Posts Tagged ‘LFB’

15th June 2019

Tuesday, June 15th, 2021

Grenfell protest at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government

Saturday 15th July was one of those days when my local station has no trains. I don’t think it used to happen, or at least only very rarely, before we privatised the railways, but it seems to be happening on quite a few weekends every year now. At first when these weekends began there was complete chaos, with unmarked rail replacement buses where the only way to find out if they were going the right way for you was to ask the driver, who usually knew, though often didn’t know how to get there and had to send a call out to passengers asking if anyone knew where the station was.

Closed Fire Station in Ashford

One one memorable occasion a passenger directed a double-decker down a road that, although it was the route I might have walked, narrows halfway down to rather less than bus width. After a very tricky and lengthy reverse we got back to the main road and drove on, past the correct turning. I and other passengers jumped out of our seats to tell the driver. He drove on, looking desperately for somewhere to turn the bus in busy narrow streets, finally doing a 3 or 4 point turn where the main road widened a little almost a mile on. This time as we cam back we made sure he turned left at the correct point.

Grenfell – 72 Dead and still no arrests How Come?

After a few such incidents, things did get sorted out more, but still too often the rail replacement bus arrived a couple of minutes late and missed its supposed connection – apparently no one had the authority to hold it for the bus. A journey that usually took 35 minutes often ended up close to two hours (and I’d face similar chaos on the way home.) So unless there was something really important to photograph I often stayed home.

Yvette Williams demanding the Truth and Justice For Grenfell

My alternative was to take a bus to Heathrow or Hatton Cross where I could join the Underground, and this became more viable once I could simply swipe a credit card to pay for the ride. It was still a slow journey, but more reliable than the rail replacement lottery. And on Saturday 15 June I took the bus and made a few pictures on the way from the upper deck.

It was the day after the second anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire in which 72 people died, and Justice For Grenfell had organised a solidarity march, starting and finishing at Downing St. After some speeches at Downing St, we marched to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government offices in the Home Office building to protest there, with a few more speeches before leaving to march back to Downing St for a final rally.

The event was supported by housing and building safety campaigners including Defend Council Housing and by branches of the Fire Brigades Union from around the UK.

As I walked through Parliament Square on my way to take the tube to another protest, I stopped briefly to photograph two events there. One was ‘We are the Love’ for Idlib inspired by the Black Eyed Peas song Where’s the love? to raise awareness about the massacre currently unfolding in the province of Idlib in Syria. Just along from this line of people holding large cards each with a letter of their message, and a drummer and a piper, was a small and quieter protest about the wrongful conviction of Brendan Dassey and his uncle, Steven Avery for the murder of Teresa Halbach in Wisconsin in 2005. The long and convoluted case which reflects badly on both the local police and the US legal system was the subject of a lenghty TV series.

By now I thought I would be too late to join the Hands Off Sudan march at its start at the UAE Embassy and guessed they might have got as far as the Egyptian Embassy, but when I arrived found just a few there waiting for the march. So I began to walk back on what I thought might be their route. I heard them before I could see them as I walked across Hyde Park corner, and the large and noisy crowd emerged from Grosvenor Cresecent as I turned down Grosvenor Place.

They were protesting after 124 peaceful protesters were massacred by Janjaweed militias (Rapid Support Forces) in Khartoum. Protests had begun in December and appeared to be causing a peaceful transition to democracy, removing corrupt president al-Bashir, until the heads of the ruling military council visited Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, all countries opposed to a democratic Sudan – and today’s march was going to each of their embassies.

The marchers seemed to be stopping every few yards around Hyde Park Corner and singing and dancing and shouting slogans. Half an hour after I met them they had only moved on a few hundred yards are were slowly making their way up Park Lane. I felt I had taken enough photographs and went back to Hyde Park Corner for the slow journey home via Hatton Cross.

Hands off Sudan march
‘We are the Love’ for Idlib
Grenfell Solidarity March
Staines, Heathrow, Bedfont


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.


