Grenfell, Six Months On: The Four Fathers’ New Song Remembering Those Who Lost Their Lives and Calling for Those Responsible to be Held Accountable

16.12.17

A screenshot from the video of The Four Fathers performing 'Grenfell' - with added titles.Before June 14 this year, anyone reflecting on the skyline of London would think about the Shard, the Gherkin, One Canada Square, the ostentatious towers of the face of modern capitalism; on the morning of June 14, however, a new vision of a tower was seared into the nation’s memory — the charred, still-smoking remains of Grenfell Tower, a 24-storey residential tower block in North Kensington, in west London, consumed in an overnight inferno with the loss of 71 lives.

The Grenfell Tower fire was entirely preventable. Designed so that each flat would be able to withstand fire until the emergency services arrived, the tower’s structural integrity was destroyed when it was given new cladding — through holes made in the body of the tower, through the use of flammable cladding to save money, and through the gaps behind the cladding that facilitated the extraordinarily swift spread of the fire. At every level, it seems clear — central government, local government, the devolved management responsible for Kensington & Chelsea’s social housing, and the various contractors involved in maintenance and refurbishment — safety standards were eroded or done away with completely,

When I wrote about the fire just two days later, I was deeply shocked to discover that the disaster had been foretold by residents in the Grenfell Action Group, who had stated in a post in November 2016, “It is a truly terrifying thought but the Grenfell Action Group firmly believe that only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord, the  KCTMO [Kensington & Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation], and bring an end to the dangerous living conditions and neglect of health and safety legislation that they inflict upon their tenants and leaseholders. We believe that the KCTMO are an evil, unprincipled, mini-mafia who have no business to be charged with the responsibility of  looking after the every day management of large scale social housing estates and that their sordid collusion with the RBKC Council is a recipe for a future major disaster.”

The author of the post also stated, “Unfortunately, the Grenfell Action Group have reached the conclusion that only an incident that results in serious loss of life of KCTMO residents will allow the external scrutiny to occur that will shine a light on the practices that characterise the malign governance of this non-functioning organisation.”

I have followed the Grenfell story ever since, attending ‘The Truth About Grenfell Tower’, a meeting called by Architects for Social Housing (ASH) the week after, where I met filmmaker Nikita Woolfe, who filmed the meeting (which has had over 15,000 views on YouTube), and who, afterwards, got me involved as the narrator of her documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, which looks at the demolition of council estates, and the resistance of residents, and which also looks at Grenfell.

I also wrote a song over the summer, for my band The Four Fathers, and at the end of October a German TV crew filmed us playing it live. Niki then edited it, and we released it yesterday, to mark six months since the Grenfell fire. That anniversary was on Thursday, but I wasn’t able to post it then, because I travelled across London to Grenfell to take part in a Silent Walk, a moving memorial event that takes place on the 14th of every month. A photo I took is here.

Please see below for the video of ‘Grenfell’ on YouTube — and please note that it’s also available on Facebook here. If you like it, please share it far and wide!

Grenfell was in the news on Thursday, because there was a memorial service in St. Paul’s Cathedral, and because members of the Royal Family turned up, but although that indicates the extent to which the British establishment has been stung by the loss of life, the disaster, and the lessons to be learned from it, may well slip off the radar again, and those of us who care about the residents who lost their lives, and about the survivors, and who see the fire as the most horrendous example of what happens when those responsible for social housing “only count the profit not the human cost”, as I describe it in the song, will need to be vigilant to make sure that it is not sidelined by the many people in positions of power an influence who share the responsibility for what happened on June 14.

Six months after the disaster, it is shocking to realise that 80% of those who lost their homes have not been permanently rehoused, and, although the official public inquiry began this week, with Michael Mansfield QC calling it “a national atrocity”, a petition to Parliament, on behalf of “bereaved families and survivors”, which currently has over 20,000 signatures, calls on Theresa May “to exercise her powers under the Inquiries Act 2005 to appoint additional panel members with decision making power to sit alongside [the] Chair in [the] Grenfell Tower Inquiry, to ensure those affected have confidence in [and] are willing to fully participate in the Inquiry.”

The suspicions were endorsed by a Guardian editorial, which claimed that the government “appears to want a narrow investigation of the technical failings that led to the catastrophic fire in west London”, which “will only add to the families’ sense of neglect.” The editorial came a day after a report that the Equality and Human Rights Commission is launching its own Grenfell fire inquiry, while the Metropolitan Police admitted that its own investigation “is unlikely to be completed until 2019 at the earliest and could take years.”

A list of all those who died can be found here. Let them never be forgotten.

Note: The Four Fathers hope to record ‘Grenfell’ in a studio in the new year. For now, however, please check out our new album, ‘How Much Is A Life Worth?‘ on Bandcamp, to buy on CD or as a download — or you can just listen to it.

Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer, film-maker and singer-songwriter (the lead singer and main songwriter for the London-based band The Four Fathers, whose music is available via Bandcamp). He is the co-founder of the Close Guantánamo campaign (and the Donald Trump No! Please Close Guantánamo initiative, launched in January 2017), the co-director of We Stand With Shaker, which called for the release from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer, the last British resident in the prison (finally freed on October 30, 2015), and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by the University of Chicago Press in the US, and available from Amazon, including a Kindle edition — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).

To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the six-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and The Complete Guantánamo Files, an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

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One Response

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Here’s my latest article, promoting the new video by my band The Four Fathers, of us playing ‘Grenfell’, which we released yesterday on YouTube and Facebook. It’s my lament for the Grenfell Tower fire in June, an entirely preventable disaster in which 71 people died, and we also call for those responsible to be held accountable. We released it to mark the passage of six months since the fire. I hope you like it, and will share it if you do. Shockingly, 80% of the survivors have not been permanently rehoused, and survivors are also very suspicious of the integrity of the official inquiry into the disaster, which began this week.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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