Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Batik workshop cancelled

Well, here in the West Country of the UK we have been experiencing a ‘freak/unprecedented weather event’. Following one of the UK’s wettest June and July's on record, several days of really heavy rain has caused massive flooding and associated problems in a several counties, including Gloucestershire. In one 12 hour period many places were deluged with 2 – 3 times July’s normal rainfall, with constant rain in the weeks and days both before and after. Consequently… the rivers, their tributaries and the drainage system has not coped with the massive amount of water.

On Saturday 21st I needed to travel to Gloucester to set up the classroom where I would be holding my batik workshop at a school in Tuffley, along with the other tutors booked, on the southern edge of the city. News report from the evening before and early morning of that day showed the motorway at a standstill and closed due the 1000’s of cars stranded by the chaos from flooding and other road closures. Many had to spend the night in their cars.

By 9am on Saturday the traffic was beginning to move and I watched the online traffic reports and TV news to keep me updated. I had made a decision by 9.15 that with estimated 3 hour hold ups on that section of the motorway (just before Gloucester) that it wasn’t worth me travelling up and adding to the problem, as the school was only open between 9 and 12.30 for tutors to set up. However, at 9.45 the online traffic reports indicated that the motorway was clear so I changed my mind, quickly loaded the car and by 10.30 I was on my way.

As it was the motorway was clear with little traffic and I made it up to Glos in good time. Whilst at the school I met a friend, who was also tutoring at the school for the week, who lives just north of Glos and she had tales of friends who were abandoning cars and wading waist-high through water to get to their houses as well as hairy moments driving home in her car the evening before!

My journey home was quick and easy too. The next day I was planning on going up to Glos again to stay at a friend’s house for the week, as she lived just a few minutes away from the school. But by late Sunday afternoon that had changed as her house was without a water supply, due to a pumping station getting flooded and evacuated of personnel. This affected most of the city and would soon affect the surrounding area and Tewkesbury and Cheltenham too. I thought it wrong to add to the problem, so I decided I would commute between Glos and Bristol until they got the water supply back on. The school was still going to be open as they had water tanks to supply loo’s etc but I was advised to bring plenty of my own water for use in the classroom.

By Monday morning, the friend I was going to stay with was without electricity. This cast doubt over the school still being operational as I, amongst a few other tutors, would need power for our respective workshops. However, I carried on - packed the car with plenty of water containers (enough for me and some spare for my friend s should they need it), some food, blankets (in case I got stranded on the roads) and what I needed for the workshop that I hadn’t already taken up.

On my trip up to Glos I heard my phone beep to say I had a text. It was from my friend who was also tutoring to say that the school was closed and all workshops cancelled. I drove to the services, which I luckily hadn’t passed yet and rang her to get the details. The school was not only without water, but power now too and the roads around Glos, that weren’t closed due to flooding, were chaotic and jammed up with the morning’s traffic. So even if the school was open… it’ll be hell just getting to it. Also there were tutors and students (my friend now amongst them) who were stranded in their homes/neighbourhoods - cut off by the water levels. So the organisers had no choice but to cancelled all workshops for the whole week... something they have never had to do in their 27 year history of holding the Gloucester Summer School of Arts and Crafts. Great disappointment all round for all involved.

So I drove to the next junction and came back to Bristol very disappointed. I had been looking forward to this week of batiking, not only for the money I would earn from it (which is much needed), but also for the fun and challenge of it. I had put a lot of effort into the last month or so preparing not only for this workshop but the following week’s stint as artist in residence at Nature In Art. There have been many late nights and a lot of stress involved – basically I suppose trying to do too much as I had to think and organise stuff for several other projects and exhibitions as well as normal day to day stuff and working 3 days a week.

Next week I am supposed to be in Glos again - at Nature In Art… we’ll see what the weather holds and whether that will be possible or not.

However, I should not complain… I am very fortunate. I have a house that I don’t have to wade through water to reach, which is dry inside with water in the taps and electricity at the flick of a switch. I have had no possessions ruined by flood waters and do not have to ‘look forward’ to weeks and months of drying out, insurance wrangles, stress and fixing up my home. I can make use of my time at home by painting..... I have several commissions to do and this is an opportunity to crack on with them.

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