Nick of Time Productions in association with The Playground Theatre present
Edited by Richard Norton-Taylor
Directed by Nicolas Kent
The Grenfell Inquiry is one of the most important public inquiries of the past two decades. It is a powerful example of the investigatory reach of the law and its ability to call people to account. It is of profound importance to the bereaved, survivors and residents who endured this terrible fire, especially with the Public Inquiry's focus on why it happened and who was responsible. The Inquiry's work should ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.
Since the fire safety checks have revealed that at least 700,000 people are still trapped in dangerous homes, and hazardous construction problems going back many years are preventing three million others from selling their homes. The Inquiry’s work has huge repercussions for present policy and hopefully for better future regulation for millions of people living in social and private housing in the UK.
The inquiry has now been running for four years. This edited verbatim account of the inquiry is aimed at giving the public an overview and access to some of the most important evidence.
Grenfell: Value Engineering - scenes from the Grenfell Inquiry is a verbatim reconstruction of the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry.
It is impossible to fully understand the pain and suffering of the Grenfell community and the injustice they have suffered and continue to suffer from the unnecessary and tragic fire of June 2017. The intention behind the play is to help the public get an overview of the Inquiry's work and to hold the people and systems responsible for the tragedy to account.
The play uses only the words spoken at the Inquiry and deals predominantly with Part 2 of the Inquiry - modules 1-3 between January 2020 - July 2021. That part of the Inquiry took evidence from those responsible for the disastrous refurbishment of Grenfell Tower before the tragic fire. The age, background and colour of all those men and women who gave evidence and failed to ensure the building was safe for the residents are represented as accurately as possible in this contemporary reconstruction of the Inquiry.
Some evidence presented in the play comes in a powerful speech from the only Black Barrister to address the Inquiry so far in Part 2 - Leslie Thomas QC, who said:
“The majority of the people who died were people of colour. What does COVID-19 have in common with Grenfell? Race and poverty. A disproportionate number of people of colour have died during the COVID pandemic, and a majority of the Grenfell residents who died were people of colour. We know that. The statistics are glaring , and provide a stark and continuous reminder that Grenfell is inextricably linked with race. It is the elephant in the room.
This disaster happened in a city where there is one housing system for the rich and another housing system for the poor. That political, social and economic context cannot be ignored, brushed aside, in investigating it.”
The part of Leslie Thomas QC is currently on offer to a Black actor and we hope to make an announcement very shortly.
The production is a not for profit venture supported by a number of individual donors and charities. It is budgeted to break even, and in the unlikely event there are surplus funds at the end of the run they will contractually have to be accounted for and returned to the numerous charitable foundations who gave grants to the project.
Tickets from the Birmingham run include a donation to the Grenfell Foundation, and local cladding action groups. There are accessibly priced tickets for those living around Grenfell of between £2 and £5 for the run in London. At Birmingham Repertory Theatre, £5 tickets are available at every performance for people currently living in tower blocks with unsafe cladding.
The Team responsible for the production have produced numerous Public Inquiry plays including The Stephen Lawrence Inquiry, The Scott Arms to Iraq Inquiry, the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, and most recently the Baha Mousa Inquiry - they have always endeavoured to reflect the true racial make-up of these Inquiries which often sadly reflects the racial inequalities of contemporary Britain. Suresh Grover, who has been liaising with many of the Grenfell families and their lawyers, has been acting as an ambassador for the production and has been in regular contact with affected communities.
There is an extensive Black led education programme: VALUED running alongside the play. In London the play will be staged in the Tabernacle in Notting Hill Gate (local to Grenfell and known particularly for its strong community links, including a celebrated Carnival Arts programme), and there will a number of after-show audience discussions including ones organised by Justice4Grenfell and there are on-going discussions about some further ones with Grenfell United.
Director and Producer
The play shows how companies involved in the refurbishment of the Tower conspired to cover up what they knew about the dangerous and life-threatening materials used to refurbish the Tower. It also reveals the incompetence and neglect of local authorities.
Both the companies and local officials dismissed concerns about fire safety repeatedly expressed by the residents.
The legacy of the fire and the evidence to the Inquiry will continue to have widespread repercussions, not least on millions of tenants and leaseholders living in tower blocks clad in dangerous material.