Grenfell Tower Memorial: Iconic Green Heart Banner Carried Through St Paul’s At Start Of Ceremony

A memorial service honouring the 71 people who lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire began with a banner bearing the iconic Grenfell Heart being carried through St Paul’s Cathedral.

Father Gerald Skinner and Fahim Mazhary, an imam from a local mosque, paraded the banner up to the pulpit as the congregation sang ‘Be Still My Beating Heart’.

Survivors, the bereaved, volunteers and first responders have been joined by Theresa May and members of the Royal Family at the multi-faith service in central London, which falls on the six month anniversary of the tragedy.

The Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are among the congregation.

Later in the memorial, a powerful and emotional recording of survivors echoed around the church as people in and around Grenfell Tower on the night of the fire described the blaze.

Speaking to HuffPost UK before the service, Clarrie Mendy – whose cousin Mary Mendy died in the fire alongside her daughter Khadija Saye – said she was hoping for “some spiritual words of wisdom and healing”, adding that the memorial is something she has “hoped and longed for”.

“I just hope there aren’t going to be empty words and that they are going to be followed up meaningfully,” she continued.

“And I pray to god, if there’s a Father Christmas, make sure every survivor is housed this Christmas. That’s what I’d like to see.

“Words are wonderful but I want to see the action behind it as well. I was here for the rehearsal yesterday. It was very emotional. There were beautiful words.” 

The service, which started at 11am, includes messages of support for the bereaved, offering strength and hope for the future “for those of all faiths and none”.

A pre-recorded sound montage of anonymous voices from the Grenfell community is being played at the memorial, while a banner with the green Grenfell Heart was carried through the cathedral.

There will also be performances from the Ebony Steel Band, the Portobello Road Salvation Army Band, an Islamic girls’ choir from the Al Sadiq and Al Zahra Schools, and the St Paul’s Cathedral Choir.

At the end of the service, survivors and those who lost relatives in the blaze will leave the Cathedral together through the Great West Door in silence, holding white roses.

Judy Bolton, the director of campaign group Justice4Grenfell, added: “This morning while getting ready, I actually was in tears. I was in tears because this is the one time where everybody the bereaved, the survivors, the wider community, the firemen and everybody will come together for this day of remembrance.

“I was looking through photos and the order of service from my uncle’s funeral and it just really brought it all home to me. It just made it all very, very real. And that even though this is a remembrance, coming in this morning as we were driving in, we could see the tower and again (I was) crying.

Bolton continued: “This should never have happened. I want to know why my loved ones and why our community have been torn apart like this with no answers.

“And six months on [there are] no homes. Are we really that worthless? So for me I’m actually really proud to be here today and to actually feel part of this community to remember this day, but emotionally it is quite hard, it is.”

In addition to May, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and communities secretary Sajid Javid are attending the memorial.

However, the leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council Elizabeth Campbell is not among the crowds, following a request from bereaved families.

The council has been heavily criticised for its response to the fire at the 24-storey block on the Lancaster West Estate on June 14.

Responding to the appeal, Campbell said: “The service isn’t about me, it’s for the people who lost everything on that terrible night six months ago, and it is in memory of those who tragically lost their lives.

“It is only right that we respect the wishes of those involved.”