Angie Gough shows how East Londoners responded to the tragedy in the best way possible

It’s been almost four months since the Grenfell tragedy claimed at least 80 lives and drastically affected many more. I know we’re all about East here, but us East Londoners have plenty in common with the royal borough.

Here in Hackney there are haves and have-nots. There’s diversity and an immense amount of creativity. It’s a community of do-ers, people who make things happen. People like Gwyn Hood.

Gwyn Hood on stage

Gwyn Hood on stage

Gwyn is a teacher at my kids’ school and has two brothers who are retired firefighters. Together, they visited Grenfell in the days after the blaze, spoke to colleagues and survivors and were haunted by the stories they heard. Later, in his local, Kaffa Coffee on Gillett Square, Gwyn and the owner, Markus, talked.
Actor Chris Cole, a café regular, joined in. When their jaws got sore, they decided it was time to stop talking and start doing.

“After going to visit the tower I was shocked. I didn’t sleep that weekend and I sat in Gillett Square thinking we could do something for people who’ve been affected,” said Gwyn.

A photo opp with the firefighters

A photo opp with the firefighters

With his band, an MC in Chris, and Markus to get things moving in the square, a concert would give the community a chance to do something for the surviving residents of Grenfell and the firefighters who worked so hard to save them.
After the success of The #Artskickers Awards, I suspected that if I put a call out on social media we could make Gwyn’s event bigger and better, and so, #GillettForGrenfell was born.

True to form, the Artskickers delivered. Hackney performers Reuben, Princess, Nesah, DiAndre, Naloua and Video Blue joined the line-up. Artist Gavin Turk took the photo we used to design flyers and posters, which were printed for free by Volunteers from Open Arts in Stoke Newington and Kay at Well Street Market distributed them.

Great Art in Shoreditch gave us all we needed for an arts and crafts tent, which was run by my sister, Kelly, Sophie from Hackney Arts and Rebeckah at Embellished Talk. Inspired by what they saw on
Instagram, Captain Cookie Crafts and Let’s Make Art in Bristol
provided more materials and prizes. Kristal at Sparklechild gave us her giant sparkly heart and a “peace” sign, pictured left (we lost the P and E, happily ending up with ACE).

Families joined in the fun and played with the fire engines

When I grow up, Dad, I want to be a…

Officers from Stoke Newington fire brigade brought their engine and opened it up to the kids. All but the youngest knew about Grenfell and had a million questions which the firefighters did their best to answer. Then the London Street Orchestra showed up and everybody danced.

Grenfell resident Zee said he felt it as “an outpouring of love. We’re all living the same struggles together. The more we come together, the more powerful we can be,” he said.
The Stage in Shoreditch made a generous donation to round things up to an even £3,000 raised on the day. Then Dalston Eastern Curve Garden took our buckets and added another £300.

Grenfell resident, Zee

Grenfell resident, Zee

Money raised went to the Firefighters Charity and ACAVA – an arts organisation working with the community in Grenfell. Using music, song, dance and art, our community got the chance to express its sadness about what happened. And for everyone involved, it was another affirmation of how ACE our community is when it pulls together.

Massive thanks to Gwyn for the #KickUpTheArts 😉

Spoken word artist Di-Andre

Spoken word artist DiAndre does his wonderful stuff

How you can help
Join the monthly silent march on the 14th of each month (gather 6.30pm Notting Hill Methodist Church).

Donate to local clubs in the area – St. Clement James Centre, Harrow Centre and Rugby Portobello are all accepting assistance.

Spend an hour a week in your own local youth club.