11-year-old volunteer, alexyia, on showing our love for grenfell in 2018
On 14 June 2017, 11-year-old Alexyia’s family were evacuated from the Walkways opposite Grenfell Tower. Six months on, and with 118 households still in emergency accommodation, she shares a message of solidarity and hope for the new year.
On 14 June 2017, Alexyia’s family escaped the Walkways opposite Grenfell Tower. She stood outside the tower on the night of the fire handing water to those residents that escaped. Adults kept coming to take her away and she stood firm. “I wanted to stay and help.”
Two days after the fire she was in St Clement’s Church, which was by then a chaotic centre of the relief effort, when Theresa May made her controversial visit to the area. As May was ushered away, and a mini riot broke out, Alexyia and her father were invited to Number 10 for the next day. At Downing Street she told the Prime Minister that the children of Grenfell needed new homes and, for those children orphaned, new loving families. This should come first, she said. Just 11 years old, she showed a wisdom the grown ups have singularly failed to act on. According to the survivors organisation, Grenfell United, of the 208 households that needed rehousing after the fire, 118 will still be in emergency accommodation over Christmas, including 29 families with kids. Six months after the fire, Alexyia herself only just moved out of a hotel room several miles from her school and home.
On her weekends and in holidays, 11-year-old Alexyia has helped her parents, Simon and Zohra Jolly, support their bereaved friends and neighbours. Her huge smile is often seen behind the stalls selling Love4Grenfell T shirts.
Love4Grenfell’s simple yet symbolic design was originally cooked up before the fire by Ladbroke Grove born-and-bred Charlie Crockett (aka A.IN.T London) and superstylist Kyle De'volle for Rita Ora to wear. The night of the fire Crockett ran to Grenfell, which is on the Lancaster West Estate where his sister lived. Horrified by what he saw that night, as the fire still raged, he went to his studio in Harlesden and changed the wording from ‘Rita Ora’ to simply, Grenfell. All day and night he printed up the T-shirts, while through the windows he could still see the building burning.
He kept making T-shirts, with his partner Jobe Gould, through out that grief-filled summer. Love4Grenfell's T-shirts and wristbands were subsequently seen on Adwoah Aboah, Cara Delevingne and Stormzy among many others. The twist on the London Underground sign, of a heart with the word Grenfell shot through it, has become a symbol of remembrance for the unprecedented tragedy, and of people’s solidarity, sympathy and continued support for its victims.
The whole enterprise is not-for-profit. T-shirts were kept at an affordable price (any survivor that wants one never pays) because, as Crockett says, showing support and solidarity is as important as any money these t-shirts could raise. “We mustn’t let Grenfell fade from public view.”
Initially funds from the T-shirts went to survivors in the form of vouchers and wristbands raised money for the firefighters who fought the fire. But as time went on, Crockett realised, “What impact were a few £100 vouchers going to have, I thought it would be more significant to create happy moments for these people with such awful memories. Love4Grenfell is about doing that.”
First up, a day of treats with local nail bars and hairdressers, second a cook-up at Boom Burger with beers and halal jerk chicken, attended by firefighters and residents. Most recently, “Every Friday from November till January we’ve had an open invite to all kids affected by the fire to come Bay Sixty 6 for free skateboards, lessons. We fixed them up some Grenfell hoodies with a classic eighties skate twist.”
Love4Grenfell has come in for some flak for not giving the relatively small amounts of money they make from sales direct to survivors. “That’s been tough,” says Crockett, “But you know what, if you’re living in hotel, grieving, lost everything, which to one extent or another, every single person in that tower has, you aren’t going to be thinking about doing good things for yourself. We wanted to get kids out of their hotel rooms, get them doing an activity and learning something new in the neighbourhood they grew up in.”
In every corner of the tower’s immediate vicinity, ordinary people, from kids to OAPs, are beetling away, often against the odds, to try and make things better. Crockett says, “So much has been lost, it’s beyond understanding really. We are one tiny part of a huge number of people trying to love this neighbourhood back to life and ensure the people of Grenfell feel our love and support. This is about solidarity.”
You can support Love4Grenfell here.