Were you one of the 55,000 people in the Lancaster District affected when Storm Desmond caused a three-day power cut?

The Dukes needs your memories of the December 2015 floods and power cuts to help create a new play at the theatre this autumn.

Everyone in Lancaster, Morecambe and the surrounding area has a story to tell about how Storm Desmond affected them and The Dukes wants to hear yours.

Perhaps you were days without power, your home was waterlogged, your business badly damaged or you were part of the huge community effort to help others during that turbulent time.

Your tales of Storm Desmond will help The Dukes craft Blackout, a production telling the story of communities, families and individuals affected by the power outage and floods, which will be performed in October. This is your chance to contribute to and watch a show built from your memories and remember how one event devastated a city but united a community.

Blackout Director, Alex Summers said: “Blackout is an approach to theatre making with the community and we’re inviting everyone to take part. We’d like to hear from as many people as possible, it really is an open door policy. Storm Desmond is a great unifier and starting point because everyone can share some reflection of their experience of those days in December 2015. It’s a springboard for exciting stories which reflect a lot about who we are and how we cope with adversity; extraordinary events revealing a lot about our everyday lives.”

Post your story in the comment box below or email blackout@dukes-lancaster.org to be part of the project.

Alternatively, attend one of The Dukes Blackout workshops to tell your story and hear the accounts of others. Workshop dates will be announced soon.

For more information contact Alex at blackout@dukes-lancaster.org

Boy Rowing In Lancsater Lancaster Guardian Image Road Closure near Forton Source Lancaster Guardian


Images © Lancaster Guardian



  1. Reply
    Moira says

    It rained but I slept through and woke to a calm morning. Our daughter had gone into town the night before to serve in a pub then onto an 18th party. She always texted if she was staying out but there was no contact from her. I focused on lack of power rather than lack of daughter and sure enough she turned up late morning having walked home to Hest Bank. She talked of the pub tills not functioning and only taking cash and an elderly man saying the rain was doing ‘bad things’ at the other end of the city. Her friends joined her and guided her to the party which was by candlelight and acoustic guitars (maybe Phil’s daughter?). Later walking through the city there were sirens from cars and buildings and emergency vehicles sounding off. I hugged her.
    Earlier I had tried to go to church in town but every route was blocked. I checked on my mother (86 years) who was listening to Bay Radio on her battery radio. This was nothing compared to the war! At home the chimney had let water in and the wood burner was covered in pools. I put a plastic bowl on it to catch the drips and forgot when I lit it the next day until the rank smell of burning plastic spread through the house.
    Each day we prepared for the evening. We had a gas cooker, a hurricane lamp and a log burner. After tea we played Scrabble and then walked Mum home in darkness by torchlight.
    The children were off school so my daughter and I went to The Trafford Centre where everything was normal. It was like stepping out of a bad dream for a few hours. As we left the M6 we returned to the Lancaster darkness.
    I’d had a cancer scare and was ‘investigated’ on the Tuesday thanks to hospital generators. Later that afternoon we had to support my brother at a planning meeting in Manchester to object to some monstrosity being built next to his house. We succeeded and my scare was exactly that!
    We managed to charge mobile phones by driving around in our camper van!

  2. Reply
    Kat says

    The 5th December saw a Syria Benefit Gig organised by local musician Dan Haywood, an event which was by early evening flooded out of the ‘Juke Joint’ (Lord Ashton) and relocated to the Kings Arms’ upstairs function room. The Kings Arms kindly allowed us to use their room at short notice and thankfully so, as we packed it out and would not have fit into the old Lord Ashton. A night of top drawer entertainment to raise funds for humanitarian work helping victims of the conflict inside Syria and elsewhere ensued.. and was interrupted halfway through by the floods and the loss of power. We had a few but not many tealights, and the evening continued acoustically, despite loud garage type punk type band PILL FANGS being on the bill. The raffle was conducted in minimal light, with Dan standing on a chair to be seen and to see the winning tickets, and announcing at the top of his voice. Everybody present seemed mystified and excited. From the large room we could see the steamed up windows of the Gillow as it filled up with wet folk with nowhere to go.

  3. Reply
    Phil says

    My daughter’s 18th birthday party was in full swing when the lights went out. A houseful of young people in the dark, unable to contact friends or family and unaware of the blocked roads could have been a bit of a catastrophe but the piano was opened, the guitars came out and the house was lit by camping lights (and mobile phones). Certainly memorable.

