Frida Kahlo art exhibition in London


This video from London, England says about itself:

13 June 2018

This is a short video review of the Frida Kahlo : Making Her Self Up exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum from 16th June to 4th November 2018 bought to you by Visiting London Guide.com.

We give you a sneak preview and illustrate what the exhibition can offer visitors.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 23 June 2018

FRIDA KAHLO

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up
Victoria&Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 2RL
16 June – 4 November 2018
Admission £15 (concessions available).

SOLD out to the end of this month, the V&A is presenting an exhibition exploring the life and art of Frida Kahlo (b. 1907), one of the most significant artists and women of the 20th century, and how she fashioned her identity.

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up is the first exhibition outside of Mexico to display her clothes and intimate possessions, reuniting them with key self-portraits and photographs to offer a fresh perspective on her compelling life story.

Frida Kahlo de Rivera (July 6, 1907-July 13, 1954) was born Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderón; she was inspired by the 1910-1920 Mexican Revolution and joined the Mexican Communist Party in 1927, where she met her husband the muralist Diego Rivera. She painted many portraits, self-portraits, and works inspired by the nature and artifacts of Mexico, employing a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, postcolonialism, gender, class, and race in Mexican society.

Her paintings often had strong autobiographical elements and mixed realism with fantasy.

Born to a German father and a mestiza mother, Kahlo spent most of her childhood and adult life at her family home in Coyoacán, La Casa Azul (The Blue House), now known and publicly accessible as the Frida Kahlo Museum.

She was left disabled by polio as a child, and at the age of eighteen was seriously injured in a traffic accident which caused her pain and medical problems for the rest of her life. Kahlo empowered herself through her art and dress after suffering the devastating near-fatal bus crash which rendered her bed-bound and immobilised for protracted periods of time.

Self-portraiture became the primary focus of her art at this point and she began to paint using a mirror inset into the canopy of her four-poster bed. Kahlo and Rivera were married in 1928, and remained a couple until Kahlo’s death. The relationship was volatile due to both having extramarital affairs; and while they divorced in 1939, they remarried the following year.

The V&A exhibition opens with a section Roots which shows early black and white photos of her and her German father and Mexican mother, and an early self portrait. A section Art and Revolution shows Rivera and his murals and an early oil painting Pancho Villa and Adelita influenced by Cubism and de Chirico and featuring the Mexican revolutionary general.

Here also is a stlll life titled The Bride Who Becomes Frightened When She Sees Life Opened, 1943, featuring melons, a hedgehog and a small bird. Also here is a black and white photo of Kahlo and Rivera at the front of the 1929 May Day parade.

Following this is a short film featuring Kahlo, Rivera, Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky and his wife Natalia at Coyoacan, with Trotsky giving his address to the Mexican people in 1937 thanking the Mexican government for giving him asylum and denouncing Stalin’s trial. This is the exhibition’s only reference to Trotsky’s stay at Coyoacán where he was murdered in 1940 by Stalinist agent Ramon Mercader.

The V&A proceeds with a section Gringolandia with a Kahlo self-portrait on the Mexico-US border of 1932. There is an impressive surrealist painting depicting Mexican rural vs US manufacturing economies.

Working in close collaboration with Museo Frida Kahlo, the V&A displays more than 200 objects from the Blue House. Kahlo’s personal items including outfits, letters, jewellery, cosmetics, medicines and medical corsets were discovered in 2004, 50 years after being sealed in the Blue House by her husband Diego Rivera. Much more was understood about Kahlo’s accident after the discovery of the objects in the Blue House.

A highlight of the exhibition is the resplandor, a lace headdress worn by the women of the matriarchal society from the Ishmus of Tehuantepec region in Southern Mexico, paired with a self-portrait of Kahlo wearing it.

There are examples of intricately hand painted corsets and prosthetics. Her vividly-coloured cosmetics are striking in the celebrated portraits by photographer Nickolas Muray which show her smiling and wearing many of the distinctive Tehuana garments on display.

Kahlo’s self-portraits are more severe and show a woman with a steely determination. In one dramatic Self Portrait With Monkeys, 1943, Coyoacán, she depicts herself and surrounding monkeys looking rather surprised, if not shocked. As well as a display of her beautiful Mexican folklore-inspired dresses, is a moving Magical realist painting The Love Embrace of the Universe, the Earth (Mexico), Me, Diego, Senor Xolotl, 1949, Coyoacán, where she depicts Rivera as a babe in arms.

Kahlo used her striking appearance as a political statement, crafting her identity to reflect her own mestizo (mixed-race) identity and allegiance to Mexican identity.

Mexico flourished in the 1920s and 1930s as a liberal destination that attracted foreign artists, writers, photographers and documentary film makers, in what became known as the Mexican Renaissance. The V&A also shows photographs of traditions in clothing, architecture and the popular arts taken by Edward Weston and Tina Modotti in the 1920s that made an imprint on the Mexican imagination and its perception abroad.

Advertisements

Grenfell fire disaster, London march for justice


The front of Saturday’s Grenfell march passes Parliament in London, England

From daily News Line in Britain:

Monday, 18 June 2018

Joint Justice4Grenfell-FBU demonstration

THERESA May we don’t trust you, we trust the FBU’, shouted over 3,000 marchers from Downing Street in London on Saturday. The joint march organised by the FBU and Justice4Grenfell attracted delegations of firefighters from as far as Ireland and Scotland.

