The Accident: How The Grenfell Disaster Inspired Channel 4’s New Drama

The new four-part series starring Sarah Lancashire focuses on a community's struggle for justice after a gas explosion.

Over two years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, its devastating effects are still being felt.

The tower block, in which 72 people were killed when fire tore through its 24-storeys, still looms over the west London community of North Kensington, while thousands across the country are still living in buildings covered by the same cladding that enabled the blaze to spread with such speed.

On Thursday night, a new Channel 4 drama inspired by the aftermath of the disaster debuts.

The Accident debuts on Channel 4 this Thursday
The Accident debuts on Channel 4 this Thursday
Channel 4/Dean Rogers

The Accident depicts a gas explosion at a local building site that causes the deaths of eight children and one man, and tells the story of the rural Welsh community’s struggle in the wake of the accident.

Starring Sarah Lancashire, the four-part drama explores themes including justice and corporate and social responsibility – things that writer Jack Thorne was left disgusted at while watching the fall-out from Grenfell.

Explaining how the national response to the disaster informed the series, he says: “I was horrified as I think the whole country was that Grenfell happened in a country as developed and seemingly as rich as ours.

“I then grew progressively more horrified when the cladding wasn’t immediately removed from all the flats and when you read stories about either the residents themselves not being rehoused or other residents being stuck at the top of a tower block absolutely terrified every night because they had the cladding and they didn’t have the money to remove it and we’re still not removing that cladding.”

Fire tore through Grenfell Tower in June 2017
Fire tore through Grenfell Tower in June 2017
PA Wire/PA Images

On the second anniversary of the Grenfell disaster in June, it was reported that over 300 residential and publicly-owned high-rises were still covered – at least in part – in aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding – namely the same that covered Grenfell.

While the government set aside £200 million to strip buildings of the flammable material, MPs said the response has been “far too slow”, and warned ministers must “pick up the pace” before “it is too late and we have another tragedy on the scale of Grenfell Tower”.

Echoing the “completely unacceptable” state of affairs, Jack said he is hoping The Accident will help bring about change.

He said: “Current statistics suggest that if we continue removing cladding at the current rate which seemingly would be the fastest it should move with the pressure of Grenfell behind it, we wouldn’t have it all off until 2030, that’s extraordinary and completely unacceptable.

“I think drama is an incredible device for focusing minds, when it does it right and I would love The Accident to focus minds a little bit.”

Writer of the show, Jack Thorne.
Writer of the show, Jack Thorne.
PA Archive/PA Images

The Bafta-winning writer, who is behind other dramas including National Treasure, Kiri and Cast Offs, said he and others working on The Accident “spent a long time researching everything and constructing an accident that felt real” by looking at the Grenfell disaster, among others.

However, Jack turned down the chance to make a drama solely-based on the tower block fire after being offered it “three times by three different production companies”.

He told Radio Times: “I didn’t feel like there were the facts in place to look at it properly without hurting an awful lot of people, and doing a television thing of trampling over people’s lives. Not to say that there isn’t a beautiful drama to be made, I just didn’t feel capable of it myself.”

The Accident begins on Thursday at 9pm on Channel 4.


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