On the eve of the first report into the tragedy, prophet of Grenfell Edward Daffarn reveals his hopes for phase two of the inquiry
In the two years and four months since the country awoke to horrific images of a burning tower block, Edward Daffarn has lived and breathed Grenfell 24 hours a day. Efforts to find some normality reading a novel, going to the cinema, playing sports have had little success. The other day, while visiting an art gallery with a cousin, a fire alarm went off. That freaked me out. Im not good with alarms and sirens. The only way I can escape Grenfell is by leaving the country, he says.
For Daffarn, who escaped from the 16th floor of Grenfell Tower in the early hours of 14 June 2017, the trauma and the battle for truth and justice has never diminished while, inevitably, public attention has gone elsewhere. But on 30 October the first report of the public inquiry into the tragedy which claimed 72 lives will bring the appalling events of the night sharply back into focus.
This is a very significant moment for us, says Daffarn, 57, a key figure in Grenfell United, which represents survivors and the bereaved. He was also the co-author of a community blog that, seven months before the fire, warned: Only a catastrophic event will expose the ineptitude and incompetence of our landlord.
Phase one of the public inquiry, chaired by the retired judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, examined the events of the night, including how the fire started in a fourth-floor flat and spread to the top of the building in less than 30 minutes, and the response of the fire brigade and other emergency services. Phase two, due to start in January, will investigate the lead-up to the fire, including decisions made by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, the towers landlord, the Kensington and Chelsea Tenant Management Organisation (KCTMO), architects and contractors.
This weeks report will draw on seven months of hearings, including testimony from survivors, families and the emergency services, and 200,000 documents. Its very personal to us, but its important to the whole country. After all, we dont live in dangerous buildings any more, but thousands of people go to sleep at night in homes effectively covered with liquid paraffin, says Daffarn. The fact is that this catastrophe was predictable. There was a series of forces in play that led to this. Accidents do happen, but this wasnt an accident.
In the hours after the blaze, Daffarns blog, spurred by rage at the sheer injustice of how we were treated, recorded some three million hits, earning him the epithet the prophet of Grenfell. Everything you need to know about Grenfell is contained within the pages of that blog, he says.
He lived in Flat 134 of Grenfell Tower for 16 years. We had a beautiful community; people from different cultural backgrounds, all different races and different financial backgrounds. We all lived in one block side by side and got along well. We often joked that the reason why we knew each other so well was because we spent so long waiting in the foyer because of the defective lifts, he said in his witness statement to the inquiry.