A number of banners from the lecturers’ union UCU were also on the march. Humberside FBU Brigade Secretary, Gavin Marshall, told News Line: ‘We want to see justice done that’s why we are launching our own inquiry. ‘We see that the building regulations have been fragmented over the last decade. This government wants to privatise everything.

‘We have seen job cuts coinciding with deregulation, meaning that safety inspections have been reduced. ‘It’s these cuts combined with inflammable cladding that led to why we are here today so don’t point finger of blame in the direction of firefighters. We went above and beyond throughout the night. ‘When you are asked to write your name and number on the top of your helmet you know you are in a difficult situation. ‘That is done to identify you if you don’t come out of the building, and that is what firefighters on that night had to do.’

Chris McGlone, FBU executive council member for Scotland said: ‘We’re here today to show our continuing support for the people of Grenfell.’ Also from Scotland Denise Christie said: ‘It reminds me of Hillsborough – as soon as there was pressure on the government they look for someone to blame. At Hillsborough it was the fans and at Grenfell they’re trying to blame firefighters.’

Caron Morton, from South Shields, said: ‘The truth needs to come out and stop blaming the firefighters. ‘I’m here in London to look after my dad but I have had to come here to show my support. ‘This government is responsible. I despise everything they have done.’

At a rally outside Downing Street before the march west London firefighter Lucy Masoud said: ‘The fact that still over half of those affected by the fire have [not] been housed after surviving trauma and neglect shows the contempt that this government has for the residents. ‘The Grenfell fire was like no other, it should not have happened. Why was there flammable cladding and combustible material around windows?

‘Why were residents’ warnings ignored? The victims never stood a chance. In Britain’s unequal society the privileged can buy their safety. ‘If it was down to the government and PM May Grenfell would be kicked into the long grass, this cannot be allowed to happen. ‘We must all lead a fight to see those responsible be brought to justice. May and the government should be dragged to that building to see the consequences.’ A 72 second silence for the victims of Grenfell was held at the rally.

Labour shadow chancellor John McDonnell, addressing the rally said: ‘Never again will we allow this to happen, it is despicable that it had taken place in the richest borough in the country. ‘We don’t just want the truth from the inquiry, we want justice. ‘We will end the austerity which has cost 11,000 firefighters’ jobs in the last few years leading to cuts in inspections.

‘5,000 people are now living on the streets in London and thousands more on housing waiting lists.

‘Above all else, we will be proud to build council homes again and the big corporations and the rich are going to pay their taxes for a change.’

North Kensington resident Joe Delaney, who lived in flats next to Grenfell Tower said: ‘I was there on the night and saw how awkward the situation was for firefighters. ‘They had to get riot shields from the police to protect themselves from falling cladding which was in flames.

‘The Blair government sold off the building research leading to deregulation of building. We should not be making short term savings. ‘How many of the buildings around here have this cladding?

‘Parliament is just getting an 8 billion pound makeover but all our lives are important not just politicians.’ ‘When riots happened in London in 2011 24-hour courts was set up to give exemplary sentences to those involved. They were to be seen as a lesson to the public.’ ‘Those responsible for Grenfell should not only be arrested but locked up in prison covered in cladding till they rot.’

Paula Peters from Disabled Peoples Action Campaign said: ‘This government has blood on its hands.’

‘We need to place the blame on Theresa May and ex-Mayor Boris Johnson. They need to be held to account, and we must make sure that the enquiry is not a whitewash. ‘In a block of flats in Merton last week lives were in danger. The entry phone system in the block was locked and no one could get in or out for hours. This government needs to go!’

Tasha from Justice4Grenfell said: ‘Silent marches had been held across the UK in over 20 cities and vigils were held in Australia and the United States. ‘Today we call for change. They have heard our silence and now we will make some noise. ‘We called for an absolute ban on flammable cladding and it to be removed from over 300 buildings across the UK.’

On the march News Line spoke to firefighter Matt Lamb from the West Midlands who reported: ‘We have just had a ballot for industrial action against the imposition of unagreed contracts. ‘On a turnout of 82 per cent we had a massive 90% vote for strike action. Because of this massive vote management has conceded talks to resolve the issue.’

The march stopped outside the Home Office and was addressed by NEU teachers’ union joint secretary leader Kevin Courtney who told marchers: ‘I was born 8 miles from where the Aberfan disaster took place where over 100 children and their teachers were buried as a coal tip slid down the Valley. ‘The similarities are striking: the authorities ignored the warnings of the disaster.

‘The community fought for prosecutions which never came, they still are ignoring the people. Justice must be seen to be done, we need prosecutions.’

On the march Tash Joyce from Bendigo, Victoria, in Australia told News Line: ‘I made sure I would get here for this march. I got my flight brought forward a week so I could be here. I have brought books for the children of Grenfell.’ As the march returned to Downing Street more speakers addressed the crowd.

Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing said: ‘Grenfell is a result of 30 years of cuts and privatisation and condemned the first leader of Kensington and Chelsea council who said that residents were offered either sprinklers or decent home standards. How can you treat people in this way.’

Daniel Renwick, a local resident and filmmaker told the rally: ‘When Hillsborough happened the police lied immediately and blamed fans, 24 years later the minute this fire got out the fire service are blamed when there was a complete breach of architectural safety. ‘The Kensington and Chelsea Council and the tenant management organisation completely failed.’

FBU general secretary, Matt Wrack, told the rally: ‘In 35 years in the fire service I have never seen anything on that scale, no one has dealt with a fire like this. ‘From day one we said we want to see justice for the community. The FBU is not just about pay and conditions but for safety of the public. ‘In the 1980s we campaigned to stop furniture being filled with dangerous materials. It is glaringly obvious we have a hostile environment for the people of North Kensington.

