Today I spoke to one of the attendees from the After Grenfell: are we learning? event, which took place yesterday at the DIY SOS built community centre near to the tower. I knew it would be too challenging for some in the construction industry to attend. An industry man, he had felt trepidation about coming to an event so close to where the disaster happened.
As numerous proud working people have told me in the last year, he felt the industry had failed the people who lived in the tower and the wider community. He felt that he personally, and the industry in general, were to blame for what happened. In coming, he faced this. He confronted head on the very thing he was fearful of. In doing so, he inspired me to write this blog and to make the request below.
You see, real learning involves turning towards and confronting one's fears. Not hiding and avoiding them whilst blaming ourselves, or shifting the blame on to others - things we are all too good at in this country. Blame and shame do not bring about effective change, they are destructive and not constructive. Courage is a prerequisite to real learning. It is difficult and uncomfortable, but courage permits progress, and in the case of Grenfell it permits restoration - or at least the possibility of it.
My friend who came yesterday learnt this. In fact, I am sure he already knew it. He has a new view on what caused the Grenfell Tower fire, and a better sense of his role in responding powerfully and positively to it. I told him today that he is not to blame. Yet there are things to change. He told me so. Energy and courage will be more useful in changing them than guilt and blame. I hope he takes them on with the courage he showed yesterday.
Which leads me on to my request. As someone who has worked in and around construction for over 15 years, who was the chairman of the Grenfell Tower residents' group, I have a request for those who see themselves as leaders in the industry. To change what needs to be changed. I do not profess to know all those things, but you know what there is for you to do. My request is you do whatever it takes to change what needs to change. To face the darkness and difficulty involved, and to not give up or give in. To face the fears and challenges which will arise as you do so.
And I ask that you do not wait until the inquiry has concluded until you do so. There are too many obvious things, which we do not need someone else to tell us to do. Too long have we relied on, and hidden behind, regulation - regulations don’t keep people safe. Regulations have there place, and if it is your job to make them fit for purpose, please make them simple to use. It is people who keep people safe, and it is here where we must start. Here and courage, the courage to do what is right, even when it is not straightforward or easy.