Major new exhibition remembers the ‘strong, dignified and united’ Grenfell community

Never Forget Grenfell is a four-day photo exhibition in Shoreditch that commemorates the two-year anniversary of the fire in North Kensington that took the lives of 72 people.

Photographer and director Tom Cockram has documented the lives of the survivors of the fire and the bereaved as part of a collaboration with the activist group Grenfell United in a national appeal for dangerous combustible to be removed from homes across the country.

The exhibition is made up of powerful black and white portraits of people from the Grenfell community and it follows his moving film Failed By State that was released last year which featured those survivors, and supporters of the campaign including musicians Stormzy, Akala and Adele.

The London-based photographer said he “felt very privileged to be asked to make the film” and that the main goal was to show the whole community fighting for change and letting their voice as a group be heard.

Mr Cockram filmed around 100 people all coming at different times throughout the day to say a specific line. He said: “A lot of the community members who had decided to stay out of the press even took part, so it was a very special and I was genuinely honoured to work with this amazing community.”

The filmmaker said that on the day of the shoot he wanted to get as much out of it as possible to extend the reach of the campaign, so after every take he would jump in to capture portraits of the people from the Grenfell community.

He admitted “it didn’t feel right” for the images to stay on hard drives and not to be shown to the world. The filmmaker added: “We did one more day of photography with more members of the community, and we knew we had to do something with this project to help spread the message of demanding change.”

Grenfell United have been campaigning for tower blocks across the UK to be made safe, and for residents to be listened to and treated with respect.

The government banned combustible materials on new high-rise homes in November 2018 and are working to replace the unsafe ACM cladding, like the one used on Grenfell Tower.

UK Cladding Action Group, the official organisation for buildings with combustible material, argue that some buildings have other types of unsafe cladding, and a whole range of fire safety issues local authorities have failed to address. There are still hundreds of dangerous buildings across the country.

Mr Cockram, who has been working closely with the organisation, said: “Very little action has been taken since Grenfell happened two years ago and other tragedies could occur if change doesn’t happen.”

Karim Mussilhy, Vice-Chair of Grenfell United, said: “Grenfell was filled with amazing people, a true community with people from all walks of life who looked out for each other. We hope Londoners will come and see our pictures, learn our story and support us in our 
campaigns.”

Never Forget Grenfell is on at London’s Truman Brewery until 23 June

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