2,000 Views of The Four Fathers’ Video ‘Grenfell’, Remembering Those Who Died and Calling for Those Responsible to be Held Accountable

30.5.18

The Silent Walk for Grenfell, December 14, 2017 (Photo: Andy Worthington).Please support my work as a reader-funded investigative journalist, commentator and activist.

 

Today is 350 days since the defining UK-based horror story of 2017 — the fire that engulfed Grenfell Tower in north Kensington, in west London, on June 14, 2017, killing 71 people, and leading to the death of a 72nd person this January. You can find profiles of all 72 victims here.

Last summer, I wrote a song about the fire for my band The Four Fathers, lamenting those whose lives were so “needlessly lost”, and calling for those responsible — “those who only count the profit not the human cost” — to be held accountable. We first played it live, at a benefit gig for a housing campaign in Tottenham, in September, recorded it with a German TV crew at the end of October, and released the video in December, and we have continued to play it live across the capital and elsewhere, making a small contribution to the effort to refuse to allow those responsible for the disaster to move on without a serious change in the culture that allowed it to happen. 

That culture — cost-cutting in the search for profits, rather than ensuring the safety of tenants and leaseholders — came from central government, from Kensington and Chelsea Council, from the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation, which had taken over the management of all the borough’s social housing, and from the various contractors involved in the lethal refurbishment of the tower, when its structural integrity was fatally undermined.

Yesterday, we reached something of a milestone with the video, reaching 2,000 views on YouTube and Facebook. If you haven’t yet heard the song, do check it out, and please share it if you appreciate its sentiments. We are finally planning to record it in a studio soon — and hope that will enable its message to get out to a wider audience. 

For the video, see below (and you can find it on Facebook here):

As for accountability, the official inquiry into the fire, set up by Theresa May, only began last week, and has, to date, focused its attention not on those responsible for the fire, but on the heart of its impact — the lives of those who died, delivered in profoundly affecting testimony by the survivors. For detailed daily reports by the Guardian, see Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five, Day Six and the final day of tributes today.

For a country still riven by issues of race and class, and with the lamentable recent upsurge in anti-immigrant sentiment, the tributes have shown the wonderfully rich and caring lives of so many of the victims — real people, not statistics in lazy, biased reports that try to tar anyone in social housing as inferior to owner-occupiers, and, generally, as some sort of criminal underclass. 

The Grenfell tenants’ stories reveal them as being mostly recent arrivals to the UK, over the last 30 years, but the details of those stories also puncture the groundless anti-immigrant sentiment that has been aggressively promoted by right-wing politicians and a compliant or complacent media since well before the run-up to the EU referendum two years ago, and which has remained fundamentally unchallenged ever since, even though it is both inaccurate and offensive. Here were hard-working, decent people, many of them not provided with any assistance from the state, but renting from leaseholders who had bought flats in the tower under Margaret Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ legislation.

Unfortunately, not everyone under scrutiny has seen fit to attend the inquiry to hear the tributes. Representatives of the council have turned up, but survivors have complained that government ministers and executives of the companies involved in the tower’s refurbishment have failed to show up.

As the Guardian described it, “The housing secretary, James Brokenshire, and the housing minister, Dominic Raab, have been absent and have no plans to attend the inquiry. The same is true of Nick Hurd, the Home Office minister who is the main government contact for survivors and families and friends of the victims. Executives from Rydon, the company that refurbished the tower with combustible cladding, are not coming. Neither are those from the cost consultant Artelia, which was involved in ‘value engineering’ by cutting costs.”

Sid-Ali Atmani, who lived on the 15th floor, said, “If they came to listen to the bereaved, about how they lived, their families, their children and education they will have some feeling of empathy. They have been looking at things professionally and politically. If they came they would see it emotionally. They have missed an opportunity. This is the most important part of the inquiry in terms of understanding what really went wrong.”

Rydon and Artelia have sent lawyers to the inquiry, with a spokesman for Rydon saying that the company “did not want there to be any risk that we would contribute to moving the media focus away from the victims, the survivors, the bereaved and their friends and relatives”, and Artelia saying that “it was not thought appropriate to send executives”, but Chris Imafidon, who worked as a mentor to children at Grenfell, disagreed with their position.

“They would see the fruits of their labour if they came,” he said. “It would show them the impact of what they worked hard on. Some of them would probably feel they needed to resign. None of them have seen these people or know they have nephews, nieces and grandchildren. They could see the emotion, the widows, the orphans, and understand why the inquiry is happening. No matter how hard-hearted you are you will empathise and that human feeling could affect how you interact with the inquiry.”

