21. Building Update Monday 2nd January 2023

Since September, contractors have been working very hard on the renovation of the Arts Centre building and they are currently on festive leave until 9th January. The Arts Centre is closed until the evening of the 13th January when our first event of the year, the Storytelling Club, takes place, followed by the preview for january’s exhibition in the café-gallery on Sunday 15th January. The café reopens on Monday 16th January.

During building closure, the water is turned off and the system drained to avoid burst pipes. Unfortunately the very cold snap before cafe closure froze some of our water supply before we’d closed. When it thawed after a few days, we discovered burst pipes which are currently being replaced.

Far worse was a catastrophic failure of the temporary roofing in place during recent heavy rainstorms. During a routine building check on Wednesday 28th December, some damp places were noticed in room 3, but were assumed to be a result of a previous roofing failure just before Christmas which was quickly dealt with by the contractors. A check to “make sure” was made on Thursday 29th December, when several disastrous leaks were found. Three of us worked a couple of hours to mop up, put towels and absorbant cloths and buckets in strategic places. The contractors’ emergency number was called and they came out immediately to add more roofing felt. A visit on Friday 30th December revealed a situation ten times worse than the previous day. Two of us worked flat out for three hours to deal with the mess. Again we called out the contractor who arrived very quickly with a mate. Two of them worked for three hours installing yet more roofing felt.

The damage is huge. Every room upstairs was deluged with rainwater from a line of weakness by the front windows. The Easel cupboard where craft materials are stored was also awash. Water poured into the cafe, and also into our neighbour’s premises downstairs (the Belgium Consulate). We are waiting nervously for the next heavy rainfall. It’s not clear why this happened. The contractor wondered about a poor batch of roofing felt.

At the time of writing, we’re not 100% sure that the roof is now water-tight, nor are we sure about the safety of some ceilings, and will ask advice of the contractors when they return to work on 9th January. Hopefully they can re-assure us, and can help us dry out the fabric of the building so that we can resume our activities the following weekend.