Creativity and community resilience

Reflecting village life through art

In 2013, Annie Harrison, artist and member of the Well North evaluation team, moved to the West Yorkshire village of Mytholmroyd. The previous year, the village had experienced flooding and was slowly recovering. In the first few months, Annie noticed a number of shops which had taken over flooded premises, were closing down.

Annie became concerned that the village would lose the remainder of its retail businesses particularly as the village is only a mile from Hebden Bridge which has a thriving tourism and retail sector, winning the 2016 Great British High Street award in the category of Small Market Town.

As an artist, Annie looked to the arts as a way of increasing the sustainability of the village, and began to solicit interest in an Arts Festival. There was enough local interest to establish a community organisation with Annie as Artistic Director and Mytholmroyd Arts began with a splash, organising a 10 day Arts Festival in 2015 with Arts Council funding as well as support from the local council and parish council. Among other activities, Mytholmroyd Arts commissioned Paula Sutherland and Geoff Brokate to make a film about the village.

The initial plan was to use the Arts Festival as a mirror to reflect the village back at itself. However, while the film was still in development, on Boxing Day 2015 Mytholmroyd was once again flooded, this time even more seriously, with the river rising by almost 6m and affecting all the retail and many of the manufacturing businesses, both churches, both primary schools, both pubs, and the community centre, as well as hundreds of houses, many of whom had never flooded in the history of the village.

The film quickly changed direction to focus on stories of the flood and in the process began to uncover a story of resilience, recovery and positive change. ‘Calder’ premiered in Mytholmroyd in 2016 and has since been shown both locally including a film tour of the hilltop villages around Mytholmroyd and nationally and continues to be a popular and positive record of a terrible experience.

(Photo from 'Calder' courtesy of Geoff Brokate)