‘The fundamental question is how and why a building can be wrapped in petrol in this day and age.

‘We need to hold the criminals to account. All those who have advised and signed off regulations need to be held to account. ‘Dozens of previous recommendations from previous fires have been ignored. ‘The only thing we can rely on is ourselves, the only way we can get change is by organising it ourselves, this is a national issue. ‘We need to build a mass movement, we need every trade union here, we need to stop the city in its tracks.’

Kensington MP Emma Dent Coad and Weyman Bennett from Stand Up to Racism also addressed the rally. Concluding the rally musician Niles Hailstones sang Bob Marley’s ‘Stand up for Your Rights’ and Moira Samuels from Justice4Grenfell called for all at the rally go back to the areas and support their campaign for justice.

THE RESIDENT of the flat in which the Grenfell Tower fire started said yesterday that police wanted to place him in witness protection after “distorted” press reports. Behailu Kebede gave a statement to the public inquiry through his lawyer, saying inaccurate media coverage had portrayed him “like a criminal who was to blame for the fire”: here.

London Grenfell disaster, Cameron’s ‘killing of safety culture’


People take part in a silent walk by Grenfell Tower, London, to mark one year since the blaze which claimed 72 lives

By Sam Tobin in London, England:

Monday, June 18, 2018

Grenfell failings ‘introduced over more than a decade

SAM TOBIN reports from Holborn

MULTIPLE fire safety flaws and regulatory breaches were introduced to Grenfell Tower more than a decade ago, the inquiry into the blaze heard today.

Neither the fire lifts nor fire mains were capable of helping vulnerable residents flee the building or aiding the emergency response, expert witness Dr Barbara Lane said.

The lifts lacked an escape hatch, a secondary power supply or doors that can resist a fire for 60 minutes, as outlined in Approved Document B of the building regulations, she said.

The block’s dry rise system was also said to be in breach of statutory guidance, while a gas pipe installed in 2016, running throughout the building from the basement, was exposed at key points during the fire, the expert continued.

Ms Lane said the 24-storey structure was built with walls that were “entirely non-combustible” but the new cladding in 2016 added flammable material to the exterior, with a cavity between the wall and the insulation.

Fire Brigades Union general secretary Matt Wrack told the Star that “we need to take time” to consider all the evidence “in a lot more detail.”

But he added: “I think [today’s hearing] confirms one of the things that we said from the start, that the key issue here is the fire protection in the building.”

Mr Wrack said Ms Lane had “very helpfully set out” the relationship between fire protection measures and “building regulations, the building control system, fire risk assessments and then how the fire service responds operationally.

“Clearly, there’s a whole host of failings in that system in terms of the work that was done at Grenfell Tower.”

In Parliament yesterday, shadow housing minister John Healey demanded answers over more than 1,000 “suspect cladding samples” which he said have been refused testing since the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mr Healey criticised government inaction on cladding and asked why 1,319 cladding samples had been untested.

Housing Secretary James Brokenshire could only tell MPs he would “look into” the matter.

Mr Healey said that “simply isn’t good enough,” adding: “Since Grenfell, ministers have been too slow to take responsibility, too slow to act and this Conservative dogma of hands off is delaying the government action necessary to deal with this national disaster.”

London Grenfell Silent Marchers interviewed


This video from London, England says about itself:

Silent march for Grenfell – one year on. Meeting the firefighters at Labroke Grove, west London, 14th June 2018.

From the World Socialist Web Site in London, England:

Grenfell Silent Marchers speak

“I have woken up to the fact that class war still exists, it’s alive and kicking

By our reporters

16 June 2018

World Socialist Web Site reporters spoke to some of those attending the Silent March on the occasion of the anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14.

Linda works at a Tesco’s supermarket in London. She said, “Nothing much has progressed in a year for the families. People are still living in hotels and B&Bs. How can you sit there and say to yourself I just want to go somewhere and say, ‘This is mine’? If you are living in hotels and B&Bs you can’t do that. You haven’t got a proper life back.

“It’s bad how it has been dragged out so long. They’ve got no release. They are still having to fight, but they are still grieving. It’s hard for them. We need something sorted as soon as possible.

“Look at Hillsborough [the Sheffield football stadium where 96 Liverpool fans were killed in 1989 as a result of a crush caused by the decisions of the police and authorities]. How many years is that? That could have been avoided.

“It’s health and safety issues. The firefighters could only go above so many floors [at Grenfell]. It was in 1974 that it was built. You would think, over the years, they would have said you can have some kind of safety system—outside stairs, sprinklers or something. How much would that have cost? Maybe they would have had a better chance to get out if they had that.”

Patty lives in London and was originally from East Germany. She said, “I’ve lived a fairly sheltered life in the UK. But I grew up in East Germany and there was always talk about socialism and class war, but it always felt stilted and unreal. This is the first time I have woken up to the fact that class war still exists, it’s alive and kicking. People used to say that class war is not real any more, but it is.

“I am gob-smacked. I came here to show solidarity, but I’m completely speechless about how crooked this government is, how cold and psychopathic. They were saving a few pennies over the lives of people. They need to be brought to justice and not through the regular routes, because it’s the establishment that makes the rules. That’s why, so far, they haven’t been punished for it, so the whole system needs overthrowing, I think.”

