Grenfell Tower is a twenty-four storey residential building in Ladbroke Grove, West London, consisting of 120 flats that were home to an estimated 400 people.
During the early hours of 14 June 2017, a fire broke out on the 4th floor of the tower, which housed mainly working class residents and was surrounded by affluent apartment complexes in London’s wealthiest borough, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
For many years, the residents of Grenfell and the wider Ladbroke Grove area have watched their long-standing, diverse and tight knit community gradually eroded by the effects of gentrification and social cleansing.
Rising living costs and a lack of housing and job opportunities in the local area are compounded by a local council long suspected of encouraging and colluding in the social cleansing of the neighbourhood.
This collusion is covert, taking the form of biased policies, practices and rulings which place far more importance on the needs and concerns of the borough’s wealthier residents, than those of its poorer inhabitants.
Nowhere is that collusion clearer than in the case of the fire at Grenfell Tower. Since 2013, the residents’ organisation Grenfell Action Group had repeatedly expressed concern about fire safety, saying in November 2016 that only a catastrophic fire would force the block’s management to adequately address fire precautions and maintenance of fire-related systems. The council failed to act on any of those concerns.
The local authority did however, find the money for the ‘regeneration’ of Grenfell Tower in 2016. This included the addition of exterior cladding, to match the aesthetic of the high-end, privately owned apartment complexes nearby.
In the aftermath of the fire, the cladding has been found to have acted as an accelerant, responsible for the fire’s rapid and deadly spread up and around the exterior of the building. Had the safety measures demanded by the residents been implemented, more lives could have been saved. Instead, the priority was to try and disguise the presence of social housing tenants living in the heart of London’s wealthiest borough.
40% of the sale of this painting will be donated to The Harrow Club (Registered charity number 1054757). The Harrow Club were on the “front-line” in the immediate aftermath of the fire, opening doors to accept donations, organising relief efforts and providing residents with a place to sleep, in the absence of any government or local authority presence.