news in the long term- 2016 is set to be a huge year for us!

The last time we saw flooding like this in the Calder valley was back in 1968, and the scene was the same all over the north of England: in York, Leeds, Manchester, Lancashire and Cumbria, sinkholes opened up, the army was called in to rescue those trapped in their homes, and whole buildings and bridges collapsed into the deluge.

A Christian, Muslim and Sikh share a hug at St James Church, Hebden. Credit: Rachel Brandwood A Christian, Muslim and Sikh share a touching hug at St James Church, Hebden Bridge. Credit: Rachel Brandwood, Facebook.

Three months later, it's still a chaotic scene here in the valley, and many other businesses haven’t even begun to recover. But these kinds of disasters bring out the best in people, and the response from kind-hearted strangers has been overwhelming. In just four days, the local community raised £175,000 to help flood victims, people volunteered their time during the holidays to help in the clean-up operation, and tons of awesome kind-hearted souls drove up to the North from other parts of Britain to offer free machinery for cleaning and dehumidifying, free carpet-fitting, and other essential services to those hit the hardest.

Thousands of people have donated money and materials, shelter and food, and local supermarkets have sent out teams of volunteers to help those in need, even giving away free cleaning materials, brushes and buckets. People have donated new furniture, charity music gigs have been arranged, a crowdfunding page was set up, and in addition to the support offered by churches in the area, the local Muslim community in particular has shown incredible generosity.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association traveled to the North from London to help The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association traveled to the North from London to help. Credit: Sara Robinson/Hebden Bridge Town Hall, Facebook

The Islam Centre in nearby Halifax brought hot food to people in the Calder valley, while Muslim volunteers from charity groups The Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, One Nation, and the Al-Mubarak Foundation visited the area to help flood victims. They coordinated relief efforts with a local church, sent out volunteers to help people clean up their homes and businesses, and have even opened their doors to homeless families. The solidarity shown by so many Muslim and Sikh community groups is heartwarming and has made the local tragedy much easier to deal with.

Sikh community groups also came to Hebden Bridge offering delicious Indian food to those in need. Credit: Ravi Singh, Facebook Sikh community groups also came to Hebden Bridge offering delicious Indian food to those in need. The group has been catered for up to 400 people. Credit: Ravi Singh, Facebook

Local resident Jenny Courtney Fidgeon, personally affected by the floods, left this heart-warming message on a local Facebook page for victims:

"While walking through Hebden today for the first time since boxing day when we lost our home, I realised something; life, love and a restored faith in humanity has come out of this disaster. I feel so proud of this community...people of all faiths and walks of life have come together to help each other. Community spirit still reigns.”

Here at Equinox, we couldn’t agree more! As much as it pains us to lose £40,000 worth of stock (and the knock-on effect of disappointing our customers with inevitable late orders), the floods have taught us that kindness and a strong community spirit are forces to be reckoned with. 

Perhaps the strangest sight we saw over the new year at Equinox HQ were the big, burly-looking bikers hanging out on street corners with their Harley Davidsons. They looked tough. They looked intimidating. But forget the 'Hells' part: these lads are angels, full stop. Four different biker gangs travelled to the flood-hit towns in this valley to deter looters: because as much as these events bring out the best in humanity, they inevitably highlight the worst, too. People who emptied their destroyed homes and businesses on to the street were targeted by a small minority of thieves, who saw the tragedy as an opportunity to take what they could as the floodwater receded.

Lloyd Spencer and Dave Cariss of Drifters MCC, West Yorkshire. Credit: Drifters MCC Lloyd Spencer and Dave Cariss of Drifters MCC, West Yorkshire. Credit: Courtesy of Drifters MCC

Bikers did a great job of scaring away would-be thieves by patrolling the area throughout the night since Tuesday. The local community and police have been welcoming to these unusual volunteers, offering them food and hot drinks for their service. Hero biker Kath Dearden sent this touching message of mutual appreciation to local people on Facebook:

"Our team worked tirelessly in the rain all with smiles on their faces. I’m so proud of each and everyone of you guys n girls...thank you yet again. We will still be patrolling New Years Eve and every day until you don’t need us anymore. We feel like one big family. You are all so kind leaving us food hot drinks. And thank you to the fantastic family who brought us trays and trays of home made curry…total respect to all tonight…keep up the good work..xx"

Despite the devastation, the floods didn’t destroy the true spirit of Christmas. The worst flooding in decades may have ruined our holidays, but it's also restored our faith in humanity. 

Sending peace, love and a warm toast to all the good times still to come, 

The team at Equinox HQ  

The Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. Climate change has made this beautiful area prone to dangerous winter flooding  Home: The beautiful Calder Valley, West Yorkshire. Climate change means mild, wet winters, making this area prone to dangerous winter flooding.

Note: This article is an amended version of an earlier feature written by Equinox's Sophie McAdam for the digital magazine True Activist.