Asked her opinion on the public inquiry into the fire, Patty remarked, “If it’s led by the people in charge, the government in charge, then it will be a coverup. I agree this is a social murder. It shows there is one rule for us and one for them. If any other person or entity had done anything like that, it would be so obvious they were guilty and something would be done about them. Because it’s the government and because it’s the council, it’s acceptable corporate manslaughter. Just because it’s at such a high level it’s being ignored. It’s just not right.

“I’ve seen great community spirit today, which is incredible. A phrase we always used to spout in our childhood was ‘workers of the world unite’, but that is exactly what we need today.”

Josh, a documentary filmmaker, said, “I am here to support Grenfell and support the community, the people who have been so grossly neglected by the council, by the people in charge. These are people who refuse to admit they are wrong.

Josh

“Due to underfunding and neglect, Grenfell didn’t get the fireproofing it needed and this horrible accident happened, costing so many wonderful innocent people’s lives.

“To see the community that a large part of my family has grown up in come together is an incredibly beautiful thing.”

Frank Henry is a resident of Paddington in west London who knew two of the victims of the Grenfell fire, Denis Murphy and Raymond “Moses” Bernard. He said, “Nothing has been done for the Grenfell people. If I was to commit a crime, you would want to see me locked up in jail.

Frank Henry

“People can’t get justice. Things have been held down [by the authorities] for a year now, and now there’s the [public] inquiry into the fire. How long can they hold it down for? I just want to say that the people at the top who did this need to be in prison.”

Keeran works as an accountant in London. He said, “I saw the flames as I was working around Paddington last year; it was very heart-breaking. I did come here to offer some help afterwards.

“I am an immigrant, having lived in the UK since the age of four. I’m from a middle-class background, so I was fortunate not to experience what these poor people have experienced. For me ever since the day I saw these flames, I wanted to do what I could to help.

“I don’t think people should forget, not only the injustices that the government did to the victims, but against everyone else. Coming here to me is a gesture to refresh the memory of what happened that day.”

Asked about the government’s inhumane treatment of the survivors, with many still not permanently rehoused after a year, he said, “I think it is a complete violation of their human rights. There was a recent fire in Kensington [The Oriental Hotel], and people were relocated and the media covered it very well. But in the case of Grenfell, the victims were made to be forgotten. Over half the victims have not yet been rehoused. Had it happened to a higher class of victims, it would have been seen straightaway as a crime. But it just seems that no one [in authority] cares. I hope from the bottom of my heart they will get justice. With the current government, it will be very difficult.”

“I think that capitalism has many, many bad things, but we can change it, like yourselves going around speaking to people. I don’t think that capitalism and truth can ever coexist.”

This video from London, England says about itself:

Grenfell Silent March and Firefighters 14 June 2018

This short clip shows the interaction between residents, families and supporters with the Firefighters. This takes place on the 14th day of each month. This action of solidarity and support needs to continue until every resident and their families receives justice.

By Alice Summers in England:

London Review of Books publishes scurrilous account of Grenfell Tower fire

15 June 2018

On June 7, the London Review of Books featured The Tower, a lengthy essay on the Grenfell Tower inferno by journalist and novelist Andrew O’Hagan. The essay marked one year since the devastating fire that claimed at least 72 lives. It also coincided with the opening days of the official inquiry during which fire survivors and relatives of those who died gave moving tributes to their loved ones. O’Hagan’s piece, however, is a mockery of journalistic and social integrity.

The Tower, a 60,000-word essay, was penned by the same individual who produced a hatchet job account of Julian Assange’s life in 2011 in his book The Secret Life. In that work O’Hagan portrayed the WikiLeaks co-founder as narcissistic, paranoid and lying. In an interview with the [Rupert Murdoch owned] Times, he accommodated himself to accusations that Assange was a Russian stooge because of WikiLeaks’ role in leaking documents pertaining to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 US election campaign, as well as to the bogus rape charges against Assange.

The same contempt for democratic rights and the lives of working people is abundantly present in The Tower. There are sensitive and moving portraits of those who lived in Grenfell Tower in the first part of O’Hagan’s essay, but this is overshadowed and outweighed by the subsequent six parts.

O’Hagan’s piece is characterised by vicious and dishonest misrepresentations, inaccuracies, the demonization of local activists, residents and firefighters, and hymns of praise to the local council.

Various survivors and local residents who were interviewed by O’Hagan, or have read his account, have denounced The Tower. They have condemned his apologetics for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council and vilification of the local community, as well as asserting that O’Hagan misled them as to the purpose of his piece and altered or invented some of their comments.

Nursery worker Melanie Coles wrote an open letter of complaint to LRB, which was posted on Twitter by Noha Maher (who lost her brother, Hesham Rahman, in the Grenfell fire) and which has been shared widely. Coles, who was interviewed by O’Hagan, had taught Fethia Hassan, a four-year-old girl who tragically died alongside her mother and sister in last year’s fire. In her letter, Coles accuses O’Hagan’s article of being “damaging to the credibility of our community” and making for “highly distressing reading for people directly affected, and for some of them offensive, due to the inaccuracies it contains.”

She points to multiple inaccuracies in his account, including his naming of the school which Fethia Hassan attended as the Maxilla Children’s Centre, which was closed in 2015 after council funding cuts and amalgamated with the nearby Golborne Children’s Centre. According to Coles’ letter, O’Hagan’s article invented some of her comments and posted the recording of her interview online without her permission, when she had been told that the video recording would be used only for the purposes of creating a transcript.

Coles further explained that despite being told the article was intended as a sensitive tribute to those who died in the blaze, she and others were misled into participating in a work with very different intentions, including being highly biased in favour of the local council.

