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Senior royals, rappers and politicians join Grenfell community for anniversary

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a multi-faith and wreath laying ceremony at Grenfell Tower (Peter Nicholls/PA)
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge during a multi-faith and wreath laying ceremony at Grenfell Tower (Peter Nicholls/PA)

Senior royals, rappers and politicians have joined Grenfell Tower survivors and bereaved relatives in services to remember those who died in the devastating tower block blaze.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge chatted with attendees before taking their seats in the front row for a multi-faith service at the base of the north Kensington high-rise, while politicians attended a Westminster Abbey service and local rappers joined a silent walk.

Muna Hussain, 50, a local resident whose children went to school with five of those who died in the fire, said Kate and William’s presence at the service was “huge” for the community and showed they “shared that feeling” of mourning on the fifth anniversary.

After the service, several hundred people, including rappers Big Zuu and Lowkey, marched a silent two-mile circuit led by survivors and bereaved relatives.

They were applauded by onlookers and greeted by rows of London Fire Brigade firefighters who had lined the street in a show of solidarity.

After the walk, Big Zuu and Lowkey criticised the official response to the fire over the past five years in speeches greeted with rapturous applause.

Bafta-winning television personality Big Zuu said: “Five years no justice. It’s disgusting that there’s not been one arrest. It’s absolutely abysmal.”

In a lyrical speech which he described as “a message for the Government”, Lowkey said: “When you talk about resilience, all you’re telling us is: ‘keep calm’, and it’s going to take more than Michael Gove and Sadiq Khan.

“Boris Johnson is a pitiful pretender, and 72 is a figure that Eric Pickles should remember.”

At the service before, a 72-second silence in memory of the 72 victims of the fire, which took place exactly five years ago, was observed by attendees including William and Kate, and followed by applause.

Green balloons were then released in memory of the 18 children who perished.

Addressing the attendees, Father Gerard Skinner, parish priest of St Francis of Assisi church in Notting Hill, said Grenfell Tower has become a “symbol of suffering” for those who died, their loved ones, survivors and the community, and a “symbol of shame” for liars and deceivers.

He continued: “But Grenfell is a symbol of love. It’s why the heart is there at the top (of the tower), that’s why it’s here today.

William and Kate speak to children during the service
William and Kate speak to children during the service (Peter Nicholls/PA)

“A reminder of the love of God, God’s love for each one of us, and your love for each other.

“It is a symbol of change too – of laws and of hearts.”

It follows a memorial service on Tuesday morning at Westminster Abbey, during which one of the abbey bells tolled 72 times in memory of the 72 men, women and children who lost their lives in the fire.

Multi-faith leaders read out the names of the victims of the tragedy, with former prime minister Theresa May, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Housing Secretary Michael Gove, building safety and fire minister Stephen Greenhalgh, and shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy in attendance.

After each group of names was read out, the congregation said in unison “Forever in our hearts” – the phrase emblazoned across the top of the covered-up tower in north Kensington.

Opening the service, the very Reverend Dr David Hoyle, Dean of Westminster, said the loss and anguish “are still vivid and sharp” as the congregation gathered “in sorrow and in pain”.

He said: “Here we renew our commitment to remember those we have lost.

“We gather as those who look for justice and a renewed commitment to securing safety in our homes, safety in times of fire.

“Grateful for the support of the communities and individuals that have sustained the bereaved and the survivors over the last five years, we meet in faith and hope looking to a better, safer, surer future.”

Tower block fire in London
The Grenfell fire memorial service at Westminster Abbey (Jonathan Brady/PA)

It comes as politicians paid tribute on social media, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeting: “Today marks five years since the Grenfell Tower fire took the lives of 72 people.

“My thoughts are with the survivors, those who lost loved ones and the wider community.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer posted: “Five years on from the Grenfell tower fire we remember the 72 people killed.

“The Grenfell community are courageous in their pursuit of justice and change.

“We stand with them. To honour the memories of those lost we must prevent such a tragedy happening again.

Mr Khan tweeted: “Along with all Londoners I stand with the Grenfell community, today on the fifth anniversary of that terrible tragedy, and always.

“Together, we will get the answers, justice and change that we need to protect communities in London and across the rest of our country.”

Writing on Twitter, the Archbishop of Canterbury said “we pray for the bereaved and survivors” and for solutions to the “injustice of unsafe housing”.

He tweeted: “Five years on from the devastating Grenfell fire, we remember the 72 people who died.

“We pray for the bereaved and survivors, and for all those who still struggle for justice.

“We pray too for swift and lasting solutions so that no one suffers the injustice of unsafe housing.”

The campaign group Grenfell United posted: “On this day 5 years ago, people came in solidarity & opened their hearts.

“It showed the power of unity, regardless of faith, race or background; uniting in the face of adversity.

“Today, we remember the kindness the public showed – it gave us the strength to keep going.”

In the evening, firefighters from across the country will form a guard of honour as members of the community take part in a silent walk starting from the base of the tower.

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