A year after the Grenfell Tower fire, politicians, celebrities and community leaders have paid tribute to the victims and survivors of the tragedy.
As the memorial services and tribute events got underway, a minute’s silence was observed at Grenfell, Downing Street, the London fire brigade headquarters and other places around the country.
At the service in St Helen’s Church in north Kensington, hundreds of people crammed in to listen to the tributes, with dozens being asked to wait outside to ensure there was space inside for survivors and the bereaved.
The service began at 11am with a moving rendition of Amazing Grace, led by artist Damel Carayol, whose artwork – which he presented to Prime Minister Theresa May last month – stood at the front of the church.
In an emotional stream of speeches, tributes and testomonies, some people left the church in tears. The Labour MP David Lammy, who has been a vocal advocate for the survivors of the blaze, said it was a “bittersweet” moment as the community mourned those who lost their lives while celebrating unity.
“Justice, answers and the healing that follows from knowing never, ever, ever again can people die in a preventable fire, and all of those who live in the surrounding area can be so traumatised by the pain of what they saw that night and what they carry in their hearts now as a consequence.”
The chief executive of the Al Manaar mosque echoed these thoughts. “When residents, neighbours and strangers come from near and far in a spirit of togetherness, beautiful things can happen,” he said.
At 12pm, 72 seconds of silence was held in remembrance of those who died. After the service ended, bereaved family members carrying photos and bouquets released 73 white doves contained in seven wicker baskets tied with green ribbon.
At the foot of the tower, crowds gathered to pay their respects to the victims. Silence fell shortly before midday, a tribute carefully observed by those on the surrounding roads too.
A gospel choir marked the end of the minute’s quiet by gently rising into a performance of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Mourners could be seen wiping away tears as the music played, while the crowd further back swelled in numbers.
Wreaths were then laid near the giant Grenfell sign by bereaved relatives and survivors, followed by residents of the wider Lancaster West estate.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan was among those who stepped forward to lay a wreath. He paused for a moment and looked at the floral tributes, before shaking hands with chairman of Grenfell United, Shahin Sadafi, and stepping back.
Representatives from the police, NHS and emergency services then placed their own flowers. The first survivor to come forward was Nicholas Burton, whose wife Maria del Pilar Burton died in January. They had both escaped the 19th floor.
Many relatives came forward carrying single white roses and could be seen embracing each other.
The crowd were told: “On June 14 2017, the local community came together in a show of unity.
“We would like you all to now turn to your left and introduce yourself to your neighbour.”
Hugs and handshakes were then exchanged among the crowd, while grieving relatives took it in turns to write tributes on the perimeter fence.
Many famous figures showed support online. Jeremy Corbyn said that as well as paying tribute to the 72 people who died, it was important to continue to seek justice.
He said on Twitter: “Today marks the one year anniversary of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire – in which 72 people lost their lives. We remember those who died and renew our commitment to fight for justice on behalf of Grenfell Tower residents, their families and loved ones.”
Theresa May also tweeted. She said: “Today we remember those who lost their lives at Grenfell Tower and pay tribute to their family, friends and loved ones for the strength and dignity they have shown.”
In a statement, Metropolitan Police commissioner, Cressida Dick, said that the tragedy of Grenfell Tower remains “very real, raw and painful” for many people, every day.
She said: “My thoughts, and those of all us in Met, are with all those who died, the loved ones left behind, and all those who survived the fire that night. The continued resilience and sense of spirit shown by the community at the heart of this tragedy is inspiring. Many of us will take time today – one year on – to think back and remember.”
She added that Met officers and staff are continuing to work very hard to progress the ongoing investigation and assist the public inquiry.
Elizabeth Campbell, leader of Kensington and Chelsea Council, said the authority’s thoughts are with bereaved families, victims and the survivors of the Grenfell Tower disaster.
She said: “It will be a difficult day for the community, with poignant moments to remember those that lost their lives a year ago.”
“I respect the wishes of the families involved, and the wishes of the community who have organised a series of commemorative events across the area. So I am only attending events I have been invited to.”
She said that while the memorial events were being led by communities involved, the council has provided funding and logistical support.