Each of the 71 victims of the Grenfell Tower fire will be individually commemorated to mark the start of evidence being heard by the public inquiry into the tragedy.
Survivors and bereaved family members will be able to memorialise their loved ones “calmly and with dignity” during a special period of hearings ahead of the oral evidence.
Mr Richard Millet QC, counsel to the inquiry, said the team was “warmly in agreement” that the bereaved could pay tribute using video, audio recordings and a range of presentations during the hearings, which will begin on May 21.
He said: “By starting the public hearings of this inquiry in this way, we can ensure that, however technical and scientific the issues may then become, however dry, however legal, we will never lose sight of who our work is for and why we are doing it”.
He made the update during the first of two days of procedural hearings for the public inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, chaired by Sir Martin Moore-Bick.
Leslie Thomas QC, who is representing 11 firms with Michael Mansfield QC, said the tributes would be “nothing less than a testimonial to the dead” so that “when you, sir, come to hear the
evidence that evidence can be put in its proper context”.
He added: “This is not because what is being sought is sympathy, but more empathy, so that you know the people who are being referred to.
“They are not just another statistic, not just another number, not just another dead person.
“We are dealing with real people, who had real lives, who have suffered real loss and who are in real pain.”
The probe is believed to have the largest number of core participants to date, with more than 500 survivors, bereaved families and friends, and members of the North Kensington community participating.
Mr Millett said 532 individual and groups were granted the status, including 128 from bereaved families, 209 who were residents of the tower or visitors at the time of fire, four leaseholders who were not resident at the time and 163 from the Walkways – the three blocks surrounding the high-rise.
In addition, 28 organisations, including Kensington and Chelsea Tenants Management Organisation (TMO) and Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC), have been granted core participant status.
Mr Millett said the inquiry team researched more than 150 alternative venues for hearings after concerns from core participants.
It concluded that Holborn Bars, east London, remains “the best available option”.
Grenfell United, the main group representing survivors and the bereaved tweeted in response: “Disappointing news regarding the Grenfell Inquiry venue.
“Holborn Bars is not a suitable location & ignores the traumatic emotional impact of travelling in deep claustrophobic tube tunnels.
“We hope common sense will prevail.”
Proceedings were halted just before the lunch break after an announcement warned that a fire had been reported in the building where the hearing is taking place.
Sir Martin initially told the room: “I think for the moment we should stay where we are”, but agreed to rise after Pete Weatherby QC, the lawyer making a submission when the alert sounded, said he was conscious of the bereaved and survivor’s position following the warning.