The video of Coles was later taken down and some of the errors she pointed to altered or removed. However, rather than issuing an apology, one of O’Hagan’s researchers, Lindsey Milligan, released a contemptuous response. Dismissing Coles’ concerns over the use of the video as “all in your head” and accusing her of not having “understood the bigger picture”, Milligan stated that “it is ludicrous to suggest that his story isn’t compassionate about the victims.”

Daniel Renwick—who produced, co-wrote and co-directed the Grenfell documentary Failed by the State—also criticised The Tower for misrepresenting members of the local community and for its ardent defence of the council, describing the essay as a “deeply insidious piece of writing.”

From the second of the seven chapters of his essay, O’Hagan falls over himself in extoling the virtues of RBKC and its leaders, decrying the unfairness of those who dare to criticise it. The author in particular idealizes council leader Nicholas Paget-Brown (whose “gentle manners” O’Hagan fawns over in the third chapter of his piece) and his deputy Feilding-Mellen. He paints a picture of a noble and blameless council doing its best to help the victims in the face of much adversity and receiving only ingratitude and unfounded accusations in return.

O’Hagan dwells at length on the personal histories, feelings and families of these two esteemed Tory gentlemen (Feilding-Mellen is the son of Amanda Feilding, the countess of Wemyss and March, to whose aristocratic family history O’Hagan thought fit to dedicate nearly 700 words). Indeed, a considerable portion of the essay is little more than a sob story about how difficult it must have been for these two council leaders! He complains how Paget-Brown’s honourable attempt to rise above “political mud-slinging” after the blaze was about “to bring his career to an end.”

The majority of chapters two to five, and large sections of the final two chapters, are devoted almost entirely to absolving RBKC of any guilt for the outbreak of the fire and lionising their subsequent relief effort.

“The council leaders did not cause that fire”, declares O’Hagan in the fifth chapter of the essay. “Like many councillors all over Britain they were in office when cladding was installed that we now know to be unsafe. … They were not on a mission to cut costs.”

He praises the council for its record in “protecting social housing”, making much of the fact that its social housing stock has risen by 200 properties in the last 20 years! In the same period the population of the borough has risen by around 10,000, while the number of homeless people doubled in the five years leading up to 2015.

O’Hagan is able to contrast this record with that of Labour-run boroughs such as Islington, where the number of council properties has fallen by roughly 4,500. Also noting that the cladding used on Grenfell Tower had been used on at least 306 tower blocks across Britain, he points to comparable levels of criminality and cutbacks in other Labour- (and Conservative-) run councils across London and throughout the UK. But this revelation about the filthy role played by both parties is hardly a defence of the RBKC.

His praise is for a local authority that struck deals with property developers to allow them to avoid the requirement to build “affordable accommodation” supposedly meant for the working class. Research, conducted by EG, a property consultancy firm, showed that in 2016 alone the council agreed deals worth almost £50 million [$US66 million] to enable developers to avoid building “affordable homes”.

O’Hagan also celebrates the role played by the local council in response to the fire, describing how it “mobilised 340 staff on 14 June [2017]” and “found hotels for hundreds of residents that day. Everyone from the tower who wanted to go and everybody from the blocks below.” Railing against the “narrative” that council members were not present to help after the fire and that the local authority’s response was inadequate, O’Hagan quotes a council worker as saying: “That was the narrative. It was the story they wanted: the richest borough neglects people in social housing. It was very difficult. We had officers here working 18 hours a day.”

O’Hagan acts as though the RBKC is blameless and powerless, forced to satisfy the cost-cutting whims of a cruel and callous central government. He devotes several passages to criticisms of the central government response, accusing them of having “hung [the council] out to dry.”

He does not dwell on the fact that Paget-Brown, Feilding-Mellen and other Conservatives who make up nearly three-quarters of the borough’s elected councillors belong to the same party as the government he criticises.

O’Hagan’s presentation of the council contrasts starkly and sharply with the manner in which he depicts survivors, activists and local residents. He presents legitimate social outrage as anarchic brutishness, for example, in his description of protesters storming the Kensington Town Hall in the week after the fire.

Describing a meeting he held with local activists while researching his essay, O’Hagan comments, “No evidence was presented at the lunch [with the local activists], just repeated assertions, most of them defamatory, of extreme criminality on the part of individual councillors, and expressions of contempt, often on class grounds, for people they thought were ‘evil.’”

O’Hagan’s attack on anyone daring to bring class into the equation is significant. One of the most striking features of the response from survivors and local residents is the nearly universal understanding that this was a crime committed by the ruling class against the working class. This approach terrifies the privileged layer that O’Hagan speaks for.

He reserves his fiercest criticism for the Grenfell Action Group (GAG), the tenants’ association that played an important role in raising concerns about the safety of Grenfell Tower before the inferno. Presenting GAG as unreasonably prejudiced against the RBKC, he writes, “The Grenfell Action Group hate the Tory council. Over many years, the council had been the enemy and to them every move it makes stinks of corruption.”

The safety concerns that GAG had been raising for many years are dealt with only briefly in The Tower. They are brought in chiefly to point out that the flammable cladding installed on the tower in its refurbishment—which played an important role in facilitating the rapid and deadly spread of the flames—had not featured in GAG’s criticisms of the safety of the tower block.

O’Hagan declares that the group “had never been very popular on the estate”, giving significant space to an anonymous council worker who states, “[W]e tried to answer every issue raised by the action group, but it was never enough; they bombarded us with round-robin emails and to my knowledge we tried to keep on top of them… They hated everything the council and the TMO did, no matter what.”