  4. Reply
    Izzy says

    We all went down to the White Cross (which was packed) in the evening of the first night of the storm and left my sister to catch us up after she’d finished eating. Unfortunately, we’d left her without a torch to help her find her way down the canal, which without streetlights was pitch black. Her solution was to wrap herself in fairy lights (the only lights she could find) and light a scented candle to help her find her way. Luckily she managed it and we were reunited over a pint.

  5. Reply
    Steve says

    We were away visiting the Christmas Market in Frankfurt and knew nothing of what was happening back home until we started reading posts on Facebook and Twitter when we got back to our hotel. It was a bit surreal to watch things unfold on the ipad from a different country knowing that there was nothing we could do to help loved ones. We arrived home about midnight on the Sunday night. All seemed fine until we got to Galgate when we were met by darkness. Darkness we have not seen since the power cuts of the early 70’s. Just glad we have a wind up torch in the car and the odd candle, albeit scented ones, at home.

  6. Reply
    Rachel says

    I have many memories of Storm Desmond, most of them good ones. I was on a painting course on the Saturday. A friend picked me up after it, and when we got back to Galgate we could see the extent of some of the flooding. We got home, donned our waterproofs and headed out with our cameras. The River Conder had not only burst its banks, it had flooded most of the fields around it, and turned Galgate into an island except for the A6. Chapel Lane had swift running flood water racing through the hedges across the road. There was nothing but flood waters looking from Galgate to the university. Our photos aren’t of publishable quality, but they tell their own story!

    The morning after we lost power we had two knocks on the front door from neighbours who knew we had electrical kitchen appliances: they’d each boiled us a saucepan of water on their gas stoves so we could have a cuppa. I won’t forget those kindnesses.

    On the second evening the rain had lessened and we had things a little more sorted: a barbecue on a camping stove in the back garden (bacon and baked beans have never tasted so good!) We followed this with a game of mahjong which my friend taught me how to play by the light of a torch in front of the woodburner stove in the lounge. The two cats sat on the rug in front of the fire and watched us toasting crumpets on forks. It was very atmospheric and enjoyable.

    One concern I had was that I was due to graduate from Lancaster University on the Wednesday following Desmond. My Mum had to get the train to Lancaster in daylight as the station shut after dark as there were no lights. We knew the university was closed, but they did a first class job, making sure that ‘the show must go on.’ I believe someone heard in the corridors of the university ‘Come hell or high water [and we had both!] the Graduations must go ahead!’ We understand generators were brought in to provide the Great Hall with electricity for the ceremonies. I will forever be grateful for the Herculean efforts by those at the university to ensure our Big Day took place.

  7. Reply
    Christine Bowles says

    Inspire Gym were having their Christmas night out at Greaves Park Hotel, when at about 10,30pm all the lights went out (luckily after we had eaten the meal). The manager kept us up with news he was getting from a radio including the fact that pretty much anywhere north of Lancaster was cut off. Offers if beds for the night from those who had come from Morecambe, Halton etc were given out to those of us who lived in Lancaster at the right side of the river. Parties of us set off walking home (the women all in party clothes and heels) and it was quite startling how dark it was without street lights, lights from houses etc so mobile phone torches were essential. In the centre of town many people were wandering about and there I left my companions to head off for the Marsh area, not really knowing if it was accessible. The Kings Arms Hotel and the Robert Gillow pub seemed to be acting as places of refuge for stranded people. As I was walking over the railway bridge I saw 3 young people (oversea students?) peering at a map on a phone and so asked if I could help They were trying to get to Skerton and whoever they were meeting had said they should try Carlisle Bridge but could not figure out where it was, so I said that they could follow me as I was going that way. I led them down West Road, Lune Road and onto the quay where, thankfully, the flood barriers at that end had worked. I showed them the steps up Carlisle Bridge and warned them that when they got to the other side they may find 3 feet of water. I do hope they made it. When I got home myself there was, of course, no electricity and none the next day. I have a gas fire and gas cooker so could cook and keep warm and a couple of battery powered radios to listen to. I called on a few neighbbours and distributed some candles, as I had a good supply and also a battery radio to the couple next door. The area was without power for 3 days but as a by product it this did seem to act as a catalyst for people to get to meet and talk to other people on the street that they had not done so previously This has continued.

  8. Reply
    Karen says

    We were trying to persuade my 83yr old mother-in-law to move up from London to be near us – she had always said “that its very nice up here but I don’t get on with your weather”. She had been spending some wet days with us whilst we had been trying to shrug off the fact that it was raining again. When we lost power her one concern was to get back to civilisation (London) as soon as possible but the station was closed . We drove her to Preston and collected some hitch-hiking students on route. They said that they needed to leave because they could not survive without internet access and how on earth could we contemplate returning! We bought candles, enjoyed our woodburner, and invited friends and international students from church over for meals cooked on our gas hob whilst our teenagers rediscovered monopoly with their friends. We also discovered Bay radio!

