Charity single recalls human cost of Grenfell tragedy five years on

Rappers and singers from local area discuss feelings of loss and hope on track marking anniversary

Five years on from the Grenfell fire, the focus needs to shift back to the young people directly affected by the tragedy, according to those behind a new charity single that features cameos from Top Boy’s Ashley Walters and AJ Tracey.

West Side Story, which will be released on 6 May, has been produced by Toddla T and features rappers and singers from the areas surrounding the tower, who discuss their feelings of loss, grief and hope as the fifth anniversary approaches.

Much of the focus has shifted to the government response and to the eye-watering bills homeowners are facing to solve the problem of unsafe cladding, but the song homes in on the human cost of the fire.

G2 Slime – real name Adjei Isaac – raps about his friend Jessica Urbano Ramirez, who was one of the 72 people who died. He said the tragedy had “changed him as a person”, making him aware of the fragility of life and the need to make the most of opportunities.

Other local acts including Double C also take part, with one half of the duo Ajani rapping: “Had thoughts in my head / That I can’t control / I gotta rise / Nobody knows what I go through.” Walters and AJ Tracey, who is from Ladbroke Grove, appear in the video, which also features dancing by a Grenfell survivor, Luana Gomes.

Michael Defoe, the chief executive of the Harrow Club, a youth centre in the heart of the Grenfell area, said there was a “feeling of helplessness” for some people after the fire and the lack of prosecutions, but young people had proven to be incredibly resilient.

“I think from the young people’s perspective, they’re still affected by the loss of their friends, but at the same time, lots of things have changed for them in terms of their own personal development and they’re trying to move on,” he said.

Proceeds from the single will go to the charity One Vibe, established in the immediate aftermath of the fire. Set up by Mel Rudder, a music executive, and Palmira Morais, who works in the BBC’s comedy department, the charity has hosted events and provided support for young people in the Ladbroke Grove area.

Morais said being confronted by the tower was like “walking past a cemetery” for some people and she wanted to create something positive to mark the anniversary.

She knows Toddla T, who has supported One Vibe previously and donated proceeds from his single Carnival Love to the charity, and they began to plan the West Side Story single.

Morais said West Side Story and One Vibe were both born out a desire to help young people and improve their wellbeing. She said: “They were under so much stress and suffered post-traumatic stress and the true cost is still unknown. We won’t even know the numbers for years to come.”

Toddla T said he hoped the single was a way to respectfully remember the people who lost their lives in the fire and would also send out a hopeful message for the survivors and others directly affected. “It’s about hope, as well as what’s happened, which should be remembered, talked about and respected, but it’s also about looking forward,” he said.


Lanre Bakare Arts and culture correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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