BEREAVED families and local community members have gathered for a memorial service to remember victims of the Grenfell Tower fire.
Decked out in green, with ribbons tied round pillars and scarves on each seat, St Helen’s Church was full as the community united to remember the 72 victims of the fire.
Staff from the London Ambulance Service arrive for the Grenfell Tower anniversary national minute silence and mosaic unveiling
Bishop of Kensington Dr Graham Tomlin said there was an atmosphere of “quiet dignity, a sombre mood in the air but a quite determined mood at the same time”.
Speaking inside the church, he said: “I think today is a really important day for the whole nation to remember Grenfell. Clearly there are a lot of other things going on in people’s lives but today is a day that, a year on, we can remember that terrible night and those events afterwards. And we learn the lessons of today.
“I think we could change a lot of things, we could identify who was responsible, we can make building regulation changes, but unless we ask some more fundamental questions about the way we relate to each other in society and how we care for one another, then we will just go back to the way we normally are.
“I think Grenfell is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ask some really deep questions about the way we live together, the way we care for each other in society.”
A mourner, who lost her sister in the fire, arrives for the Grenfell Tower fire Memorial Service at St Helen’s Church, North Kensington
Getty Images – Getty A woman wipes away tears as she attends a memorial service at St Helen’s Church to mark the one year anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire
Clarrie Mendy, who lost two family members in the fire and organised the event, said the names of the 72 victims would be read out, while 73 doves will be released outside the church.
She said: “It’s a service of healing, community, inclusivity and solidarity, to know we are not alone.
“We’ll be releasing 73 white doves. Why 73 instead of 72? One for the unknown. If there were more than 72, we will put one for the unknown.”
They will be giving out 400 white roses which people will able to carry on their way to the tower afterwards.
In addition, a moment of silence will be observed at midday by survivors and bereaved gathered close to the tower’s base and nationally.
A community mosaic is to be unveiled, while wreaths will be laid and candles lit.
Getty Images – Getty A woman sings during the memorial service at St Helen’s Church on Thursday morning
Some 71 people, including a stillborn baby, died in the devastating June 14 fire, and another resident died the following January.
The public inquiry has paused for a week to allow people time to reflect on the anniversary, and today a series of events will be held in the north Kensington community.
The tower is now completely covered by white sheeting, with banners featuring the green Grenfell heart and the words “Grenfell forever in our hearts” emblazoned across the four highest floors.
In the afternoon, the community is expected to congregate at the nearby “Wall of Truth” ahead of a silent march which will set off around 7pm.
Yvette Williams, from campaign group Justice 4 Grenfell, said: “I think we kind of almost move from ‘did it really happen at all?’ to ‘it feels like it happened yesterday’, to looking at the struggles the bereaved families and survivors have had over the year (and realising) that it is actually a year.
“We want the nation to keep Grenfell in their consciousness. The anniversary is about love and support – the fight can start again on Friday and Saturday – and keeping that humanity going on that day.”
After the silent march, families will come together for a community Iftar to break bread with those fasting over Ramadan.
The following day, schools across the country are expected to take part in “Green for Grenfell”, a day to “celebrate the spirit of people coming together”.
The bereaved and survivors group Grenfell United hopes the idea will become an annual event which will continue the unity and support demonstrated by the local community after the fire.
This year, children are being asked to wear green to school and help with a community project, sharing their achievements online.
On Thursday and Friday, more than 2,000 schoolchildren across the UK will sing Grenfell From Today – a charity single inspired by Cornwall Hugs Grenfell, an organisation offering holidays to those affected.
The song is also being learned by choirs in New Zealand and America, founder Esme Page said.
It comes as latest figures show that 68 families will spend the anniversary in emergency accommodation, mainly hotels. Some 52 households are in temporary accommodation and 83 families are in permanent homes, Kensington and Chelsea Council said.
The local authority declined to specify the approximate locations of those now in temporary and permanent homes, including how many people are living in or outside the borough.