Grenfell United beam messages in London, Manchester, and Newcastle to highlight the country’s fire safety crisis, two years on from the tragedy
Tomorrow marks two years since London’s harrowing Grenfell Tower fire, a disaster that took the lives of 72 people and exposed the country’s atrocious fire safety regulations. Last night, in honour of the anniversary, direct action group Grenfell United projected powerful statements onto high-rise buildings, spotlighting fire safety issues that still exist across the country.
Blocks in London, Manchester, and Newcastle were lit up with disturbing facts highlighting the government’s inaction following the tragedy. In a chilling image, 20-storey Frinstead House, standing metres away from Grenfell Tower, read: ‘Two years after Grenfell this building still has no sprinklers.’
While ‘two years after Grenfell and the fire doors in this building still aren’t fit for purpose’ was beamed onto Newcastle’s 25-storey Cruddas Park House, and the NV Building in Manchester – which has 246 flats, and is wrapped in dangerous HPL cladding that’s not covered by the government removal fund – had ‘two years after Grenfell this building is still covered in dangerous cladding’ projected onto it.
“We needed to send a strong message,” Natasha Elcock, survivor and chair of Grenfell United, said in a press release, “it’s been two years since Grenfell and people are still going to bed at night worried that a fire like Grenfell could happen to them. After the fire we were promised that blocks would be made safe. Two years later we cannot wait any longer, we need action now so everyone is safe in their homes.”
According to The Guardian, 146 privately owned buildings are still wrapped in Grenfell-style cladding, with only three high-rises fixed since the disaster. While just 56 of 158 social housing blocks have been sorted, leaving thousands of people in at-risk buildings.
As well as demanding the removal of dangerous cladding, Grenfell United are calling for all tower blocks to have sprinklers and safe fire doors. The group is also requesting that the government introduces a new separate housing regulator, putting residents concerns above the profits of housing associations – something that’s unbelievably not the case now.
“Last week I visited residents in Newcastle,” vice-chair Karim Mussilhy explained in a press release, “and I heard how they were raising concerns but being ignored. That’s what happened to residents in Grenfell before the fire. We have to change the culture in social housing so people are treated with respect.”
Last year, Dazed talked to tower block residents living in fear that their homes are also unsafe; neglected by her local council, one London resident said: “They’re (the council) not doing proper checks, they’re not being thorough, they’re not valuing human life and they’re putting people at risk every day and blaming it on a lack of central government funding.”
Two years on and it seems little has changed when it comes to prioritising tenants’ safety. Still shirking responsibility, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government claims building owners are responsible for the safety of their blocks, despite numerous owners refusing to pay for the removal of deadly cladding (applications for a £200 million public fund still hasn’t been accepted).
This isn’t the first time the public has had to take matters into their own hands; activists took over London Fashion Week in February to demand justice for victims, while Stormzy’s poignant performance at the BRITs last year provoked a response from Theresa May.
Grenfell United’s projections mirror protests against Donald Trump’s state visit to the UK last week, which saw anti-Brexit activist group Led By Donkeys project Trump’s embarrassingly low approval ratings onto the Tower of London. Direct action by Dazed and the Illuminator group for the 2018 #AddressTheNation project also used projections to shine statements about the state of the UK onto key London landmarks.
The group’s action is a frightening reminder of the government’s passivity when it comes to both Grenfell survivors and other residents living in tower blocks across the country. Distracted by the self-indulgent Tory leadership race, and the humiliating mess of Brexit, parliament has a lot to answer for.
To ensure Grenfell isn’t continually pushed aside, Grenfell United – consisting of survivors and bereaved families – are calling for people to write to their MPs to pressure the government into making high-rise buildings safe. Sign up here, and watch a short film about the stunt below.