Notting Hill Carnival 2019: Butterflies, rhythm, respect and reflection

This Bank Holiday, Notting Hill Carnival came to town and we were determined to join in the fun.

Deciding to get in the Carnival mood beforehand, we made this fun picture, above, of some local North Kensington “Carnival Councillors” ! (left to right, Conservative councilllor for Norland Julie Mills, Labour councillor for Golborne Sina Lari and our Kensington MP and fellow Labour councillor for Golborne Emma Dent Coad)

But earlier we had been upset by the constant helicopters circling around outside – which took us back to the 14th of June 2017 and Grenfell, so we weren’t entirely sure then if we were feeling up to joining Europe’s biggest street party.

At 3pm on both days, people observed 72 seconds of silence for the 72 members of our community we sadly lost in Grenfell Tower. Thank you to all the Carnival goers who showed respect for Grenfell and the people of North Kensington.

It took a while, but eventually the sights, sounds and sunshine brought us some cheer as did many of the people here today.

We were also cheered by the sight of North Kensington Library which had been beautifully decorated with butterflies – we thank Sophie Lodge and all the members of our community who made these:

Unusually for us, this was probably the first time in years we have walked around Ladbroke Grove and Portobello Road without bumping into most of our local friends. But this was no time to be a stranger as others encouraged us to join the party!

So we leave Notting Hill Carnival this year with some positive memories of the event and a good time (even after having sadly earlier been reliving some traumatic memories of Grenfell). We hope the noise of the helicopters hasn’t caused too much distress to others living here – our thoughts are with others affected who have been finding this difficult too.

We go home with smiles on our faces and the rhythm in our footsteps but we are also reflecting on our loss and that our community is still going through a very difficult time. We will be back to work tomorrow – and there really is a lot of work to do, but today, the happy atmosphere at Notting Hill Carnival has really lifted our spirits.We thank the Carnival organisers and everyone who took part and brought the positive vibes to our local area.

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Fire at Markland House, a 20 storey block of flats opposite Grenfell Tower

Today, a fire broke out on the 13th floor of Markland House, a 20 storey block of flats on the Silchester Estate opposite Grenfell Tower in North Kensington.

We are very relieved to hear the Fire was soon contained and that no one was hurt and we thank the Fire Brigade for putting out the blaze and for their prompt response and presence at the scene. We also thank both the Fire Brigade and the local Police for securing the scene and ensuring that residents were evacuated from the building.

This has been truly upsetting and traumatising for our local community two years and two months on since Grenfell and especially for residents of Markland House, which is located just across the road from Grenfell

We do not have any details of the causes of the fire, but we spoke to some residents of the building outside.

A resident of the 16th floor had been with her husband and smelt smoke at around 11:30am. Initially her husband had thought the smell was cigarette smoke coming from the balcony. She told us “We were there a little longer before we realised that’s not cigarette smoke and looked out to see smoke billowing out from the 13th floor. We got out of the flat, alerted our neighbours and left the building straight away.”

Some residents praised the caretaker of Markland House who had also helped alert residents and evacuate the block.

Other residents expressed their concerns that RBKC had not installed a fire alarm in the building. One resident who lives on the 7th floor who arrived back to find the flats cordoned off, told us “there hasn’t been a fire alarm installed in the hall, all the council did was to repaint the stairs two days after Grenfell and that’s all”. The resident also expressed his relief that the block had not been refurbished like Grenfell and that the block did not have cladding on it.

We spoke to Cllr Mo Bakhtiar (pictured above) , former RBKC Deputy Mayor and Labour councillor for St Helen’s Ward the neighbouring ward to Notting Dale, where Grenfell Tower, the Lancaster West Estate and the Silchester Estate are all located.

He told us “I am saddened and remember everything that happened on the 14th of June , since lost their lives in Grenfell l two years ago. I was anxious and worries but I am relieved that nobody was injured but this is shocking for the community.”

