Posts Tagged ‘Grenfell’

Another Grenfell protest

Wednesday, November 13th, 2019

It seems increasingly unlikely that we are ever going to see justice for the victims of Grenfell as the establishment use all the tricks in their book to protect those responsible.

Perhaps in the end after years of purposefully drawn out inquiry by police and judges a few small companies will be found guilty of failing to follow some aspects of building regulations and be given insignificant fines, though I doubt even that. But the real culprits seem almost certain to escape scot-free.

THe RCG have a fine banner by Andrew Cooper

So far we have only seen the first stage of the official  Grenfell Tower Inquiry which appears to have been a travesty, with the judge shifting blame on those responsible for fighting the fire and coming to a conclusion that not only flies in the face of what experienced fire-fighters say, including those who were there on the night, but could well lead to more deaths in other high-rise fires. People are almost certain given the publicity by the report to die in some future fires because they try to escape rather than staying safe in their homes. And quite clearly had the idiotic Jacob Rees Mogg lived in Grenfell he and his family would have died there.

These blocks – Grenfell included – only got approval on the basis that any fire would be contained within a flat and would be expected to be able to burn itself out even if fire-fighters did not attend. Building regulations made sure that this was the case, and the towers were built to enable any firest that did occur to be safely fought from within the building. The flats were essentially small self-contained concrete units, isolated from each other, with dry risers to supply water on the landings when needed and smoke traps.

Simon Elmer of ASH who produced a report on Grenfell

The blame for Grenfell lies squarely with the government ministers who altered the regulations and allowed building owners to make their own fire inspections, with owners who saved money by arranging inadequate inspections and employing contractors to add unsuitable cladding and otherwise compromise the building safety. Contractors too bear some resposiblity for agreeing to install unsafe cladding and for doing so in a way which removed the gaps essential for safety.

Another small left-wing group declined the offer to join the RCG protest

Kensington & Chelsea Council and its TMO must bear the main responsibility for this particular building, with councillors and others taking the decisions which made the building a fire-trap. They were more than incompetent, bullying those who informed them of some of the problems.

The council too failed to properly deal with the survivors, despite some extravagant promises made in the early days after the fire by Theresa May and others. A full year after the fire only 41% of the households from Grenfell Tower and adjoining Grenfell walk had been permanently re-housed. Of those in the wider affected area, 29% had been able to return to their homes and 1% – one family – permanently rehoused. The other 70% (90 families) were still in some form of temporary accomodation. This despite Kensington & Chelsea being one of the wealthiest boroughs in the country.

Many of those most closely involved are still suffering intensely from trauma and both initial relief and counselling were other areas where the council and other official response are felt by many to have been inadequate – and put to shame by the community response. As an outsider I don’t feel entitled to comment, though I’ve certainly heard the pain expressed by some of the community.

People pose on the council steps at the end of the RCG protest

Various groups formed after the fire, some with more support among the victims and wider community than others. Although all have I think taken part in the monthly silent walks which aim to keep the memory of the events alive, there have been arguments with some groups urging a more radical stance is needed to get action.

Two of these groups, both relatively small, had come to protest at the Kensington & Chelsea town hall outside the council meeting. I had gone to photograph the protest by the Revolutionary Communist Group who have run street stalls on Ladbroke Grove close to Grenfell and organised other protests in the area as well as taking part in the silent walks. As well as their own speakers they had invited others to talk, and as main speaker Simon Elmer of Architects for Social Housing, whose report and film produced within a few weeks of the fire remains the most authorative account of the reasons why Grenfell was a tragedy waiting to happen.

More at No Justice for Grenfell


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Grenfell Solidarity March

Saturday, November 2nd, 2019

Grenfell was very much on our minds in the middle of June, around the second anniversary of the fire in which at least 72 people died, as it is now with the publication of the first part of the Grenfell Inquiry report. As well as the monthly silent march close to the tower on the actual anniversary, there was also a solidarity march the following day in Westminster.

Grenfell tower was built to resist the spread of fire. A fire in any single flat should have been confined to that flat for two hours, with a door designed to resist fire for at least an hour and a half. It had a single staircase that should have remained smoke free for two hours, allowing the safe exit of residents and for firefighters to climb up to fight the fire and rescue those living there.

Had Grenfell been properly maintained and kept as designed there would have been no deaths. The tower was designed so that the ‘Stay Put’ policy was safe, but the building had been altered in various ways – including but not only the addition of highly flammable and incorrectly installed cladding – which made it a death trap. Residents had pointed this out to before the fire, but their complaints had been ignored and those making them threatened.

Had the building been properly inspected these faults would almost certainly have become clear. But we had a government that considered safety regulations as “red tape” and saw inspections as an opportunity for private enterprise rather than public good. And the owners and managers of the building were interested in cutting costs and making it look more attractive to people on the outside rather than any concern about the safety of the residents.

