UpRising reflects on the anniversary of Grenfell

UpRising reflects on the anniversary of Grenfell

June 18, 2018


Last week we took time across the UK to mark and reflect on the anniversary of Grenfell, uniting in silence, walks and thoughts – wondering how such an event could occur here, in the world’s 5th largest economy, a hub of diversity and equality. At 12.54am last Thursday, Grenfell Tower – amid disparate affluence in its borough – illuminated green for those affected by the tragedy; a tragedy that its people predicted, but shocked society and the wider world.

More than ever it is imperative that our society, and particularly our leadership, acts not only on the failures in decision making surrounding the fire, but the failures that will continue to occur whilst our governance is unrepresentative of our communities.

When there is a disconnect in representation between politicians and those they work to serve, that disconnect does not just stop at surface level, it is deeply entrenched in how our society acts, who it acts for, and how it leads.

Frequently, conversations around diversity and representation encourage us to look at what happens to a person’s decisions or pathways when unable to see themselves at the top. We focus our efforts on mitigating that challenge, ongoing and important work, but leave little challenge for those who hold power. Grenfell pushes us to ask how the decisions of our leaders are affected when they are unable to see themselves at the ‘bottom’.

If people on the ground do not look like you, sound like you, or have the same upbringing as you; responsibility for those people can become devolved or forgotten. The victims of Grenfell were not listened to. Their pleas went unanswered by a leadership who did not reflect the diversity of a borough that sees some of the most privileged individuals live side by side with those most affected by inequality. Despite their locality, those employed to hear and act were a sizeable distance away from lived experience or understanding; and as a result a community was failed.

When we have representative leadership, we will have empathy. When we have empathy, we will have a united desire to work for equality. Grenfell tower, a home made up of working class people and ethnic minorities, is far from those who walk through the doors of Westminster, and as a result far from thought.

Yes, we are making progress. Last year’s general election resulted in the ‘most diverse House of Commons ever’, and with representatives who have ears a little closer to the ground will come shifts in mindset, understanding, and a growth in empathy that will reach colleagues who may be disconnected from constituents. But that journey towards progress still did not prevent the events that unfolded one week after 2017’s general election.

Every individual in this country has a right to a safe home, but that can only be achieved when we have more leaders who know the challenges faced by those living in social housing. Equality can only be achieved when we have more leaders who know the challenges faced by those most marginalised.

Last year UpRising took its Leadership Programme to West London, supported by Grenfell United. We will continue to work across the UK to champion the critical issues surrounding diversity, social mobility and equality. Our mission is to break the cycle of unrepresentative power in the UK, by developing new, community-minded and socially-conscious leaders; so that our future decision-makers truly represent our diverse communities.


Blog post by Roxy Legane, Programme Manager, Manchester

Photos sourced from CNN.