He presents the many legitimate grievances brought forward by the community group as paranoid and “obsessive” grumblings with little relevance to the actual deadly fire.

In truth, many of the warnings made by the residents’ association, including the dangers of the inadequate fire doors, exposed gas pipes and proximity of the newly built school to the tower (potentially obstructing access for emergency service vehicles), did bear significantly on the fire that eventually broke out and on the toxic smoke spreading so easily. They were key to the problems faced by the London Fire Brigade in its rescue effort.

O’Hagan devotes only a single sentence to the fact that the RBKC council threatened legal action against GAG for their efforts in raising safety concerns. Evidently this does not fit with his narrative of a blameless, noble council.

Expressing his contempt for the working class, O’Hagan seeks to delegitimize the safety concerns of local residents and grievances over housing standards by arguing that contemporary living conditions are far better than they were in Dickensian London!

“In the eyes of some”, he states, “the tower blocks are the continuation of the old habit of keeping minorities poorly housed. But, as always, it depends how you measure it. If the yardstick is the white people’s mansions on Elgin Crescent, then yes. If it’s Victorian pigsties, however, then improvement has definitely occurred, albeit too slowly and for too few.”

Firefighters are not spared O’Hagan’s venom. Joining in with the recent chorus of condemnation for the London Fire Brigade, he blames the “huge and dramatic failure” of the fire service for the 72 deaths: “Everyone knows that cost-cutting is a problem but there was also a problem with the way the Grenfell response was managed”, he writes. “We don’t like to say these things, but events on 14 June [2017] show that, regardless of our affection for them, the professional fire services’ response to the fire at Grenfell Tower was anything but strong.”

O’Hagan ends his essay by recounting the stories of two families who have been successfully re-housed and are beginning to get their lives back on track. While choosing to describe at length these “happy endings”, he neglects to mention that a year on from the fire, more than half of the households made homeless have yet been able to move into permanent accommodation: 72 households continue to live in emergency accommodation, such as hotels, and another 57 are still in temporary homes.

The Tower, in short, disgustingly and disgracefully turns reality on its head, presenting victims as perpetrators and perpetrators as victims.

London Grenfell disaster commemorated all over Britain


This video from London, England says about itself:

Silent march for Grenfell – One year on. Arriving at Ladbroke Grove, west London 14th June 2018.

By Robert Stevens in Britain:

Thousands gather to mark first anniversary of Grenfell Tower inferno

16 June 2018

The first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire on June 14, 2017 drew thousands of people to events in London and around the UK.

People began gathering outside the tower on the Lancaster West estate in west London from the early hours of Thursday morning—marking the exact time that the fire started—to honour the 72 victims and the survivors. The burned-out husk, now concealed behind a white surround, was lit in green, which has become the symbolic colour of Grenfell.

At noon, a national 72-second silence was observed in remembrance of the victims.

The mood of many was captured in a video tweeted by Sky News, showing the moment on Thursday that a London Underground tube driver briefly stopped his train on the bridge at Latimer Road station—only yards from the tower—and got out of his cabin to wave a green flag to hundreds who had gathered below. Shouting his support to the crowd, he was cheered in response. A video of the incident has been viewed over 1.3 million times on Twitter.

Later that evening, up to 10,000 people gathered for the monthly Silent March by the Wall of Truth—set up under the Westway flyover near the tower by local residents fighting for justice for the Grenfell victims—before it made its way to St. Marks Park in Kensington.

By 7 p.m., the Wall of Truth area and local high street was packed out, as people joined from across the capital and further afield. Many stood outside apartments adjacent to Grenfell Tower, waiting to join the march or watch proceedings. A majority wore green and brought flowers and lit candles for those who perished.

People gather outside public housing near Grenfell Tower

Various locations in the immediate vicinity of the tower have been transformed into memorial areas over the year, and participants stopped at these to pay their respects. Demonstrators carried placards reading, “Justice for Grenfell: We demand the Truth.” One held up a placard reading, “Say their Names: Justice for Grenfell”, with the name and ages of each of the victims listed.

Some of the march attendees looking at the placards in memorial to Grenfell victims

Commemorative Silent Marches and vigils were held simultaneously in towns and cities throughout the UK, including in Birmingham, Sheffield, Bradford, Bristol, Liverpool, Salford, Bolton, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee. More events are to be held over the weekend.

The response shows the enormous sympathy and solidarity of workers and youth nationwide with the Grenfell victims. Too many workers live in similar potentially deadly conditions, including in high-rises covered in the same flammable cladding as Grenfell.

There is widespread anger at the refusal of the Tory government and local Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council to assist the devastated local community in the aftermath of the fire. Aware of this sentiment, the decision was made to bathe the prime minister’s official residence in Downing Street and other government departments in green light.

These are the same politicians and institutions whose policies of deregulation and savage budget cuts centrally and locally, carried out over decades, caused the Grenfell tragedy.

Attending the Grenfell march [were] Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Home Secretary Dianne Abbott, as well as the Labour MP for Kensington and Chelsea, Emma Dent-Coad.

Abbott, Corbyn and Dent-Coad

Arriving in the area, Corbyn told the media that the Grenfell fire represented, “Everything that is unequal and wrong about this country. This is the richest borough in Britain and the most deprived borough in Britain—Golborne ward is one of the poorest borough wards anywhere in Britain, in the richest borough in Britain.”

