Posts Tagged ‘Grenfell fire’

Grenfell Six Months On – 2017

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

Today it is four and a half years after the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower which began early in the morning of 14th June 2017, killing 72 people and injuring over 70 others. And many or all of those who escaped will suffer from both physical and mental effects of the night for the rest of their lives, as too will many of the firefighters and other emergency workers.

The pictures here come from the monthly slow and silent walk to demand justice and remembering those killed at Grenfell Tower six months after the fire on Thursday 14th December 2017.

The fire was an event waiting to happen, and warnings of the danger by residents and neighbours had been ignored by the building managers. The reasons the fire spread as it did were almost immediately obvious and rapidly published including the report by Architects For Social Housing, The Truth about Grenfell Tower which came out around five weeks later.

Rather than take action against those responsible, a public inquiry was set up, and began three months later. It’s main effect has been to delay justice, and its first sessions and report were largely devoted in trying to shift blame on to London Fire Brigade, whose efforts on the night had showed incredible determination and bravery.

Cuts in the London Fire Service made by Boris Johnson when he was London Mayor had left them both understaffed and under-equipped, while earlier privatisation of some of the fire inspection and certification allowed dangerous conditions of buildings including this to go unchecked. The LFB did not have a suitable fire engine for dealing with the high rise fire, and one had to be brought from Surrey.

Governments of both parties over the years had weakened the regulations and inspections in the name of ‘cutting red tape’, responding to lobbying from the building industry, which allowed both highly flammable cladding to be use, and also for it to be incorrectly installed without essential safety gaps.

With tall blocks that meet proper safety standards a fire like this which began with a faulty refrigerator in a single flat would have been contained within that single flat. Many such fires have taken place and been contained, sometimes with most other residents of the building being completely unaware of them. Had Grenfell not been wrongly fitted with unsuitable cladding this would have been the case here, though there were also other problems particularly with the stairways and dry riser that made escape and fighting the fire much more dangerous.

Had the LFB been aware of the problems they were to face things would have been very different (and they would have called for the building to be shut down and the faults rectified.) But they arrived at the fire ignorant of the many defects, and were met with a situation which was for them unprecedented. With hindsight it is possible to say they could have made a decision to go against all their training on fires in tall blocks and try to evacuate the building earlier, but I think it unfair to blame them for not doing so.

The public inquiry continues, and has shed some more light on the details of the crimes that led to those 72 deaths, but seems mainly to have been taken up by those eager to shift responsibility from their actions to others.

Tonight, 14th December 2021, four and a half years later, another silent walk will take place, gathering at Kensington Town Hall at 6pm to start at 6.30pm. This is the first for 18 months due to Covid. The invitation from Grenfell United states:

“We invite you to join us on our Silent Walk in our campaign for Justice.

To show those responsible we are not going anywhere until we have real Change and Justice. So another Grenfell never happens again.”

Grenfell United

More about the walk in 2017: Grenfell Silent Walk – 6 months on


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Landlords, Turkey in Syria, Grenfell

Wednesday, April 14th, 2021

In 2018 I began the day on 14th April with a tour of some of the plushiest areas of London on a tour led by the Land Justice Network. Land ownership in Britain, both in urban and rural areas is among the most unequal across the world.

As I noted on My London Diary:

Unequal ownership of land is the basis of the class system and the aggregation of wealth and inequality that have led to our present crisis levels of homelessness and degradation. Largely beginning with the Norman conquest, the battles over land have continued over the centuries, with the enclosure of common land and the current redevelopment of public land, particularly council estates, as private housing for the wealthy.

The Landlords’ Game

Much of the London Borough of Westminster is owned by the Duke of Westminster, and our tour stopped for informational speeches at various points in Mayfair and Park Lane, part of the Grosvenor Estate, now “an internationally diversified property group” founded in 1677 when Sir Thomas Grosvenor, whose family owned large areas in Cheshire, married the heiress of the manor of Ebury, which included much of what is now Mayfair, Belgravia and Pimlico. Wikipedia has a long list of the other properties around the world the group now own, and the 7th Duke of Westminster and is family fortunes is estimated at £10.1 billion – now 30, he was until his recent birthday the world’s richest person under 30.

The tour ended in another of the huge London estates, the Cadogan estate owned by the Cadogan family, which Wikipedia states covers 93 acres of Kensington & Chelsea and came from the daughter of Sir Hans Sloane who had bought the Manor of Chelsea in 1712 marrying the second Baron Cadogan. The family is said to be worth £6.7 billion.

I left the tour as it was coming to an end to walk back to Belgrave Square, named after one of the Cheshire villages owned by the Grosvenor family, where Hizb Ut-Tahrir Britain were protesting outside the Turkish Embassy against Turkish complicity in handing Syria back to Assad. Their criticisms of Turkey go back to the 1922 abolition of the Ottoman state and the Turkish recognition of the Zionist occupation of Palestine in 1949, and they see the Palestinian struggle for freedom as a part of the fight for an Islamic Caliphate across the Middle East.

But it was the 14th of the month and I was on my way to the monthly protests calling for justice over the fire which killed over 70 people at Grenfell tower. These protests have been silent marches, but the first event on this day at Kensington Town Hall was far from silent as bikers from the Ace Café including Muslim bikers Deen Riders and others taking part in a United Ride 4 Grenfell, from the Café on the North Circular Rd, riding to Parliament and then to Kensington Town Hall roared past the waiting marchers.

Coming up to four years later, we have still to see any justice over Grenfell, where the failures of the Kensington & Chelsea Council to have any real regard for the safety of residents, and by those who recommended unsafe materials and carried out the improper installation, those who gave false safety certificates, the politicians who decided essential safety measures were ‘red tape’ that should be cut, the Mayor who cut the fire service and others have not yet led to any prosecutions.

So far the prolonged enquiry has simply tried to shift blame onto the fire service, with unfair criticism of their incredible efforts to save victims and seems more and more to be a way to ensure that most of those who should bear responsibility escape scot-free. I’m not convinced that these silent walks are the best way to bring pressure to get some action – but at least on this day the bikers made some noise.

I went with the marchers for a short distance as they silently made their way back towards Grenfell, and then left. It had been a long day and I had much work to do to at home, filing my pictures of the events.

Grenfell silent walk – 10 months on
Bikers for Grenfell
Hizb Ut-Tahrir protest against Turkey
The Landlords’ Game


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.


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


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