Grenfell: still mourning, still fighting

Friday 14 June 2019 marks the two-year anniversary of the Grenfell tower fire. The bereaved, survivors, the community and their supporters will be gathering to march in silence, as they have on the 14th day of every month since the fire. 

As the fight for justice continues, we publish photographs by Steve Eason from the past two years of marches, and a poem by Anna Roderick written in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

14 June 2018. Photo: Steve Eason

The community and supporters will gather at 7pm at Notting Hill Methodist church for a multi-faith vigil and the silent walk will start at 7.45pm. It will be followed by speeches. 

They will be remembering the 72 who died that night. Together we will continue to fight for justice, not only for this community, but for everyone forced to live in unsafe and inadequate housing, or without a home at all, and all those subject to criminal neglect and harassment by the police and immigration officials.

2017

14 October 2017. Photo: Steve Eason
14 December 2017. Photo: Steve Eason

2018

14 April 2018. Photo: Steve Eason
14 June 2018. Photo: Steve Eason
14 December 2018. Photo: Steve Eason

2019

14 Februay 2019. Photo: Steve Eason
14 February 2019. Photo: Steve Eason

Grenfell

by Anna Roderick 

The average salary in the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea is £123,000, the highest in the country. The median salary is £32,700.

You are burning £50 notes and swigging champagne.

No other area in the country has a larger disparity between median and mean incomes, suggesting a large gap between rich and poor.

You are eating your lunch, your mouth full of charcoal.

‘We paid a lot of money to live here, and we worked hard for it. Now these people are going to come along, and they won’t even be paying the service charge.’

You return home and your children have set fire to their toys.

‘You can write what you like, but trust me, money rules the world. People like me are going to live here? Never.’

You are divining the future from a burnt rat’s entrails.

The materials used were chosen ‘to accord with the development plan by ensuring that the character and appearance of the area are preserved and living conditions of those living near the development suitably protected.’

You are waking to find that your bed sheets are scorched.

If people burning to death in their homes because of failures of the state isn’t political then frankly I do not know what is.

You are drawing up plans, then burning the evidence.

The local authority will, in the public interest, be under severe pressure to be seen to be taking action following a disaster. Whilst this is honourable, there is a need to recognise the limits of any duties and moral obligations in the context of the wider financial picture.

You are striking a match and then watching it burn.

What if there is a fire elsewhere in my building?
If there is a fire elsewhere in the building then the structure of the building (walls, floors and doors) are designed to give you a minimum of 30-60 minutes protection, enabling you to remain in your flat whilst the Fire Service extinguish it.
If there is a fire elsewhere in your building then you are usually safer to stay in your flat unless the heat or smoke from the fire is affecting you.

You are waiting for a mob bearing pitchforks and torches.

Why don’t I have a fire escape in my building, and only one way out?
Many residential tower blocks are constructed with a single staircase. This design for high rise buildings dates back to the 1950s, and it is still an accepted method of construction under current Building Regulation guidance.
The principle, in single staircase blocks, is that each individual flat forms a fire resistant compartment to contain the fire and the communal stair is protected by fire doors to enable it to be used for prolonged periods of time.

You are using your bones and your breath as a firebreak.

Brutalism:

is this what Le Corbusier meant?

You are trying to make art, there is blood on your hands.

Papa, il grattacielo sta bruciando

You gave birth to a baby, you named her inferno.

We helped a Somali man who had been waiting for an asylum decision, and obviously he lost all his papers in the fire…We haven’t even established the number of victims yet and who they are. We know from our community contacts that Moroccans who were not on any of the lists, Sudanese, Eritrean and Ethiopian families who are not on any of the lists.

You rose from the sea and still the flames claimed you.

People felt during the Blitz that they were expected to take it, especially the working class population, who got the roughest of the Blitz because they lived near where they worked, near factories or the docks, and often in houses not very well built. They felt they suffered a lot and the government owed them.

You are watching the sun set, it flickers and finds you.

You are building a bonfire from plastic and concrete.

One young survivor of the blast described his shock the next day when the school’s headmaster read the register – this figure of authority wept openly every time he called out a name and no answer was given.

You are scratching their names with a stick in the ashes.

‘If you’re going to go to such a tragic area, pay respect, console people, talk to people, don’t just use that opportunity as a ‘selfie moment’ or act like it’s a party turning up in bright clothes and fresh trainers like it’s Notting Hill Carnival and chasing girls to get their numbers.’

You are wailing a poem you made out of kindling.

In the Second World War, a stray bomb hit South Hallsville School in Canning Town. This bomb, according to official figures, killed around 77 people. It is now believed that almost 600 people died when the building was destroyed.

You are speaking in tongues, your lips are aflame.
You are holding a hand: when you look
it is gone.

 

Sources include: David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, Twitter; ‘Recovery: An Emergency Management Guide’ The Home Office; ‘London fire: A visual guide to what happened at Grenfell Tower’ BBC 21st June 2017; Circle.org.uk Fire Safety Advice for Tenants, 23rd June 2017; unnamed resident of Kensington Row; Edmond, Albanian laying parquet flooring in Kensington Row; La Republicca, 15th June 2017; Wayne Kilo Lewis; Did the Blitz really Unify Britain? BBC magazine 8th September 2010; Poplar Upper North Street School Disaster, eastlondonhistory.co.uk; Zrinka Bralo – Migrants Organise; ‘Tééré’ from the series ‘Dwelling:in this space we breathe.’, Khadija Saye

Republished with permission from the author. Originally published at Poetry School.

See also

Justice4Grenfell campaign site.

Facebook page for the monthly silent walks.

Will Searby, ‘Grenfell and the instrumentalisation of suffering’ rs21.org.uk (20 June 2017).

A firefighter’s account of the Grenfell fire, republished on Michael Rosen’s blog.

Fire Brigade Union’s Grenfell: Never Again campaign.

14 January 2018. Photo: Steve Eason

 

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here