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Christmas Day flood destroys art space

23 January, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Karen Turner

THE owner of an independent art space says she is devastated after flooding destroyed her new business on Christmas Day.

Karen Turner, who runs Cave in Tachbrook Street, Pimlico, had run a successful crowdfunding campaign to transform part of the second-hand furniture store into a gallery and space for artists to meet and work together.

The work had been done and the space was all set to host its first exhibition this weekend. But at 1am on Boxing Day, Ms Turner was called by the London Fire Brigade, telling her to rush down to Cave.

The 47-year-old, who lives in Pimlico, said: “I cycled down and there had been 14 hours of hot water pouring into the space. It was full of steam, so what the water didn’t destroy the steam attacked. Everything was rusty or mouldy. When the firemen opened the doors, they couldn’t get in here for 20 minutes because it was so hot.

“It was like a pressure cooker.”

It emerged that a hot water pipe had burst, damaging the property, and everything inside it, from personal art to furniture stock.

“I was in a bit of a mess. As far as I was concerned it was gone, my business was gone – I was devastated,” she said. “There is loss of stock, loss of earnings, emotionally just my artwork, all my drawings painting and sculptures. We probably lost about £5,000 of other people’s stuff. We are still paying rent all the time we are closed.”

Ms Turner said the studio could stay closed until around April and questioned why they were not told sooner about the situation by CityWest Homes, which owns some properties upstairs in the Lillington and Longmoore Gardens Estate.

She said: “The lady upstairs contacted CityWest at 10am on Christmas Day as her bath was hot to touch from the steam. Her son looked out the window and said there is some water trickling out the door of Cave.

“There’s a hundred ways they could have contacted us. But there was nothing, until the fire brigade called us at 1am. I would like CityWest to take some responsibility for the time taken. If they had responded when they were first told that Cave was involved on Christmas Day, if they had got to us – which they could have with a little bit of leg work. I know it was Christmas Day but you can’t just ignore this.”

Ms Turner feels if they had been told sooner much of Cave could have been saved. But she is remaining positive and accepted that ruined artworks can “turn into something else”.

“We are salvagers, that is what we do. We have had really amazing support from the community. Although we are at the bottom of this huge mountain… we are going to build it bigger and better, though financially it will be a struggle. It is our dream.”

A CityWest Homes spokeswoman said the leak was caused by an “unauthorised radiator installation” and “poorly installed pipe”.

She added that CityWest had tried to contact the residents by email and that the people above had also tried to contact them, adding: “There was no one in the property that day.”

A London Fire Brigade spokesman said: “We were called at 12.27am on Boxing Day to a water pipe burst which was causing steam that affected a number of properties. We isolated the electric supply in the affected property – the duty of care was left with the housing officer – we were there until 2.43am.”

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