Thursday , 22 August 2019

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Grenfell Tower: 24-hour vigil to mark anniversary of tragedy

Vigil is one of a number of events taking place a year after fire that killed 72 people

A 24-hour vigil to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire will begin at 6pm on Wednesday as part of a series of events that will include a nationwide one-minute silence at noon on Thursday.

The names of the 72 victims of the blaze will be read aloud at St Clement’s church, close to the tower block, at 1.30am, the time at which the fire took hold on 14 June last year. A roster of clerics from local churches will say the Lord’s Prayer on the hour throughout the night; otherwise the vigil will be largely silent.

The vigil is one of a number of events on Wednesday evening and throughout Thursday to commemorate the victims of the fire, their families and loved ones, survivors and members of the local community.

They include church services and special prayers of remembrance at the Al-Manaar mosque, wreath-laying and the unveiling of a community mosaic. A silent walk – the latest to be held on the 14th of each month since the fire – will begin at 6pm near the tower and end at Kensington Memorial Park.
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Father Alan Everett, the vicar of St Clement’s, said the local community had been “dreading this week. The anniversary has stirred things up for many people. None of us quite knows how we’ll feel. There’s been some discussion about re-traumatisation.”

He added: “Almost everybody will be massively relieved when it’s over. Most people just want to get through this week. A background of distress and fear has been building.”

Everett was woken on the night of the fire, and went straight to his church. After switching on the lights and opening the doors, people from Grenfell Tower and the surrounding blocks arrived, seeking shelter and solace.

On Sunday, St Clement’s dedicated a garden of remembrance on the north wall of the church, facing the tower, which is now covered in white sheeting.

“It’s been very positive to turn a really grotty space into something rather beautiful for the community,” said Everett. He hoped the garden and church could be “a place of peace and sanctuary”.

Last week, banners were unfurled over the top four floors of the tower, either with a green heart, the symbol of Grenfell, or bearing the words: “Grenfell: forever in our hearts”.

On Wednesday evening, a concert in memory of Gloria Trevisan and Marco Gottardi, young Italian architects who died in the fire, will be held in Fulham to raise funds for an annual award for Italian graduates to study and gain experience in conservation in the UK.

The couple, who had planned to get married, rented a flat on the 23rd floor of Grenfell Tower. The award would be “a lasting and fitting memorial to [their] lives and talents”, said the organisers.

On Friday, schoolchildren across the country are being asked to wear “green for Grenfell” to mark the anniversary, and raise funds for local charities. Schools are being asked to share their activities and photos on social media, using the hashtag #GreenForGrenfellDay.

Sandra Ruiz, whose 12-year-old niece, Jessica Urbano Ramirez, died in the fire, said: “Green for Grenfell Day is an opportunity to celebrate community spirit up and down the country. In the days after the fire, a community of volunteers surrounded us and helped us through the most difficult of times.

“If there is to be a positive legacy from this tragedy, we hope it is that we celebrate and emulate here in North Kensington, and across the country, the community spirit that we saw in the days, weeks and months after the fire.”

The inquiry into the fire, which began hearing evidence earlier this month, has paused for this week to allow core participants and others to take part in commemorative events.

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