Grenfell Tower: Documentary play about fire performed in local community for fifth anniversary

In a bid to make the play as accessible as possible to locals, survivors and families affected by the tragedy, the performance will be held at Maxilla Social Club in Kensington, a community centre near the tower.

This year marks the fifth anniversary of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower that claimed the lives of 72 people on June 14 2017.

To commemorate the tragedy, Special Measures theatre is putting on a two-week documentary play, called Dictating to the Estate, about the events leading up to the catastrophic fire.

Dictating to the Estate will be performed at Maxilla Social Club

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    Using council minutes, emails and blog posts, it places the disaster in the wider concept of the redevelopment of North Kensington, telling the story of the refurbishment of the tower and of residents’ attempts to hold the council to account.

    In a bid to make the play as accessible as possible to locals, survivors and families affected by the tragedy, the performance will be held at Maxilla Social Club in Kensington, a community centre near the tower, which was used as a collection point for donations following the fire.

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    The play is written by Kensington resident and writer Nathaniel McBride

    Written by Kensington resident and writer Nathaniel McBride, Dictating to the Estate aims to lay bare the context that resulted in the loss of innocent lives.

    “It’s the residents of the tower telling the story of the refurbishment of Grenfell, acting out the different parts and roles involved,” McBride told LondonWorld in the gardens at Maxilla Social Club.

    The club is an effective location for the performance as the tower looms in the background as a reminder of the tragedy that occurred.

    “We have appearances from the leader of the council, David Cameron, the minister of housing and communities at the time Eric Pickles, all the way down to the local housing officers,” he said.

    “The refurbishment is the central narrative but it tries to show how that comes about in a context of regeneration.”

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    The fire at Grenfell Tower claimed the lives of 72 people

    The play also analyses the wider social and political context of the tragedy, looking at the effect of the UK’s 2010 policy of austerity – within which the Kensington and Chelsea Council approved the use of cheaper, highly flammable cladding.

    Residents’ numerous complaints about fire safety were continually ignored and silenced.

    “One of the reasons why so many people died in Grenfell Tower is because they were told to stay put in their flats,” McBride continued.

    “The stay put policy relied on the tower’s compartmentalisation working but the cladding compromised that.

    “In past years, if a fire broke out you stayed in the flat but in 2017 it was able to travel across the outside of the building at an extraordinary speed.

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    “Disproportionately the people who died in the fire were elderly, disabled and from ethnic minority backgrounds.

    “The play was inspired by a loathing of the institutions who created a context for the fire and if people come away with that then the job is done.”

    Dictating to the Estate is directed by Lisa Goldman and Natasha Langridge and the cast includes Tamara Camacho, Lucy Ellinson, Jon Foster and Avin Shah.

    As the subject matter is sensitive and triggering for many, Special Measures is fundraising to have a mental health person on board every evening so audience members have someone to talk to if they need.

    Maxilla Social Club is a community centre near the tower, which was used as a collection point for donations following the fire.

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    Dictating to the Estate will be performed from May 31 to June 12 at Maxilla Social Club, with two Pay What You Can evenings, one relaxed performance and one socially distanced performance.

    You can book tickets here and learn more about the show on its website.