The fire at Grenfell should have been a minor incident, quickly dealt with and causing no injuries of death, rather than the inferno we saw which killed so many. The inquiry suggestion that more could have been saved had the ‘stay put’ policy been abandoned earlier appears unsound. Had there been no such policy in place at the start of the fire more might well have escaped, but it is a general policy in place across all high rise residential buildings designed and built to the same standards as Grenfell and for good reason.

It’s failure at Grenfell was not the fault of the fire brigade, and by the time it was clear to firefighters that the building had failed the staircase, the only means of escape was filled with dense toxic smoke. Firefighters needed breathing apparatus and risked their lives to try and rescue those trapped inside. The inquiry report seems to deliberately contradict the evidence of experts including those who were actually there fighting the fire.

Many firefighters were at this march, including some who had risked their lives to save those inside Grenfell, but many more from around Britain. There are legitimate criticisms in the report about the equipment they had, though these are largely down to cuts made by the government and London Mayor Boris Johnson rather than the fire chiefs. The FBU had certainly warned that the cuts would mean more people dying and this event proved them right. Firefighters going into the building knew they were risking their lives – and as they went in were instructed to write their names on their helmets to make their dead or unconscious bodies recognisable. Thanks to their skill and training – and luck – no firefighters died and they rescued many.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Grenfell scapegoat scandal

Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

I hadn’t expected much of the official report into the Grenfell fire, but was still shocked when details of it were released that is was so clear and determined an attempt to shift blame onto the London Fire Brigade. Monumental scapegoating is no way to get at the truth, and hindsight is always cheap.

Had the LFB known what people in the TMO and Kensington and Chelsea council responsible for the cladding and the failure to properly maintain the building knew – and that the complaints by residents about fire safety had been ignored – or worse, they could be blamed for incorrect advice. But the council had deliberately hidden the truth about the building.

The Tory government too had played its part, cutting what it described as “red tape” over building regulations and allowing private companies to carry out essential safety inspections at cut price, which at best meant cutting corners and at worst simply not doing the job.

It was Boris Johnson as London Mayor who made sweeping cuts to the LFB, severely diminishing their capability to deal with fires such as this. Despite the number of high rise properties in London the service had to call on Surrey for an engine capable of dealing with a building of this height. Firefighters protested on the streets against the cuts to their capabilities driven by a Tory government and the Mayor.

Protest against closing fire stations in 2013

You can read the comments of an experienced and now retired fire-fighter on the “Stay Put” policy, who states he has attended “dozens upon dozens of fires in high rise residential buildings.” These buildings are designed to contain any fire within one flat, and would normally burn themselves out even without the fire brigade turning up. It didn’t work at Grenfell mainly becuase the building had been covered by cladding which some have described as “like petrol“. But the LFB didn’t know that. SteveDude68’s post includes a telling photograph of a serious high-rise fire he was in command of tackling in Bow in July 2018, “much more serious at the outset (than Grenfell) but extinguished within 20 minutes. ” Flames and a huge plume of black smoke pour out of the windows of the one flat, but nothing from the rest of the tower. Contrast this with the pictures of Grenfell.

It shouldn’t have taken this long to get at the truth about the fire – and of course it didn’t. Architects for Social Housing released their report The Truth about Grenfell Tower around 5 weeks after the disaster, and little has changed since then. After a similar fire in Japan, those responsible were in court just over a month later.

I’ll end with a quote from a comment today from the Facebook group Grenfell – The truth is out there :

Please remember the names of those directly responsible for what happened:
RYDON
ARCONIC
EXOVA
CEP
KCTMO
Please remember that the residents warned the KCTMO for years about their concerns.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Grenfell – 2 Years on

Sunday, October 27th, 2019
Just Us – the community has responded to the disaster while council and government mouth empty promises and attempt to let long grass grow over Grenfell

Thousands walked in silence from close to Grenfell Tower remembering the victims of the disaster on the second anniversary of the disastrous fire which killed 72 and left survivors traumatised.

Some people brought flowers to mark the occasion

Promises made by Theresa May and her government and Kensington & Chelsea council have not been kept and the inquiry seems to be simply providing an excuse for inaction and passing blame onto the fire-fighters who risked their lives to save people. There have been no arrests, no prosecutions, no improved building regulations and few buildings have had unsafe cladding removed.

and many – including this photographer – wore green scarves for Grenfell

The community feels failed and abandoned by the authorities and angry that Grenfell victim Reis Morris in jail for the anniversary after an angry exchange with a fire chief over the flammable plastic cladding on the building in which the traumatised campaigner who lost a relative in the fire put his hands around the fire chief’s neck.

