As the demolition of Grenfell Tower looms, residents are divided on how best to honour those lost.
The charred remains of Grenfell Tower, which was once home to over a hundred families, still stands as a harrowing reminder of the tragic events last June which claimed the lives of 71 people. However, with the tower set to be demolished later this year, local residents are torn on how best to commemorate those lost in the blaze.
In early March, London Mayor Sadiq Khan voiced support for a proposal to rename Latimer Road tube station ‘Grenfell’ as a tribute, but the issue has split the local community right down the middle.
For some local residents, re-naming Latimer Road station ‘Grenfell’ will only serve to prolong their trauma, long after the tower itself is demolished. For others, re-naming the station would ensure Grenfell is not forgotten and would secure its place as an important part of London’s history.
A petition started by local residents in opposition to the new station name has been signed nearly 1,500 times. Cathie O’Dea, a Notting Dale local who started the petition, argues that it is an “inappropriate, wasteful, unnecessary and tasteless idea” which serves as a “constant reminder of that terrible night constantly looming over us”, instead opting for a more “quiet” garden memorial.
O’Dea believes that the general consensus of local residents is that they want “Grenfell Tower demolished as quickly as possible”. However, for now, the building will remain standing, as an in-depth forensic analysis is carried out. It is expected to be demolished by the end of 2018.
Although the remains of Grenfell Tower are a traumatic sight for survivors and residents, a thorough investigation of the site remains a priority for the Metropolitan Police. Ten months after the event and the official death toll remains at 71. The tower housed between 400-600 people. Destroying the tower before the completion of a proper investigation could result in the destruction of valuable evidence.
Grenfell residents have cosigned a list of principles regarding the future of the tower, which would give them a veto on all future decisions involving the site.
This will allow residents to have more agency over what happens with the future site after a forensic investigation has been carried out, allowing for the possibility of a thoughtful tribute to replace the tower.
Latimer Road used to run directly by the station, which is how the name first came to be. The road was named after Edward Latymer, a benefactor who established The Latymer School in 1624.
Latimer Road is no longer a geographically accurate name for the station, but it holds historical value. Renaming it could help immortalise the tragic event, cementing its place in London’s history. Although, at the same time, it could also eradicate another part of the area’s history.
Misuse of Funds?
The fear of changing the station name is that for some, it is a misuse of necessary funds, which could be better spent helping survivors. Of the 138 households that were originally lost in the fire, only 66 have been permanently replaced elsewhere.
Many families and individuals are still occupying hotels and others have been offered housing in the West Midlands and north-west England as well as constituencies far away from their home borough and city.
Although Kensington and Chelsea Council have prioritised housing for Grenfell survivors, survivors are likely to need treatment for mental health issues as many are suffering from PTSD and anxiety. This can affect the kind of housing they will feel most comfortable in.
While renaming Latimer Road station can be seen as a crass move in a situation that needs community-oriented and financial support, there is an equal amount of support in favour of the renaming – in petition form at least – with 1,500 signatures.
Khan certainly intends to honour local resident’s wishes, however, the opposing petitions suggest that the local community is truly split down the middle.
Regardless of perspective – as outlined in the principles – the memorial proposal requires that TfL processes be followed to reach a decision. There is a possibility that the suggestion may be rejected.
Ultimately, the tragedy of Grenfell should be memorialised and retained in London’s collective history. It is important that survivors and local residents are able to have agency over what they feel is an honourable tribute.
Tributes are not only posthumous accolades – they can also honour life. Paying tribute can mean carrying an effective investigation that yields a true death toll, rehousing survivors with dignity, providing the community with mental health support and awarding survivors with stoic bravery.