Corbyn’s denunciation could, however, be equally levelled against Labour councils, who run the local authorities in every major urban area in the UK and have imposed Tory cuts. …

Socialist Equality Party campaigners received a warm response as they distributed around 1,000 copies of the SEP statement on the anniversary of the fire. Many people came to the SEP’s stall and took this and other materials on the fire and its aftermath produced by the SEP over the last year.

Discussing with SEP campaigners and taking leaflets

Among the leaflets being distributed was a statement calling for attendance at the June 19 vigil to be held at the Ecuadorean Embassy to demand the freedom of WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange.

The embassy lies just four miles from Grenfell Tower and in the same Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Assange has been forced to shelter in the embassy for six years to prevent plans to extradite him to the US on espionage charges, which carry the death penalty.

Many told the SEP they supported Assange and understood the connection between the corporate media’s attempt to discredit and silence those seeking to establish the truth about Grenfell and the attempts to railroad the WikiLeaks founder.

One woman who passed the stall took 20 of the leaflets on Assange and said she would try to put them in her local library.

Also typical of the response was from Steven, who lived on the Lancaster Estate in north Kensington, adjacent to Grenfell Tower, and who witnessed last year’s inferno.

His flat was the “fourth nearest to Grenfell tower out of an estate of 10,000 people.” Due to the indifference and callous attitude of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea council, it took Steven six months to be rehoused. He has still not recovered from the trauma caused by the fire and the council’s response.

He told the WSWS that “Sweden had dropped the case against Assange so the bail charges from the UK authorities should be dropped. They’re not worth the back of a cigarette box. Assange needs public support to get safe passage out of the embassy to Australia.”

Mark

Mark also witnessed the Grenfell fire from his bedroom window. “A friend phoned me from Ireland. I looked out the window and got the shock of my life. The fire went up diagonally as if it was cardboard.

“The fact that no one had been arrested in connection with the fire is ‘criminal.’ Anyone who is involved in this should be prosecuted, especially those who are telling the fire brigade to keep their mouths shut about it. I think there should be a criminal court case, and people should be remanded in prison until it’s done.

“If I was to burn a few pieces of paper here, I would get done for arson. I would be in prison straight away. They will probably get pensioned off. In the worst-case scenario, they are going to get a pension for the rest of their life.”

Mark expressed sympathy for Assange, saying, “I believe he speaks the truth. He knows the secrets which they don’t want us to know, and he has revealed a few of them. What the Americans are doing is criminal. They know what he is doing and they want to eliminate him. They don’t want him extradited, they want him dead, they want him shut up.”

Ruby lives in London and is a supporter of justice for the victims of the Grenfell fire. She told the WSWS:

“Pressure should be put on Australia to bring him [Assange] home. The Australian embassy should just come and get him. For breaking bail, that should be a slap on the wrist … but he reckons they’ll extradite him to America and kidnap him. He used to do a lot of work, finding out pieces missing out of the jigsaw, the government’s hidden the pieces all over the place. War is all covered up, nobody knows what they’re fighting for. He used to do a lot of work exposing the truth.”

Shirvin

Shirvin is a human rights activist who has been campaigning for justice for the victims of the Grenfell fire since it happened.

“We all know Assange has been framed up”m Shirvin said. “We know he has been framed by big governments because he has told the truth to allow the normal man and woman to understand what the government is doing to them, what the media are doing, what [billionaire media oligarch Rupert] Murdoch is doing.

“We are told we have freedom of information, but it’s not. Look at it this way, do they want people to know? They don’t. The rich support the rich. We need to know the truth about the Iraq war and the Libya war. The Libya war was a crime against humanity, it was genocide.”

The Grenfell Fire Forum, initiated by the Socialist Equality Party, will be holding the next of its regular meetings on Sunday June 17, at 2 p.m. at the Maxilla Social Club in North Kensington, London. All are welcome to attend.

Grenfell Fire Forum meeting
Sunday, June 17, 2 p.m.
Maxilla Social Club, 2 Maxilla Walk
London, W10 6SW (nearest tube: Latimer Road)

For further details: https://www.facebook.com/GrenfellForum

Big London Grenfell commemoration


London Grenfell Tower disaster commemoration

From daily News Line in Britain:

Saturday, 16 June 2018 15,000-strong Grenfell anniversary march

15,000 workers and youth took part in an emotional silent march through west London on Thursday evening to mark the first anniversary of the Grenfell Tower inferno that claimed 72 lives and injured many others.

The march was headed by young people with the banner Grenfell Youth Know the Truth! – Justice is Coming’ and there were large numbers of youth on the march. As well as Justice4Grenfell and Grenfell United banners, there were ones from Barnet Unison, Camden Unison and University College Hospital Unison, and Barnet Teachers Association.

There was an Islington Labour Party banner and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow home secretary Dianne Abbot joined the march. Wearing green sashes, they signed the Memorial Wall with the phrase, ‘We are all together’. London Mayor Sadiq Khan also joined the march.

One dramatic banner with an image of the flaming tower read ‘Real Criminals wear suits14-6-2017’.

As well as placards demanding Justice for Grenfell, there were home-made placards shaped as hearts and one with the slogan ‘Theresa May free bungee jump, no strings attached’.

The silent march passed a firefighters guard of honour at Ladbroke Grove and many stopped to shake hands with firefighters lining the road, and giving them big hugs.

News Line spoke to several of the participants as they gathered by the memorial wall before the march. Unison member Rodney Johnson, a support worker from Greenford, said: ‘I came to pay my respects to the dead and honour those who are grieving and are affected by it. ‘Also it’s my birthday today, so rather then spending the day celebrating me, I’d rather be spending the day celebrating those who come out to remember Grenfell.

