A one-day exhibition tells the stories of the community that called Grenfell home

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Gold & Ashes takes over Hoxton Arches this Wednesday ahead of the fifth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire

Next Tuesday, 14 June 2022, marks five years since a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington, London, claiming 72 people’s lives. It was the worst domestic blaze in the UK since World War Two. The disaster received widespread press coverage, as did the local and central governments’ failings in the lead-up to and following the tragedy. However, an ongoing criminal investigation and government inquiry have yet to instigate any legislative changes or prosecutions despite testimony revealing wrongdoing by manufacturers, builders and government officials. It has also become clear that the corruption extends beyond just Grenfell. In the UK alone, over 100 buildings more than 18 metres high still comprise the combustible ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding responsible for spreading the fire.

However, lost amid official investigations and headlines surrounding Grenfell is an appreciation of the community who called the tower block home. “The saddest thing about Grenfell is that we will never be able to tell the world what a wonderful community it was,” says Ed Daffarn, a former resident who survived the fire. Daffarn is also one of the many subjects of Gold & Ashes – a powerful multimedia project spearheaded by creative director Feruza Afewerki, who lost her sister Amal and four-year-old niece Amaya in the disaster. Collaborating with a team of volunteers and creatives, Afewerki has captured the stories of survivors and memories of those who lost their lives in a poignant photo series and book, along with a short film featuring eight former residents. Collectively, the project endeavours to platform the voices of those whose lives were irrevocably affected by the disaster. 

“It’s important we tell our stories as much as we listen to them,” reflects Afewerki. “I wanted to humanise Grenfell by inviting the community to talk about their brothers and sisters and neighbours so that they could share their stories of loved ones and, in the process, feel seen and heard and know that we are not alone.”

The book will be published this June with a launch event on Wednesday 08 June 2022, at Hoxton Arches, London E2 8HD, to coincide with Grenfell’s fifth anniversary. The event will feature a one-day exhibition of photographs from the series, a film screening, a panel discussion, and a segment on mental health and community healing. All profits from the publication will go towards supporting mental health services for the Grenfell community.

Feruza Afewerki

Gold & Ashes will be at Hoxton Arches, London E2 8HD, from 10am to 5pm this Wednesday 08 June 2022, with film screenings at 1pm and 3pm. Gold & Ashes can be purchased at the event and also here.

Hannah Abel-Hirsch

Hannah Abel-Hirsch joined British Journal of Photography in 2017, where she is currently Assistant Editor. Previously, she was an Editorial Assistant at Magnum Photos, and a Studio Assistant for Susan Meiselas and Mary Ellen Mark in New York. Before which, she completed a BA in History of Art at University College London. Her words have also appeared on Magnum Photos, 1000 Words, and in the Royal Academy of Arts magazine.