By Susan Al-Safadi, one of the Memorial Commission's community representatives for Lancaster West estate residents.
I have lived on the Lancaster West estate for over 20 years and, like many of my neighbours, I have literally grown up here on the estate. I've gone from running around Avondale Primary, to walking to school in Holland Park, to working my first job on Portobello Road. The one thing that has remained constant is my home here on the estate.
My family and I have remained on the estate since the fire and we've experienced the trauma and healing of the community, as most Lancaster West residents have. I have since tried to be an active member of the community and, as a Core Participant of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, I have also tried to be active in the fight for justice and truth.
And so, it only makes sense that I also take a keen interest in the Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission. Living on Lancaster West means Grenfell is constantly and consistently at the forefront of our thoughts. We need to ensure we work with the bereaved and former residents of the Tower to find a memorial which keeps Grenfell in everyone’s thoughts, on or away from the estate.
The Memorial Commission is made up of three sets of community representatives: the bereaved, the former residents of the Tower and Lancaster West residents. Our collective role is to bring together the diverse perspectives and experiences of the Grenfell community, and to ensure we come to a consensus on a fitting memorial.
Over the last few years, I have worked with and within the Lancaster West Residents’ Association (LWRA), who work tirelessly to ensure every voice on our estate is heard. It is my responsibility to act as the bridge between the Lancaster West estate and the Memorial Commission, and to keep the residents fully informed of the progress the Commission is making, as well as to feedback to the Commission any ideas or concerns the residents have throughout the process.
I’m always available to discuss my fellow residents’ thoughts – you can contact me and Andrea, the second Lancaster West community representative, via this page. We hope to be able to hold more in-person events as we did before government COVID safety measures came into place, but in the meantime feel free to stop me for a quick socially-distanced chat around the estate too!
Our community is a unique one; it is one that has experienced trauma and tragedy and one that has united in the face of grief. Equally as important as the people of this community is our landscape. We need to be sure whatever memorial is decided on, is an appropriate and fitting tribute to the 72 lives we lost that night. We need to know when we look at the memorial, we'll remember the neighbours we used to see before the fire that night.
As residents of the estate, we’ll be the guardians of the future memorial. We’ve known the estate before the tragedy, during the recovery process, and we’ll be here once the memorial is there too. We continue to support our bereaved and former resident community representatives, and we challenge the public authorities working on the memorial process. All the community groups have a common goal, and that is to put forward an agreeable and appropriate plan for the memorial. Our role on Lancaster West is to do that through the lens of the residents who will neighbour the future memorial, as we currently neighbour the Tower.
In February 2020 we began meeting the various community groups (bereaved, former residents of the Tower and Lancaster West) to introduce the memorial commission’s structure and purpose. We listened to your thoughts and hopes for the memorial, but the last year has come with its own unique set of challenges when it comes to resident engagement. We’ve held several virtual meetings over the last few months with all the community groups, as well as the wider North Kensington community. We’re continuing with such events, building on our understanding of what people have to say and how they want to say it.
Kaizen, the independent group appointed to help the Commission hear everybody’s ideas for the memorial, will also continue with their efforts to contact every resident on the estate and hear their thoughts. They will be physically on the estate in the coming weeks to chat to you, and you can also contact them directly or ask them for a call back here.
We want you to be able to choose how you give your ideas to the Commission. You can give your views directly to me or Andrea, to LWRA or to the co-chairs. We plan to hold regular meetings between the Commission, Lancaster West residents and the LWRA so that everyone is fully informed of the progress of the Commission and so that we can collaborate to maximise the Commission’s reach on the estate.
The memorial process is central to our community and vice versa – our community is central to the memorial. The Tower is the heart of the estate; it is the core that our estate was built around, and it is the placeholder for the future memorial. Lancaster West was home to the lives we lost on 14 June 2017, and it will be the home to the memorial we erect in their honour. Lancaster West has been a constant part of the history of Grenfell, and will continue to be in its future.
We can only consider resident engagement sufficient once every resident has had the chance to give their views, so please get in touch. We look forward to hearing from you.
To contact the Memorial Commission, including the community representatives, go to our contact page. You can also join our mailing list or follow us on Twitter at @GrenfellTowerMC.
Click here to read about the ideas we have heard so far for a future memorial, and to find out how you can contribute your thoughts, too.
Read here for details of the support available to those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
31 March 2021