Survivors of the Grenfell fire and families of its 72 victims are to come together two years on to “share some tears” and show the disaster will not be “swept under the carpet”.
Relatives, neighbours and friends of those who died on 14 June, 2017, will lay wreaths at the foot of the 24-storey tower before walking silently through North Kensington on Friday evening.
A day of remembrance will begin with a morning memorial service at nearby St Helen’s Church, where bereaved families will be joined by government ministers who this week were accused of stalling on action to prevent similar tragedies.
Grenfell survivor Leanne Mya, a Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist, and will sing during the service, before white doves are released.
A multi-faith vigil will later be held in the shadow of the charred tower, which for the past year has been draped in white sheets emblazoned with a green heart and the words “Grenfell forever in our hearts”.
The vigil will be followed by a silent walk, a ritual performed on the 14th of every month since the fire but which on Friday is expected to be attended by thousands.
Karim Mussilhy, 33, whose uncle died in the fire, said: “Our plan is to come together with the rest of the community and be with each other, share some tears with each other, smiles with each other, and put our arms around each other and remember our loved ones and pay our respects.
“We also want to be a presence to everyone else, show them that we are still here and we are still standing strong together, dignified, respectful, we aren’t going to go away, we’re not going to fade away and we’re not going to let others forget our loved ones and for us to be swept under the carpet.”
Communities secretary James Brokenshire and fire minister Nick Hurd will attend the morning’s memorial, which takes place amid growing anger over the continued fire risk at hundreds of high-rise buildings across the country.
Grenfell United, a group form by survivors and bereaved relatives in the wake of the blaze, this week accused of the government of going “through the motions of meeting us so they can say they have listened and then fail to take the action necessary to bring about change”.
On Wednesday night the group projected warnings onto tower blocks across England where residents have raised concerns about flammable cladding, defective fire doors, or a lack of sprinklers.
Justice 4 Grenfell, another campaign group, has organised a march on Downing Street for Saturday to call for action.
Group co-ordinator Moyra Samuels, 62, who lives 300 metres from Grenfell Tower, told The Independent: “We will mourn our dead on Friday, but we will fight like hell for our living.
“Saturday is about saying the next generation and people in unsafe homes deserve to see some change and action now. We need to make sure that message goes out: the community is still mourning and still grieving, but at the same time we want change.”
Ms Samuels, who has lived in the area for 32 years, said there was frustration in the community about delays to the public inquiry and criminal investigation into Grenfell.
She added the mood in the area had been “sombre” in the days before second anniversary.
“There is real feeling of anxiety that starts to develop in the week running up," she said. "People feel very on edge and sad. It’s the little things, the memories, the tears.
“It is going to be a tough Friday, but we will enable people to remember those they have lost and aren’t just left with a feeling that there is nothing they can do. We have to give people hope and feeling that they have a voice.”
Staff at Kensington and Chelsea council, which was strongly criticised for its response to the fire and delays in rehousing survivors, will also gather at the town hall on Friday to pay their respects to victims.
Council leader Elizabeth Campbell said: "Our thoughts are with those families who lost their loved ones two years ago.
"Council staff have never stopped caring and never stopped working, and this will continue to be the case when every family is in their new home and starting to rebuild their lives, and we are now working with our NHS colleagues, who will be crucial in this long-term effort."
Theresa May, the prime minister, said: “Two years on from the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower, my thoughts remain with the bereaved, the survivors and the whole North Kensington community.
“Grenfell was both a local and a national tragedy with far-reaching consequences. In the months and years ahead, I hope future governments will continue to do everything necessary to support all those affected and make certain the voices of the Grenfell community are heard.”
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