By co-chair, Michael Lockwood:
Earlier this year, I was appointed as one of the co-chairs of the independent Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission by its community representatives. I feel incredibly privileged to have been selected, not least because it will allow me to work once again with the Grenfell community, who acted with such dignity after the tragic events of the fire. I headed up the independent site management team, whose job was to keep the Tower safe by stabilising the building and making sure the site was secure.
I spent a lot of time working with many of the bereaved families, survivors and the local community. I wanted to earn their trust to understand what was important to them at this very difficult time in their lives – from the return of personal possessions to having their concerns listened to.
There are many lessons I learnt from that experience which have shaped my approach ever since:
- Listen instead of talking. I don’t want to make assumptions. I want the Memorial Commission to be a ‘listening’ commission. We are your commission and we are your voice.
- Be clear, open and honest. Provide regular information, communicate what we have been doing, what we will be doing next and how you can be involved.
- Say what’s working and what isn’t. As the Commission’s journey progresses, we will not always have the answers and we will make decisions that will not please everyone. But, importantly, we will make sure everyone’s views are heard and will go back to you and explain why and how decisions have been made.
I see the co-chairs’ role as a facilitative one – working with the Commission to help make things happen. With the experience of my co-chair, Thelma Stober, as a 7/7 survivor and mine from the early days of working with the community, we will help and support the community representatives to make sure that everyone’s voice is heard.
My co-chair role is much more than just a title – it’s very personal. The sense of community and the dignity everyone continues to show is very humbling. I can’t help but have an emotional and empathetic attachment to the community and the work. My role is about helping and working with the community to put in place a special memorial that ensures Grenfell is never forgotten.
I want people to know that the Memorial Commission exists, what we’re trying to do and how they can get involved. We have established different ways for you to contact us with your thoughts and ideas. Progressing our ideas-gathering stage with you has unfortunately been affected by the coronavirus pandemic, but we are looking at creative ways of having those discussions with you and hope to start them shortly. We will provide details as soon as we can. We particularly want to get out and hear from you face-to-face when that’s possible.
The Commission’s 10 community representatives are a unique group of diverse individuals who share a common objective: to achieve a special and lasting memorial. They are committed and enthusiastic, elected by their respective community groups to represent them. They work alongside other bereaved families, survivors and community members to understand their concerns and hopes and to feed those back into our work. We have been holding our regular Commission meetings online and each community representative actively contributes and represents your views.
Over the past few months, we have been busy. We are deciding on patrons to help maximise our profile. We are speaking to other memorials to learn what worked and what they might have done differently. We will also be taking advice from experts, such as designers and engineers, to help us at every stage of our journey to agreeing a fitting memorial. We are committed to keeping you informed of all our actions and decisions. We want our work to be as transparent as possible.
It will be the three-year anniversary of the tragedy later this month and my thoughts will be with those who have lost loved ones and who have suffered. Each year, I have attended the anniversary commemorations and they have been personal moments of reflection and sadness for me. These are still difficult times for all. The Inquiry is ongoing and I know people understandably want momentum and justice. They also want what happened to them to never happen to anyone else.
The Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission is your commission. Please contact the Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission mailbox with any suggestions on how we can involve you in our work over the coming months. We are here to help, listen and work in partnership with you, and it is my and Thelma’s privilege to do so.
Michael Lockwood is the Director-General of the Independent Office for Police Conduct and was previously chief executive of the London Borough of Harrow Council. For updates on the Commission’s developments or to get in touch, email us at: GTMCSecretariat@communities.gov.uk, join the mailing list or follow us on Twitter at @GrenfellTowerMC