  9. Reply
    Lula says

    My younger son was only 6months old, so going without power for a few days seemed daunting. His older brother, however, was sure we were having a brilliant adventure – living by candlelight, eating loads of food & feeding friends, because the freezer stash defrosted but we had gas! And having a friend stay over, because her house was flooded, sleeping all in one room to keep warm. We stayed without power for a few days, making sock puppets, playing shadows. The shops reopened just in time for my birthday. I turned 37 on the 9th, blowing candles out from a cake my husband found lurking in the fridges at M&S. He kept working throughout, making house visits to care for and support people – at a point getting stuck in water near Halton, being pulled out by some good souls & plodding on when the police offered to take carers to people in need. That was a really special birthday cake.

  10. Reply
    Karen says

    My phone battery was getting low, I usually charge my phone over night and was planning on going to bed, the storm was raging outside, my new Christmas lights started flickering mmmm I though but then heard cracklings and hissing this wasn’t just the wind effecting the power? I opened the curtains and water was running down the inside of the windows from above! I quickly unplugged them the lights were in water I flew upstairs and my upstairs windows were lettting in water really badly, I put down towels and tried to stop the rain coming in. With the adrenaline pumping from the thought that I could have had a fire thoughts of bed long gone. I went down stairs with the idea of getting a drink and something to mop up the water. The lights went out. I found some candles but decided the best thing was to go to bed – deal with it all in the morning.
    Come the morning the power was still off no phone of course now walked the dog and tried to charge the phone in the car, the in car charger was too slow and I was low on fuel, I thought I’d go fill up get some money…all of a sudden it dawned on me, no fuel no cash point no power! The car radio said on the news the power could be off for at least 48 hours. There was a good spirit on the street people coming out and talking to us, ‘all pulling together making sure we had access to food heating etc. I have a gas fire in the living room and a gas cooker and have camping stuff including a camping stove or 2. We made sure everyone had a way to cook or boil water. We were lucky yes I had water damage but my house wasn’t flooded some had it bad. I felt completely cut off from my family and friends of course, no phone no contact, I assumed my mum would be worried so heading into Carnforth to find a phone box, I was sure there was one, but was it still there? Was it still working? No internet meant no bank! I had no idea how much I had in my current account I transfer into it weekly. Not that I could get any money but needed to make a phone call or 2, did they still have reverse charge calls these days if I had no money? Booths had a generator! The cash point was working! I got money some milk bread, it was the weekend I didn’t have much in! Found the phone box there was a queue. Had a few calls to make no internet meant no work for me at home the next week plus no one could contact me unless I could get a charger power pack for my phone. I called my mum left a message at work that I was not going to be available but would let them know as soon as possible. Walked back home, but called in the local on the way home, not for a drink but news! Was there any? The pub seemed the logical place to go. Met some people I knew in there, was there any news? 48 hours we could be with out power for 48 hours knew this already but pretended I didn’t know just to keep the conversation going! The phone and internet took longer. We got by hot water bottles food candles. I realised how reliant I was on technology, my books on my kindle Facebook to chat to people my iPhone had all my music TV on for noise more than the programmes yes a very quiet 48 hours. I wrote my blog on paper I read real books, I became grateful for so many things I took for granted. When the power came back on we all went back to our little insulated lives the cheery friendly spirit slowly disappeared again back to the silence from the neighbours and back to the noise of the TV.

  11. Reply
    amanda says

    At the University the electricity went off on Saturday night and by Sunday all the battery back-ups for the fire alarms had run down. This meant that we could not allow 6000 students to sleep in their campus bedrooms. We finished term a week early and as many as possible went home but for the rest their next three nights were spent on the floor of the great hall. The whole University community worked together to provide food and bedding for the students. One of the most urgent things was to restore the mobile signal and provide mobile phone battery charging so the students could communicate that they were safe to their families.

  12. Reply
    Nicola Wilson says

    Working at a home insurance company whilst being a victim of the floods and the power cuts was a little jarring. I would have a cold shower by candlelight, drive to work along streets with no traffic lights, no streetlights and very few motorists, then arrive at a brightly-lit office with functional heating and (wonder of wonders!) hot coffee. I would sign in at my desk, put on my headset, and listen to a howling barrage of desolate human misery for 8 hours, comforting and consoling and doling out emergency payments so that people could get their families booked into hotels. Then, at home time, I’d pack up, go to feed and muck out my horse, then return home along deserted roads to a cold, dark house and tea by candlelight.

