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‘It’s deeply personal’: Former Bishop of Kensington welcomes Grenfell survivors speaking out

by Heather Preston

Tuesday marked the start of a week of testimony for survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire, allowing conversations between those who escaped and the firms they hold responsible for the disaster that killed 72 people.

Over the next four days, survivors and residents will speak to organisations including the London Fire Brigade, the Home Office and local government.

The deadly fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block, North Kensington on 14 June 2017. Rt Rev Graham Tomlin was Bishop of Kensington at the time. He tells Premier why it is important for the survivors to speak to those in power:

“It’s very easy for the evidence so far to be caught up in legal cases and forensic legal processes but there's something deeply personal about the Grenfell Tower fire. It's not just a kind of national thing, it's something that affected families and people very deeply. For them to actually tell their story, how it impacted them, will be a very significant thing.”

A bereaved father opened the testimonies, describing how his son’s life “was taken away from him” following the blaze. His son, Logan Gomes, was stillborn after his parents narrowly escaped the burning tower with their two daughters. He would now be six years old.

Then Prime Minister Theresa May launched a public inquiry into the disaster the day after the fire - the final results of which have not yet been published.

Tomlin tells Premier this long wait for justice has been hard for survivors:

“We still don't know whether there'll be police prosecutions as a result of it. Clearly, COVID came in the middle of that and delayed everything but that's a long time for people to wait. There's certainly a feeling that responsibility has not yet been allocated to this, as to what happened there.”

Grenfell Testimony Week forms part of a 2023 settlement agreement and is independent from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry. A legal hearing was told there had been a settlement of about 900 cases and that around 150 million-pounds in compensation had been agreed.

Representatives from Celotex, Exova, London Fire Brigade, Kingspan, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC), Rydon, and Whirlpool Corporation all accepted invitations to be present at the four day event. The Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will also be represented.

“For the people who have lived through [the Grenfell fire] it's something that's within every single day of their lives, and will be for the rest of their lives." Tomlin prays the event will bring a level of peace to families and survivors.

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