As the inquiry continues, we need to hear more from those responsible about their understanding of the gravity of what took place, and how their behaviour needs to change. As I describe it in ‘Grenfell’: 

The tragedy of Grenfell
Where all the warnings were ignored
Is that our neo-liberal leaders
Dispensed with safety needs
And so the tower was refurbished
But in a way so deeply flawed
That they created an inferno
In the crucible of their greed

Note: To show solidarity with the Grenfell survivors, and the victims of the fire, please come along, if you can, on Saturday June 16, to ‘One year on: Justice for Grenfell Solidarity March’, organised by Justice4Grenfell and the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) which runs from 12 noon to 4pm outside 10 Downing Street.

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 see the latest photo campaign here) and the successful We Stand With Shaker campaign of 2014-15, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (click on the following for Amazon in 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), and for his photo project ‘The State of London’ he publishes a photo a day from six years of bike rides around the 120 postcodes of the capital.

In 2017, Andy became very involved in housing issues. He is the narrator of a new documentary film, ‘Concrete Soldiers UK’, about the destruction of council estates, and the inspiring resistance of residents, he wrote a song ‘Grenfell’, in the aftermath of the entirely preventable fire in June that killed over 70 people, and he also set up ‘No Social Cleansing in Lewisham’ as a focal point for resistance to estate destruction and the loss of community space in his home borough in south east London.

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, The Complete Guantánamo Files, the definitive Guantánamo habeas list, the full military commissions list, and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.

Please also consider joining the Close Guantánamo campaign, and, if you appreciate Andy’s work, feel free to make a donation.

9 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:

    Today marks 350 days since the entirely preventable #Grenfell Tower fire last June, in which 72 people died, and today is the seventh day of hearings as part of the official inquiry, which have been devoted to survivors’ moving recollections of their loved ones.
    We’ve also had 2,000 views, on YouTune and on Facebook, of the video of ‘Grenfell’, the song I wrote about the disaster last summer, performed by my band The Four Fathers​ and beatboxer The Wiz-RD (Tyler Worthington​) and recorded by a German TV crew, which we released in December. Thanks to everyone who has watched it, and if you haven’t seen it, please check it out, and share it if you appreciate its sentiments. As we say:
    “Grenfell, who Is gonna pay?
    Grenfell, it didn’t have to be that way
    Grenfell, all those lives needlessly lost
    By those who only count the profit not the human cost”
    The video is here: https://youtu.be/BLehKWOhMyY

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Halldór Heiðar Bjarnason wrote:

    Wow, almost a year ago. Incredible.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, it’s shocking how little has actually been achieved, Halldór – some survivors still in temporary accommodation, 300 tower blocks still with flammable cladding, the official inquiry just beginning. The establishment is going through the motions. Fortunately, the survivors and the local community came together on the day of the disaster, when they were absolutely failed by the government and the council, with extraordinary solidarity, and that has not diminished in the last 12 months. That said, I think they still need as much support as possible from the wider population to keep the spotlight on what happens to a society when some people’s lives are regarded as more important than others.

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Anna Giddings wrote:

    A very fitting tribute Andy. Thank you. I was watching the tributes today. It’s so heartbreaking

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Anna. I appreciate your comment. The tributes should be shown every day on the main news. Such dignity and humanity and love from people denigrated by the country’s heartless elite and its sad proliferation of everyday racists.

  6. Tom says...

    While the media won’t do their job and give this the attention it deserves, I try to do it myself. Because it needs to be done.

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. There’s decent ongoing coverage in the liberal media of the Grenfell story, but it’s also important that everyone concerned keeps talking about it. 72 people died because the authorities turned their homes into a death trap, and 300 UK tower blocks are still clad in similar material.

  8. Tom says...

    Just out of curiousity, how are people like James O’Brien seen by the public? Sometimes I listen to him online on LBC, and it looks like he’s the Token Liberal Host. Nick Abbott used to be. But then apparently managment told him to turn right wing on-air, and he lost all credibility.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    James O’Brien has developed a big following online, Tom, through his articulate disgust at politicians’ idiocy, and I think he’s articulating the views of a lot of young people. Unfortunately, LBC, as you note, also has right-wing hosts. The execrable Nigel Farage used to have a show, as did the equally execrable Katie Hopkns, until she was sacked, and other sad realities involve self-satisfied Tory pundit Iain Dale having a regular show.
    Last year, James O’Brien won the Broadcaster of the Year award at the British Press Guild Awards, which was recognition of the great job he’s doing: https://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/james-obrien/james-obrien-named-broadcaster-of-the-year/

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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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