A museum is among the possibilities cited in the first report on a future memorial at Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London, where 72 people were killed in a fire on 14 June 2017.
The report was produced by the Grenfell Tower Memorial Commission in consultation with survivors, bereaved families and those who lost their homes in the blaze, as well as residents of Lancaster Ward, the estate that included Grenfell, and the wider local community. It follows a two-year consultation.
According to the report, a shared vision is emerging for a memorial that will offer a space for reflection and remembrance of those who lost their lives, why the tragedy happened and the need for justice.
The report found that there was some interest in having a building or structure as part of the memorial, with suggestions ranging from a simple shelter to something more substantial such as a museum or education centre. Among respondents, this idea was put forward by 13% of bereaved families, 17% of survivors, 6% of Lancaster Ward residents and 10% of other community members.
“The idea of having a building for a museum speaks to the need to ensure that lessons are learnt and that the history of what happened isn’t lost,” says the report. However, it adds that while a museum might meet the need to educate people about the tragedy “it would also create a tourist destination”.
“It will be important to weigh everything up and make sure that meeting one set of needs doesn’t undermine another,” the report says, adding that there are a variety of ways these different needs could be met.
“To address the need for education about the tragedy, for example, we could recommend to the Museum of London that they have a Grenfell exhibition, or recommend to the government that a Grenfell museum or archive be built in addition to the memorial on a separate site,” says the report.
The most popular idea is having a garden as part of the memorial, followed by an artwork or monument. There is almost unanimous agreement that the site should not be used for housing.
Respondents have differences of opinion about whether the tower should be torn down. While some families say this would cause “deep pain and sorrow”, other members of the local community say that living in the tower’s shadow “places a huge strain on their mental health”.
Some suggested that a light sculpture could take the place of the tower, while others felt the tower should be preserved and turned into a vertical garden.
The final decision on what will happen to the tower itself rests with the UK Government, which is currently undertaking a separate consultation on its future.
The 72 victims of the fire included emerging museum professional and gifted artist Khadija Saye, who died along with her mother on the 20th floor of the building. A photography fellowship was set up in Saye's name at London Transport Museum, where she was working on the Young Freelancer programme at the time of her death.