by Mary Beth Sutter August 9, 2017, In Current Events

Grenfell: A Scar on our City and Civic Soul

Imagine you and your family lived on a street where your neighbours didn’t like the way you looked — that it bothered them to find you and your family aesthetically displeasing to them.  So they decided, without your consent, that you’d all have botox only it was done on the cheap by a cowboy beauty therapist.  Two members of your family die from the botched job.  That could possibly be what happened at Grenfell Tower.  Despite vocalising concerns for years over the safety of the building, it appears the warnings of residents were ignored — and the enquiry will hopefully bring all the facts of the event to light.  Grenfell is a monumental tragedy for the families and community of the area, and it is also another signal of how unjust and unequal London is becoming.

I went up to Grenfell in July, a couple of weeks after the fire.  The entire area is cordoned off for blocks and there are flowers lining many of the approaches to the tower.  The closest one can get is the Leisure Centre where I spoke to a local about it.  She said that she’s thought that the backers of the newly built neighbour, Kensington Aldridge Academy, had required the cladding of Grenfell before going ahead with the development of the school.  Like everyone else in London, I want this enquiry to bring out all details of what went on concerning the external refurbishment in the preceding few years.  There were other people like me at the leisure centre, some taking pictures and some just staring.  It really is a disaster too big to take in.

A few weeks later I was contacted by Airbnb to participate in a massive sorting exercise of donations for Grenfell families in a storage facility.  I was so impressed and heartened to see a group of Londoners like me from all four corners of the capital come together in the effort.  A small gesture, but I felt that at least I had done something.