Grenfell Tower has been covered up, but the community refuses to let the atrocity be covered up
Some carried portraits of the victims who died in what was the largest mass killing in this country since the war
but one for which no one has yet been brought to justice.

A large slogan on the bridge over Ladbroke Grove stated “In The Face Of Injustice Anger Is Justified – #IamReis Morris – #JusticeforGrenfell“.

More pictures on My London Diary: Grenfell Silent Walk – 2 Years on.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


Carnival Time

Sunday, August 25th, 2019

Today is the first day of Carnival, but I’m almost resigned to not going. My legs really won’t take it any more and I’m only just getting over a few hours slow walking last Wednesday, though I was out taking pictures again yesterday. This year I got as far as planning my route, complicated by rail closures today on two lines that I would normally use, but I’m not going to make it. The nearest I’m likely to get is a can of Red Stripe.

It took me 25 years to get to Notting Hill Carnival for the first time in 1990, partly because for the first few years it was a relatively small and poorly publicised event but later because of the demonisation it suffered in our largely racist press.

By 1990 I was becoming increasingly interested in documenting London as a multicultural city and knew I had to photograph carnival, so set out still with some trepidation and anxious warnings from friends. I loved the noise and the atmosphere and the colour, so of course I photographed it in black and white!

I continued to go back for the next 20 or so years, usually going for both days, and it became one of the highlights of my photographic year. I think there was perhaps a year or two when I was out of the country at August Bank holiday, and in 2005 I was suffering from a knee problem. I packed my photographic bag – always a small one for carnival – and dragged myself the 500 yards to the station, climbed up the bridge to get to the right platform and collapsed to the ground in pain. It was only then I realised that there was no way I was going to make it, rested for a few minutes and then hobbled my way slowly home.

I did allow myself to photograph in colour some years, but I found it a distraction and I think my best pictures are black and white. Some years too I took a panoramic camera too, loaded with colour film, and I felt its wide sweep enabled me to capture more of the atmosphere of the carnival procession. One of those images ended up being printed huge with a doorway people could walk through as an entrance to a museum exhibition; I was delighted to see it used but felt it didn’t improve the picture.

Rather to my surprise I find it’s 7 years since I last went to carnival, and on My London Diary I then wrote:

But either I’m getting too old for it, or perhaps carnival is changing, and this year I found it a little difficult. So I went on the Sunday, stayed around three hours and didn’t really want to return for the big day. So I didn’t.

But I am thinking about Notting Hill today, and about North Kensington in particular. Although I haven’t been to carnival I have made quite a few visits there over the past couple of years, and I’ve set an alarm and like carnival I will stop at 3pm for a period of silence to remember Grenfell.

You can see more pictures from several years at Carnival on My London Diary, but my favourite selection of the black and white work is a set of 20 pictures from the show English Carnival with three friends at the Juggler in Hoxton in 2008 from which the black and white images above come.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.


June 2019 – My London Diary

Wednesday, July 31st, 2019

June turned to be a very long month for me. The main event was the second anniversary of the Grenfell disaster, with another silent march, but there were also several other related events. And like many I’m feeling pretty fed up with how things are going politically, particularly over Brexit and despondent about the continuing failure of our politicians to take the climate and ecological catastrophe seriously.

June 2019

Algerians Protest for Freedom

Forest Gayte Pride celebrates Stonewall 50
Remember Cecil the magnificent lion
Global March For Whales

No Justice for Grenfell
Don’t Attack Iran
Viva! protest Coca-Cola Dairy Farm
End torture in Balochistan
Operation Shutdown against Knife Crime
Condoms Cut Carbon
SODEM Steve’s 50th Birthday

Time Is Now Walk of Witness
Against Hindu Fascism in India
Earls Court – Boris’s Biggest Blunder?
Students Friday Climate Strike
Against Farage and Turning Point UK
Extinction Rebellion Dinner of HOPE
City and Temple of Mithras
Free Algerian trade unionist Louisa Hanoune

Hands off Sudan march
‘We are the Love’ for Idlib
Grenfell Solidarity March
Staines, Heathrow, Bedfont
Grenfell Silent Walk – 2 Years on
Rally to end Live Animal Transport
Never Forget Never Forgive SOAS
London World Naked Bike Ride

Close all Slaughterhouses
Sodem ‘Stop Brexit’ Protests continue
Parliament Debates Grenfell 2 Years On
Thousands protest against Trump
Osterley Park
Zionists protest against Al Quds

Al Quds Day march
Cleaners at Hilton Doubletree Hotel
UVW celebrate LLW at Chanel
Canal Panoramas

London Images


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

There are no adverts on this site and it receives no sponsorship, and I like to keep it that way. But it does take a considerable amount of my time and thought, and if you enjoy reading it, a small donation – perhaps the cost of a beer – would be appreciated.