The Grenfell Action Group was formed in 2010 to oppose the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre development which we considered to be a gross overdevelopment of an inappropriate site involving the destruction of Lancaster Green, one of the few local green spaces available to the residents of Lancaster West Estate, and the only residential amenity space available for the residents of the immediately adjacent Grenfell Tower.
The founder members were Edward Daffarn of Grenfell Tower and myself, Francis O’Connor, from the nearby Verity Close. In 2012 we started this blog and worked closely together for a number of years to research, write and publish it as regularly as our combined efforts would allow. The Grenfell Action group and this accompanying blog has operated without funding throughout its existence. From time to time we have been aided in our efforts by a few others who shall remain nameless here.
We were committed to defending the rights of the residents of Lancaster West Estate, a sprawling, inner-city, social housing complex of nearly a thousand dwellings, mostly working class, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic. Our community is located in North Kensington in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). The estate is owned by the RBKC and was managed between 1994 and 2017, on the Council’s behalf, by Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO) which was created specifically and solely for the purpose of managing, on the Council’s behalf, all Council owned properties in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea.
Our blog has recorded, and continues to record, our struggle for social justice and adequate services for our community and we hope it will remain as evidence for future generations of how this community has resisted continual mis-treatment arising from the dictatorship of the Conservative led Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and its now defunct social housing management agents the Kensington & Chelsea TMO (KCTMO). Since our formation we have collaborated with a variety of other organisations and groups notably the Radical Housing Network.
We joined the Radical Housing Network in March 2014 and have since worked hard at forging mutually supportive relationships with other communities and action groups throughout the Greater London area who have experienced similar problems to ours, notably gentrification and social cleansing via the process of wholescale demolition and redevelopment of social housing estates invariably referred to, both cynically and entirely disingenuously, as ‘regeneration’.
Our aims have changed and evolved considerably over time. Our original aim was simply opposing the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre development and the associated loss of our essential residential amenity, a battle we lost, but never really expected to win, given the powerful forces ranged against us. We then diversified our efforts to confront the managed decline of Lancaster West Estate and the widespread threat of ‘social cleansing’ in North Kensington and throughout the rest of London.
We continue to campaign on important issues impacting Lancaster West Estate and our local area. We will continue to challenge RBKC plans for the widespread ‘regeneration’ of social housing in Kensington and Chelsea and the marginalization of Lancaster West residents and other working class communities in London and beyond.
In 2013 I left my home in Verity Close because of chronic illness exacerbated by the constant stress of living in close proximity to the demolition and construction works for the Kensington Academy and Leisure Centre development. I returned to my country of origin, the Republic of Ireland, but continued to work closely with Ed Daffarn producing this blog until the night of the Grenfell Fire when Ed lost his home and all of his possessions and narrowly escaped with his life.
Following the catastrophic but completely avoidable inferno that destroyed Grenfell Tower on 14th June 2017 with the needless loss, in horrific circumstances, of 72 innocent lives, I have devoted most of my energy to investigating in this blog the causes of the fire, including the cultural and political causes that contributed directly or indirectly to the disaster, and to seeking justice for those who lost loved ones on that day and the many survivors who were left homeless and traumatised.
For reasons Ed has never shared with me he has not contributed to this blog since the night of the Grenfell fire so I have continued alone to the best of my ability. I had hoped that he would return at some point but he never did and I reluctantly accepted, with bitter regret, that responsibility for the blog would in future be mine and mine alone.
I have therefore, since the night of the fire, been the sole author of the blog and have committed myself to continuing for as long as I am able and feel that what I can contribute remains relevant.
This has not been an easy task, particularly as the blog went viral on the day of the fire receiving nearly three million views during that first 24 hours. Prior to that the normal readership had been around two to three hundred views per week. Readership numbers remained in the hundreds of thousands during the summer of 2017, gradually decreasing to several thousand each week and eventually to an average of about 2000 per week in the winter of 2018.
During this time I believed it was vitally important that I keep the blog as regular and relevant as possible, unpicking and publishing, as it became public, the steadily mounting evidence of gross criminal negligence by all parties involved in the badly botched refurbishment of Grenfell Tower that preceded the fire and clearly caused the disaster that occurred on that fateful night in June 2017.
I can be reached by email at; GAGBlog@protonmail.com but please be aware that my ability to respond to emails is limited so you may not receive an acknowledgement or reply. That being said, please note that I would welcome any well researched and well written new material for publication so long as it is consistent with the principles of the the Grenfell Action Group and the aims and objectives of this blog.
Author and Editor, Grenfell Action Group Blog