Grenfell Anniversary

It was hard to believe it was a year ago that we all woke to the terrible news about the fire at Grenfell Tower – though those in the area had been up all night since it started early in the morning.

Hard to believe too how little has so far been done, at least by Kensington & Chelsea Council, the governemnt and official bodies either for the victims who survived the disaster or to seek out those responsible and to make sure that such a tragedy will never happen again. Clearly the authorities are hoping that the grass will grow long enough in time to hide the crimes that made Grenfell not just possible, but virtually inevitable.

While it is right that the inquiry which finally started should look in depth at what happened, there are so many things that were obvious virtually from the day of the fire, and which we should not be waiting for years for action to be taken. There are things that could have been done virtually immediately. Promises that were made of urgent action – by the Prime Minister and others – which have simply not been kept. There should by now be people in prison, companies paying fines, councillors being banned from public office and more. The system has found it possible to try and jail a few people who tried to make false claims following the disaster, but somehow has not managed to take action against those responsible for it.

Grenfell is not the only block that was waiting for disaster to strike. There are others with the same flammable cladding, others with inadequate fire doors, others with dangerous gas supplies, others without proper water supplies to fight fires, other fire authorities that cuts have lefte without the equipment to properly tackle high rise fires, without the manning levels to tackle major blazes. Others where councils and landlords have been able to avoid adequate safety inspections. Probably Grenfell was an extreme example where a callous council and its TMO managed to bring all of these things together and to hide much of it from public scrutiny, but we should none of us be surprised to wake up to another dreadful news bulletin tomorrow or the next day. Grenfell was a warning that urgent action is needed; 14months on it is still needed.

The community response to the tragedy was immediate and enormous and such a contrast to the authorities who should have done so much more. And more is even now coming out about the poisonous fumes and particles spread about the whole neighbourhood by the fire, which will have affected many more than those who escaped the tower and had to leave the adjoining blocks. Then mental trauma many suffered – including many of the community volunteers – is also becoming more apparent, as is the continuing failure of the local council to respond adequately to the needs of those who suffered.

And the community is still keeping the issues alive by its monthly silent walks, every 14th of the month. The June march was special, marking a year since the disaster, and an estimated 12,000 of us crowded there to make our feelings felt, wearing green fabric to show our solidarity with the victims. It was a moving event and one that was difficult to photograph, not just because of the crowds.

I took so many pictures it’s hard to decide which to put in this post. And I was there not just as a reporter but to show my own support, wearing a green scarf like the others, and for various reasons rather more emotional than usual. Together I think the pictures make a good account of the event, and the captions, some rather longer than usual, add to it.

I left the march at Ladbroke Grove, as the organisers had made clear that the press were not welcome in the park where the march was ending, and walked slowly back to Shepherds Bush, though some of the wealthier parts of the area, feeling there should be millions not just thousands marching, and that we should all be angrier and more determined to see changes. To borrow a slogan we do need a society that works ‘for the many, not for the few’ and one where people’s lives really matter, even if they aren’t among the wealthy elite.

Massive Silent Walk for Grenfell Anniversary


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