Grenfell 4 Years On – Still No Justice

Monday, June 14th, 2021

Like many I woke up on the morning of 14th June 2017 to the news of a terrible fire that had engulfed a tower block in North Kensington with horrific stories of the death of so many trapped in the building, particularly on its upper floors. It had begun early in the morning after I had gone to bed and switched off my computer and phone, so I hadn’t got the text from an agency asking if I could go there. Clearly by the time I woke up to the morning news the area was swamped by the media and I decided not to add to the pressure on the survivors and the local residents who were traumatised by what they had seen and heard.

I was shocked by the news, but not surprised. It came after years when the government – particularly the coalition, but others too – had been attacking health and safety measures as ‘red tape’ and making cuts to the fire service, particularly in London, that I’d reported on. And after years of attacks by local and national governments on social housing. Though I was shocked to find that the London Fire Service, thanks to cuts made by the London Mayor Boris Johnson, now longer had an appliance to deal with fires in such high-rise buildings and had to call on the neighbouring suburban Surrey Fire Services for one.

I then knew enough about the design of such towers to understand that this fire should not have been possible. If design and building regulations had been followed it should have been confined to the flat were it started and quickly burned out. Instead the videos clearly showed its rapid spread up the outside of the buildings.

It took only a few weeks for the basic facts behind the fire to be discovered, with Architects for Social Housing in particular producing a straightforward account of the many faults, The Truth about Grenfell Tower on July 21st. Their report not only identified the various faults in the type of cladding and in particular its incorrect installation, but also of the lack of proper oversight in large schemes such as this and the culpability of local councillors and officers.

An unnamed senior architect stated at the end of a lengthy comment to ASH,

‘Since PFI was introduced by Thatcher we have a legacy of hundreds, if not thousands, of sub-standard buildings – schools, hospitals, police stations, etc – that the taxpayer is still paying extortionate rents for under the terms of the 30-year lease-back deal that is PFI. This is her legacy of cosy relationships between local authorities, quangos and their chummy contractors. It is a culture of de-regulation, of private profit before public good. Thomas Dan Smith, the Leader of Newcastle City Council from 1960 to 1965, went to gaol in 1974 for dodgy dealings with local authorities in property development, albeit from a different motivation; but what the public must demand and get now over the Grenfell Tower fire are criminal convictions, and soon.’

https://architectsforsocialhousing.co.uk/2017/07/21/the-truth-about-grenfell-tower-a-report-by-architects-for-social-housing/

What should have followed in the next few months was the criminal trial of those responsible, after which there could perhaps have been a public inquiry in particular looking at the lessons to be learnt and the changes in laws required. Instead we got the usual empty rhetoric from politicians and and public inquiry that was set up in September 2017 but only began taking evidence in June 2018. Much of its first phase was concerned with trying to transfer responsibility from the faults of the building and those responsible for it onto the London Fire Brigade, who had acted heroically on the night and managed to rescue many, and in particular to demonises LFB’s Dany Cotton, who shortly afterwards took early retirement.

This report by retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, selected by Theresa May to lead the enquiry should and hopefully will be seen as an incredible indictment of our public inquiry system, which seems to exist to push issues into the very long grass and allow the guilty to escape any real judgement allowing them to spend millions on barristers to muddy the waters and save their skins. The firefighters and the survivors don’t have that protection.

The enquiry continues with some startling testimonies from those responsible for the defective refurbishment and councillors and officers as well as from residents. So far these broadly repeat and support the conclusions of the July 2017 ASH report – but it has taken almost 4 years longer. It’s hard to read some of the testimonies and not think that person should be in jail. But the chances of any justice for Grenfell still seem remote.

In the days after the fire I went on several protests and four days later made my way to see for myself and, like others pay my respects to the dead. The pictures with this article are from that visit. Since I’ve returned for some of the monthly silent walks and other protests in the area, though these have been suspended for Covid.


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.