‘It’s sad that it has happened. Somebody ought to be blamed but I don’t know the full facts of everything to say who it should be. ‘The way the community has come together, it shows whatever our backgrounds, we are human. ‘We all have the same desire to survive and live safely, be free.’

Personal trainer J.P. Smith, 24, said: ‘I grew up on Latimer Road. ‘A lot of my close friends and family lost relatives in the Grenfell Tower. ‘We’re all here pulling together to support one another. The government is not doing enough to support us. ‘That is why we are here fighting to make sure something is done.

‘The trade unions should be doing a lot more. They should be checking on the families. I agree they should call a general strike to bring this government down. ‘We need people in government that are going to do things for ordinary people.’

Safia Bendibaj from Camden, a customer service manager for a skin care company, said: ‘I’m here to support everyone that has been affected. ‘I lost a friend, Yasim El-Wahabi, and his family in Grenfell. So I’m here to honour his memory today. It was a tragedy that has affected the community as a whole.

‘It’s appalling that nobody has taken responsibility and that the victims have still not been rehoused – that is disgusting. ‘It reflects the lack of compassion this borough has for its residents. ‘The unions should take action to get this government out. Before that we need to hold the people responsible to account.

‘They should respect basic human rights and rehouse the victims. ‘Also, they have only just covered up the burnt-out tower because they knew there would be press coverage one year on. ‘The community has had to sit there and look at the burnt tower for a whole year, that is disgusting.’

Anne Elliot from Latimer Road was with her family: ‘We’re here to fight for justice. We lost a friend.’

Rigerta Ahmetaf from Meaningful Education said: ‘We’ve been providing mental health and emotional support for the victims for the past year. ‘I just feel it’s awful that a year on people are still not housed. ‘There needs to be more support and faster action to debrief the disruption and trauma caused to individuals.’

Former campaign coordination for Justice4Grenfell Sue Caro told News Line: ‘I see Grenfell as being emblematic of everything that’s wrong with the country and what the Tories have done.

‘The unions should take action, any decent human being should take action.’ Emma Bradley said: ‘I’m local and have come on the silent march to support the families and bereaved. ‘Someone has to be accountable for the work that was done that made it a death trap.

‘Hopefully, we’ll be able to move forward with lessons to be learned from this tragedy so it never happens again. ‘It should never have happened in the first place. The trade unions should take action to bring the Tories down. We want a government that people can trust. ‘The corporates have the power, the people need better representation from central government.’

Laura, a young mum from Latimer Road, said: ‘This should never have happened in the first place. It’s cost so many people’s lives; it’s devastating. I’m here for the people who lost their lives and to remember them. ‘People are angry because so many who lived in the tower are still in bed and breakfasts. ‘For the past year, I’ve seen the community do more than anybody else.’

Clare Finburgh, UCU member and lecturer at Goldsmith’s College, said: ‘I’m here to remember who lost their lives and a community who has been bereft. ‘There’s anger and shock at the injustice that is obviously perpetrated against the poorest and most vulnerable people in society. ‘Grenfell Tower is a product of lowering taxes to high earners and cutting spending on public services. You can see the criminality of that policy. I consider what happened to be social murder.’

School youth Shaqs Harrak, 15, added: ‘I’m here to pay my respects. I had close friends, family and friends who lived in the tower. They passed away. ‘I’m very upset and completely blame the government. The trade unions should strike and bring the government down. The workers and the community should run the country, not the rich.’

Battersea firefighter, FBU member Ricky Nuttal said: ‘Red Watch attended the Grenfell fire.

‘It means a lot to firefighters to be on the march today and getting the support from the local community. ‘It means a lot that we’re here to support them. It’s a very emotional day – it should be, after what’s happened.’

London Grenfell disaster anniversary


Writing tributes on the memorial at the base of Grenfell Tower yesterday

From daily News Line in Britain:

Friday, 15 June 2018

GRENFELL ANNIVERSARY

‘WE WANT the nation to keep Grenfell in their consciousness, member of the Justice4Grenfell campaign group Yvette Williams said on the anniversary of the tragic fire which claimed the lives of so many men, women and children.

Masses of people gathered at the base of Grenfell Tower yesterday morning to unveil a mosaic, and next to the mosaic was a board on which people wrote tributes to all of those who had died. Why are we allowed to build high-rise buildings with a single staircase? It is sheer madness. It is not allowed anywhere else in the world except for Great Britain’, Arnold Tarling, Fire Safety Expert said on the first anniversary of the Grenfell Fire.

He continued: ‘The stay-put policy in that property, had there not been the changes made to it, replacement of the cladding, replacement of the fire doors with plastic fire doors, the stay-put policy would have worked. The firefighters had never been in a situation like this before. They are not responsible. If they had advocated evacuation, the stair cases were full of highly toxic gas, because the air extract was not working.

‘You have one person tripping on that staircase, everybody else goes on top, you would still have huge numbers of people dying, they might have got a few more now. In the past, the stay-put policy had worked, but because of the changes that we got in materials and design and alterations, the stay put should be reviewed and removed. We should have two means of escape for every building. There are lots of people who are trying to play down the problems that we have in construction. And it is not just social housing, it is around the building industry.’

It emerged yesterday that out of the 159 tower blocks with the same flammable cladding as Grenfell Tower, to date only ten had been re-clad, meaning that thousands of families are still living in fire traps.