Students have abandoned the Grenfell campaign

As Grenfell activists took to the runway at London Fashion Week, we were reminded once again of the devastating fire of two years ago that claimed 72 lives and left a permanent scar in the nation’s consciousness.

Though while the events of June 2017 have not been forgotten, many of the issues remain unresolved. In the wake of the tragedy, campaigners and members of the community have worked tirelessly to effect real change by holding the government to account.

As of yet, no party has been prosecuted, the second-half of the inquiry has been postponed until 2020 and a number of buildings still retain dangerous cladding. So why has public anger waned if it was once so acute? And what is the student community doing about it?

A common response from students was that, as media coverage moved elsewhere, it has been difficult stay informed about the Grenfell campaign.

Dominica from UCL told London Student that she has not kept pace with the latest developments. Admitting that government negligence is “messed-up” and “unbelievable”. Tasnim and Adam, both from UCL, also told LS that they have struggled to follow the inquiry.

Campaign groups also lament that the issue is no longer in the public spotlight. It’s strange to think that only two years ago no one was talking about anything but Grenfell; social media feeds were full of photos complete with symbolic green hearts and strangers offering their sympathies to the bereaved.

This is why, a spokesperson for Justice4Grenfell told London Student, a consistent social media presence is so important for students, who tend to participate on an individual rather than collective basis.

The campaign, she pointed out, is working to permanently change building regulations to make housing safer, and that includes student accommodation. They “hope that more young people realize that these issues affect them too”.

The spokesperson advised students to get involved by offering time or skills “whether it’s big or small”.

The Royal College of Art, for instance, supports the monthly silent walks by making posters and forming a solidarity group. Justice4Grenfell told LS “the whole community gets involved and it acts as a kind of art therapy”.

Given how much student accommodation is within five miles of Grenfell, it’s a wonder why the issue does not loom larger on the student political scene. All of the people LS spoke to indicated that the issue was one that they cared about, even if they knew little about it. What with the postponement of the inquiry and the technical nature of the evidence, it’s easy to see why people struggle to keep up.

Perhaps the lack of coverage is the problem, but perhaps also it’s symptomatic of the shortened life-cycles of social justice campaigns in an age of social media.

Whatever the reason, students should stand with the families of those who died in the fire.

Featured image credit: ChiralJon


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