In the early hours of the morning on 14th June, 2017, a faulty refrigerator on the 4th floor of Grenfell Tower, situated in the North Kensington area of West London, sparked a fire that quickly grew into an inferno, engulfing the whole building. At least 72 people died – though the number may be higher – and 70 more were injured, as fire fighters attempted to extinguish what was soon to become the deadliest fire in Britain for over a century.
But as it transpired in the days and weeks that followed, the fire was no mere tragic, unforeseeable accident: the building had only one stairwell, no sprinklers, and its exterior was encased in a highly flammable cladding material, installed as part of a recent ‘refurbishment’, for no other purpose than to make the tower block more aesthetically pleasing to the borough’s affluent onlookers.
In short, the fire, and the terrible extent of its devastation, were the result of a long history of negligence, structural violence and inequality; an embodiment of the contempt with which the British elite holds racialised and working class people.
But the story of Grenfell is just as much about the strength of those who survived, and the resistance and solidarity of the local community, in their search for accountability, and meaningful justice.
In May 2019, Pluto published a new book, After Grenfell: Violence, Resistance and Response, edited by Dan Bulley, Jenny Edkins and Nadine El-Enany, and featuring over 20 contributors. This month we are joined in the studio by four of them:
Gracie Mae Bradley, a writer and campaigner interested in critical human rights, state racism and data/surveillance; Monique Charles, an independent researcher, writing about Black music, music analysis, class, gender and race; Nadine El-Enany, senior lecturer at Birkbeck School of Law, and Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Race and Law; and Daniel Renwick, a videographer and writer who made Failed by the State – the struggle in the shadow of Grenfell with Ishmael Francis-Murray and Redfish, who has also worked as an advocate and youth worker in the North Kensington community.
All royalties and 10% of Pluto’s profits from sales of the book go to the Grenfell Foundation.