In the early hours of June 14th 2017, I received a phone call from a friend that changed my life. Myself and my daughter (10-years-old at the time) joined members of our community outside Grenfell Tower and watched the worst fire since world war two.
For the 60 hours that Grenfell continued to burn, I volunteered in one of the many relief centres talking and listening to a range of voices. Three consistent questions kept arising; 1. How could this have happened? 2. Who was responsible? 3. What was the Government and Authorities going to do? Eight months on from the disaster the questions are being ignored. This was the catalyst for the ‘Three Billboards outside Grenfell’. We thought this would be effective because we have a younger generation who use the visual and cultural references of film to often make sense of the world. It would be instantly accessible to a wide audience who don’t use the main stream media.
What happened at Grenfell is a direct result of collective failings of governments over many years; discarded building regulations; cuts to the fire service; private property developers’ profits before social housing provision; continued failure to address inequality to name a few. That such an atrocity happened in one of the richest boroughs in the country, who peddle cost saving rhetoric, for the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower; whilst sitting on £274 million in its reserves is a prime example of those failings.
Eight months on from Grenfell, where at least, 71 men, women and children lost their lives, no-one has been taken in for questioning. We know some of the key people responsible, they’re not difficult to find – is there an exemption for those in authority to be treat differently when a crime takes place.
PM Theresa May stated that survivors of the fire would be found new homes within three weeks. Eight months on many are without permanent homes and some still remain in hotels.
Bereaved families asked the PM to appoint additional diverse members to the Grenfell Public Inquiry with equal decision-making power to the judge the PM appointed – she said no!
The cladding materials used to make Grenfell aesthetically pleasing has been identified on 297 other tower blocks; the government response is, if you want it removed pay to remove it yourself.
We know historically, for example Hillsborough, cases involving local government and big business take time; but they often need public pressure and awareness to ensure they don’t get covered up or allowed to fade away.
The establishment is practiced at wearing people down so they don’t have the strength to fight anymore. The Justice 4 Grenfell Campaign will not allow this to happen. A quote from the film ‘Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri’ that we borrowed the idea from states “The more you keep a case in the public eye, the better your chances are at getting it solved.” That’s exactly what the J4G Campaign will continue to do.