Feelings of anguish and apprehension flowed throughout me in approaching this piece. My intentions are pure, I wish to shine a light on a topic that is at present, heavily within the media’s limelight, but I want to tackle it from an angle that is more reflective of those affected. It is the approach of news and media outlets to focus their attention toward assigning blame and creating a witch-hunt around such a topic. Don’t get me wrong, we need to know where things went wrong in order to avoid it ever happening again, but plastering Theresa May’s nervous-looking mug across newspapers accompanied by a rhetoric skyline filled with exclamation marks and dread isn’t the way to do that. People died. Real people, like you and I. Others escaped the blaze, but still lost their lives in the form of their possessions and home. Everything is gone for them. I can’t even fathom what that must feel like. I try to avoid being materialistic wherever possible, but to lose my home, my possessions and probably even a loved one in one single night. It’s off the scale.
I decided to visit the site and see for myself, for one, to pay my respects, but also to gain an idea for the feeling and atmosphere among those directly affected. Stepping out of Holland Park tube station, a large quantity of cloud casted over what is a picturesque area. Huge, overarching trees line the pavements next to a busy road of moving cars and the standard London-level of pedestrian population are bustling around. On the walk towards Grenfell, the affluence of the surrounding area is immediately apparent.
Expensive looking terrace houses with decorative exteriors and dark-coloured Range Rovers or Mini Coopers reside in the driveways. All in all, the area is very pleasant, but following recent events, the atmosphere was solemn. An eerie silence pervaded.
Keen to discuss the events with whoever I could find, I kept an eye out for whoever looked approachable on such a matter. Maybe I had a romantic understanding of human nature, but usually I expect disasters to bring people together and provoke neighbourly response from one another. I tested this theory on the journey by approaching a trio I could hear in mid description of witnessing the blaze. I was naïve. I approached them as they were stood by a parked car. Prior to this I’d overheard one say something to the effect of ‘I was just staring at the huge fire burning in the sky and I was jaw dropped looking at it, it was like nothing I’d ever seen’. Considering he was broadcasting such a tale, I moved in and explained that I was eager to understand more. Immediately, the other gentleman stood next to him cut me off and gently placed his extended arm toward my chest and stated ‘we are not interested in what you want, this is a private ting yeah? You have a nice day’, I attempted to interject, but he cut me off again saying ‘YOU have a nice day yeah?’. I gave up and continued on my journey. Not disheartened as such, but the magnitude of what I was aiming to achieve hit home slightly. It was abundantly clear that the feeling of the surrounding area is of suspect and anger and discussing such events with a stranger perhaps was not something they’d be willing to do.
Shrugging off this minor objection to my endeavours, I continued down the street and pretended it didn’t happen. Very soon, the image seen (left) here is what I viewed. Peering from behind the residential buildings and swaying trees, a symbol of destruction and shame upon a community of onlookers. I worked my way towards it. Approaching the scene, I noticed the on-duty police officers patrolling the area that is cornered off to
the general public. Wig-wam style huts can be seen behind the fences that it later transpires are support stations for the volunteers of the British Red Cross. I engaged in conversation with one of them. His name was Kevin, he looked what I estimated to be mid-to-late 30’s and had a broad Scottish accent. He revealed that he was here voluntarily of course, but had come down from Glasgow to help when he saw it on the news. His opinion on the general attitude of the area was that it was one of anger. In my limited time spent there, already I had experienced that.
Kevin seemed busy so I left him to it. I moved around the paved area that lay at the foot of the disaster gone by (my view is pictured left). I sat down on a white, marble bench and began a conversation with a middle-aged man named Jason. He was a local. Friendly and happy to talk, I resolved he would be the main source of information for my piece. Kick-starting the conversation by explaining my thoughts on how the media focuses its attention on
assigning blame rather than empathy, he elaborated on this very happily without much more prompting. He made the good point of whilst finger-pointing at a Conservative Government, we not only detracted from the fact that some former residents are still living rough, these buildings with such cladding are being revealed all over the country. I focused the conversation on the feelings harboured toward the event within the community and he concluded that the response to the tragedy which has left many still without anywhere to stay is the most infuriating element of this tale of woe. It begs the questions what role does blaming politicians do to help these people? Sure, we need to guarantee it never happens again, but unquestionably we must solve the immediate issue of helping those in the immediate danger first and foremost.