    It was sort of lovely to switch off from the world and the internet and huddle together in the kitchen with family, reading books made richer by the golden glow of candlelight. The romance was somewhat compromised by the shivering, but it was still nice in a ‘Waltons-esque’ sort of way.

  13. Reply
    James Fraser says

    Was a very peaceful few days without power, and afterwards we wondered quite a bit about the amount of current (electric, electromagnetic) which is normally in the house. I guess because we were able to enjoy the blackout more because we used the open fire and wood burner, it wasn’t too cold, and the dark was magical by candlelight. I personally felt more at ease in the house without the power on, but obviously it would be difficult to live full time that way.

  14. Reply
    Amy says

    The power was off with us for about 3 days…I have an electric cooker so was unable to make food/drinks etc. My daughter and I spent the nights cuddled up on my bed playing monopoly by candlelight (as I think many other families also did!! Ha ha). My dad has severe dementia so was worried for him. Have now got a ‘winter box’ packed ready. This includes camping stove, kettle, tins, candles, torches etc. We are fully prepared if anything happens in the future ???. Good luck with the project!

  15. Reply
    Joanne Leeman says

    Our two teenagers were actually angry about the ongoing lack of power and therefore no access to the internet etc. Eventually, we got out a board game, two friends came round and they played for ages in front of the gas fire with candles and blankets. I took a photo it was such a rare event.

    My son and my husband went out on bicycles (to avoid the long queues of traffic) foraging for supplies because we had little food at home that could be cooked on our gas hob. They came home with tall tales of visiting local shops with empty shelves. They eventually found bread and milk and a couple of tins in the little spar in Bare. Apparently, the shop was lit with a few torches and an old woman was wandering around the shop asking for a specific brand of cheese biscuits whilst everyone else was getting what they could!

    I’m was a parish councillor and the local church set up a mini soup kitchen in the church hall in Slyne. We decided, as result of the power cut, to prepare an Emergency Plan and have a group of local volunteers ready and and an emergency store in case it ever happens again. Other Parish Councils have done the same.

    The funniest thing was the house alarm went off in the middle of the night and we couldn’t stop it. We were so embarrassed and got so fed up of it, my husband lent out of the window and chopped it off the wall with a spade!

  16. Reply
    Michelle says

    It was the night that the rain fell, and it fell and it fell. “Don’t worry Mamz” said my boy, “the night may seem long but it won’t last forever.” The ghost of Desmond still haunts those of us who fell victim to the rising waters and the ensuing devastation the storm wreaked. For us it was a night of disaster, terror, adventure and heroism. From the uncertain faces of fire crew who were roped together to wade disappearingly into the black waters to rescue a stranded neighbour, to the full blown horror of a car crashing through our wall to avoid the flood waters, and so helplessly witnessing life ebb away as Desmond stole a mother, a daughter, a lover, leaving instead, her memory marked by a flower on the roadside. Then the silence; no blue lights, no help, no communications, the blackness pierced only the sound of the rain and the lapping waters to which we had become accustomed. A small community alone…… please tell the real story of Desmond.

  17. Reply
    Hannah Haworth says

    We had just put our christmas decorations up, done the grand ‘switch on’ and half an hour later the power cut out. We thought we had tripped the street! We had only electric oven so tried heating water with lots tealight candles (this didnt really work and took about half an hour to make anluke warm tea) We rummaged around the garage for an old radio and were glued to The Bay for updates. The people across the road were offering free hot drinks. It brought out a nice community spirit. When our power was restored we travelled out of town to restock the fridge (sainsburys lancater was still shut). When we returned, the power had gone out again. But luckily for whatever reason our street was still on so no more wasted food. :) Best of luck with your project.

    • Reply
      Helen says

      Thanks Hannah, that’s a lovely (but excruciating) image, trying to get a brew going on tea lights! We’ll be in touch to invite you in to share in more detail if you’d be up for that? Thank you!

  18. Reply
    Aliki Chapple says

    When the power went out, we only had a couple of candles, and the only torch in the house was low on batteries. I remembered learning how basic oil lamps worked, before they had glass chimneys and wicks you could make longer or shorter by turning a wheel, back in ancient times. So we filled some stoneware bowls with vegetable oil, weighed down lengths of twine with screws and washers, dropped them in the oil, and lit the ends, and for three evenings we read and played cards by lamplight. As soon as the shops were open again I went out and bought candles, and now we have a drawer full. I never did buy more batteries for the torch.

    • Reply
      Helen says

      Thank you for sharing this, Aliki! A beautifully resourceful story. We would like to hear more about your lamp lit card games and will be in touch about upcoming workshops in the hope you might be able to join us.

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