Photos: Grenfell 1st Anniversary – The Silent Walk and the Solidarity March

18.6.18

Photos from Flickr by Andy Worthington of the Grenfell Silent Walk and the Grenfell Solidarity March on June 14 and June 16, 2018.Please check out my photo sets on Flickr – of the Silent Walk in Kensington on June 14, 2018 and of the Solidarity March in central London on June 16, 2018.

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It’s just over a year since the defining event in the UK last year — the Grenfell Tower fire, an entirely preventable disaster in west London, in which 72 people died when an inferno engulfed a 24-storey tower block in North Kensington in west London, and I’m pleased to be posting photos from two recent Grenfell-related events as my contribution to trying to make sure that there is no let-up in the pressure for justice and accountability following the first anniversary of the disaster last June. 

The first photo set is of the Silent Walk for Grenfell on the actual anniversary. Silent Walks have taken place on the 14th of every month since the fire, in the vicinity of the tower, and on the anniversary, on Thursday June 14, thousands of people turned up, from across London as well as from other places in the UK, to show solidarity with the survivors and the local community. The Silent Walks are extremely moving experiences, and the 1st anniversary walk was, of course, no exception.

The second photo set is from the Grenfell Solidarity March in central London, starting and ending outside 10 Downing Street, and including a visit to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on Marsham Street, organised by the survivors’ group Justice4Grenfell and the Fire Brigades Union.

At each of the locations, there were powerful speeches about the need for accountability, and the need for everyone affected by the fire — everyone in social housing, for example, and everyone who understands the dangers of the prevailing neo-liberalism that preys on everyone except the rich — to keep on working together, to build on the extraordinary solidarity created in the Grenfell community in the last year, and to always remember those whose lives were so needlessly lost.

The disaster last June should never have happened, of course, because the tower was built of concrete that is largely resistant to fire, and because of the policy of ‘compartmentalisation’, which is meant to ensure that any fire will be contained within the individual apartment in which it breaks out for an hour, giving the fire services time to arrive on the scene. However, Grenfell’s structural integrity had been fatally compromised during recent refurbishment, which was designed to make it look better, but which involved the application of highly flammable cladding.

The truth about Grenfell, which is slowly coming to light in the government’s official inquiry, but which was known to anyone paying attention at the time of the fire, is that those responsible for the safety of the residents of social housing in tower blocks — central government, local government, management companies and contractors — were all part of a world of housing de-regulation in which red tape had deliberately been cut to enable greater profits to be made, and it was somehow considered acceptable for dangerously inflammable material to be used as cladding.

Shockingly, one year on, not all the survivors of the Grenfell fire have been re-housed, and, moreover, hundreds of tower blocks across the country — both council blocks and private blocks — are still shrouded in potentially lethal cladding. After sustained pressure, Theresa May recently promised £400m to remove cladding, but was shockingly vague about the basis of that funding. Moreover, it is not only social tenants who are being kept in a unacceptable state of fear by the government, which really should have written a blank cheque to remove the cladding the day after the Grenfell fire; private tenants are also caught in situations in which their cladding should be removed, but no on wants to take responsibility for it. 

Today, for example, the Guardian reported that “[a] family who have seen the value of their London flat slashed from £600,000 to just £90,000 because of Grenfell-style cladding could sue a government agency that helped them buy their home.” 

The article added, “They are the second homeowners in the New Capital Quay development in Greenwich to have their flat valued at rock-bottom prices. Nerisa Ahmed and her husband bought the flat under the help to buy scheme when it was built three years ago and have had two offers fall through in the past six months because of the cladding. In their report for Ahmed, Taylor Chartered Surveyors said the collapse in value of her flat was because the cost of replacing the cladding was unknown and that it was unclear when the cladding would be replaced due to ongoing legal discussions between developer Galliard and the insurer of the building. The company said some flats had been valued at £0. They were unsellable, unrentable and unmortgageable.”

Ahmed told the Guardian, “My flat is dangerous. I panic every night as I put my son to bed. I’m on the top floor – the 10th – and having a fire here is not something I’d like to experience.”

With the Grenfell inquiry behind us, the shocking truth that the disaster highlighted — that those in social housing are regarded by the establishment as second-class citizens, whose lives can even be discarded in the quest for easier profiteering — must not be allowed to fade away. The official inquiry continues, but no one should expect that it will really deliver justice. Instead, those of us who care about social housing must continue to make the case that the ongoing greed-based housing bubble must be punctured, that providing homes for rent at genuinely affordable levels is the best way forward for society as a whole, and that this requires a massive social homebuilding programme, on a scale that no one has considered since the 1970s, and with a sense of societal inclusivity that we also haven’t seen since that time, when Margaret Thatcher first took a hatchet to the notion of society.

Also see the albums here:

Grenfell heart

Justice for Grenfell banner, Westminster

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.

5 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    Here’s my latest article – linking to my two latest photo sets on Flickr: photos from the Silent Walk for Grenfell on Thursday June 14, the 1st anniversary of the terrible and entirely preventable fire which killed 72 people, and from the Grenfell Solidarity March on Saturday, from Downing Street to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and back again, organised by Justice4Grenfell and the Fire Brigades Union. These were both powerful events, but we now have to make sure that Grenfell isn’t forgotten as the second year begins.
    As I say in my article, “With the Grenfell inquiry behind us, the shocking truth that the disaster highlighted — that those in social housing are regarded by the establishment as second-class citizens, whose lives can even be discarded in the quest for easier profiteering — must not be allowed to fade away. The official inquiry continues, but no one should expect that it will really deliver justice. Instead, those of us who care about social housing must continue to make the case that the ongoing greed-based housing bubble must be punctured, that providing homes for rent at genuinely affordable levels is the best way forward for society as a whole, and that this requires a massive social homebuilding programme, on a scale that no one has considered since the 1970s, and with a sense of societal inclusivity that we also haven’t seen since that time, when Margaret Thatcher first took a hatchet to the notion of society.”

  2. Tom says...

    Sometimes I do my own solitary walks to focus on inequalities. At times I have to check the I-can-singlehandedly-save-the-world-all-by-myself impulse and remember. If your well being isn’t together, you can’t be effective.

    Now I find opportunities where maybe I can’t help directly. Instead I’m a middleman who connects someone to someone else who can. It’s like that pain is always there. But never lose that.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. Your considered opinions are valued. I’m actually going away now for six days’ holiday, with my family, which will be a good opportunity to recharge the activist batteries!

  4. Tom says...

    Well said. Until next time.

  5. Andy Worthington says...

    Thanks, Tom. Quick reply from Valencia, where I’m briefly online!

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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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