Cllr Baktiar also expressed his concern that about how access for the Fire Brigade to the buildings was made more difficult by the 2014 redevelopment of part of Frinstead House and the buildings to the rear of it if another such fire was to occur of a more serious nature.

For those unfamiliar with the area, the Silchester Estate has four 20 storey blocks of flats – Markland House, Dixon House and Frinstead House on the west side of the estate and Whitstable House on the east side of the estate.

Last year, in July, a fire broke out on the 16th floor of Whitstable House (pictured below) , the nearest tower to Grenfell and on the same side of the road ( known as the tower next door”). Fortunately this fire had been easily contained and nobody had been hurt in But today, some nearby residents, expressed their concerns that there are still no sprinklers, fire extinguishers or fire alarms provided in the communal areas in their blocks.

To mark the 2nd anniversary of Grenfell in June, Grenfell United projected a series of messages on to a series of buildings around the country to draw attention to lack of safety in tower blocks. One, below, projected on to Frinstead House said “2 years after Grenfell this building still has no sprinklers”

Back in March 2018, we posted this about lifts in Dixon House not working:

https://thisisnorthkensington.wordpress.com/2018/03/02/down-the-road-from-grenfell-lifts-in-20-storey-tower-block-not-working/

Today we briefly saw one RBKC Cabinet member outside Markland House today – Cllr Sarah Addenbrooke, Member for Adult Social Care and Public Health, outside who kindly asked asked how we were. We asked her for a statement and she suggested that we contact the RBKC Communications Team.

So we will ask them here (and we will post their response of course)

THINK join local residents in querying why there have been no sprinkler systems, fire extinguishers or fire alarms fitted in any of these high rise blocks of flats more than two years after Grenfell. We also ask Elizabeth Campbell, Leader of RBKC and Kim Taylor-Smith, Deputy Leader as well as member for Grenfell, Housing and Property, to respond to us and to the concerns raised above.

But above all, we believe that action speaks louder than words and remind them that mere statements to the media will not alleviate residents’ very real concerns about fire safety provisions (or lack of) by this council in and around their homes here – so we ask RBKC to listen to this community and act on this now.

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For anyone feeling distressed by today’s incident, the NHS Outreach Service can be contacted on 020 8962 4393

UPDATE: RBKC has posted this with a statement from Kim Taylor-Smith on their website :

https://www.rbkc.gov.uk/newsroom/all-council-statements/information-today%E2%80%99s-fire-markland-house-and-support-those-affected

THINK blog is back! (And in the “Terrible Twos”)

We’re back!

THINK apologise to our readers for our lengthy absence since last October and also for the technical difficulties we had been having with our site – all resolved now but the many problems and issues many in our community face still go on.

Our blog reached the milestone of its second birthday in May, but this was also a month before the second anniversary of Grenfell, so no celebrations here.

In our posts coming up, we will of course, have much more to say on this; we are not going to sit back and let matters (or in some cases people), lie.

This, for now, is just a reintroductory post – but we hope that many in and who support our community can feel rest assured (and a few ill-meaning others feel discomforted by) the fact that the only changes to our blog will be more posts – load of posts coming up of course- but also some new features such as our “Local Voices” residents regular guest posts which will be coming soon

As usual, some of our posts will,be informative, some sad, some angry, some personal and of course, others humorous.

Some may like to think they can go back to “business as usual” but so can THINK! In fact we are doing more than ever before. As well as North Kensington and RBKC we also are going to be covering many issues in communities near us or relating to our own matters.

It’s good to have our blog back, but we have been through difficult times and we wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of friends, loved ones, campaigners, groups and other communities – so we say a huge thank you all for your support – it means a lot to us.

We also remind people that yesterday was the 14tb of August, 26 months on since our community lost 72 of our own in the Grenfell Tower fire, some were friends, others were acquaintances. They all deserved to be remembered, our community is rraumatised and we intend to go on campaigning, supporting others campaigning and supporting each other.

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