Show Me the Bodies: WINNER OF THE ORWELL PRIZE FOR POLITICAL WRITING 2023
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The fire climbed up cladding as flammable as solid petrol. Fire doors failed to self-close. No alarm rang out to warn sleeping residents. As smoke seeped into their homes, all were told to 'stay put'. Many did - and they died. Apps alternates each chapter with a running account of that dreadful night on June 14, 2017 that started with a minor kitchen fire, which normally would have been easily contained.
Perhaps the most powerful takeaway is the critical importance of what we do to the lives of people who will use our buildings. It would be impossible to read the accounts of the night of the fire without reflecting on what and who we consider when we design. Apps’s chief claim is that people who lived in Grenfell died because of a series of choices consciously made by political representatives who “deliberately ran down, neglected and privatised arms of the state,” something they did hand in hand with “a corporate world that evinced an almost psychopathic disregard for human life.” It is impossible to read Show Me the Bodies’ immensely moving account of the Grenfell tragedy and finish without a strong sense of moral outrage.Regulation codes, refurbishment cost savings, the total sum of buildings wrapped in flammable cladding. Over the course of a four-year inquiry, now finally in its closing stages, survivors and the bereaved have learned a new language of figures and acronyms relating to 30 years of neglect: three decades of political and corporate choices that took more London lives in any single event since the Blitz. In Show Me the Bodies: How We Let Grenfell Happen, by the housing journalist Peter Apps, one number stands out early on: “seven minutes”. This is the time it would have taken, according to an expert witness at the inquiry, for all 293 residents of the tower to open their front doors, walk down the stairs and escape. If the London Fire Brigade had instructed them to do so within an hour of the fire starting at 12.54am – from a fridge-freezer on the fourth floor – they would have survived. You may change or cancel your subscription or trial at any time online. Simply log into Settings & Account and select "Cancel" on the right-hand side. It tells us something about how we are governed and the priority our political and economic system placed on human life,” writes author Peter Apps, deputy editor of Inside Housing, who has been following the tragedy from day one.
Apps’ story will leave you both devastated and angry. “The world that gave us the Grenfell Tower fire looks irredeemably dishonest,” he writes in conclusion. “Thirty years of deregulation had exacted its tragic and, ultimately avoidable, price.” If they’d been listened to, they would all still be alive. A similar fire, which killed six people at Lakanal House in south London in 2009, should have been enough of a warning, but it wasn’t. Seventy-eight people were killed by a collision of forces with one common root: the broad contempt showed by people with power towards those without it.
Well written, but not a pleasant read. This is not comfortable bedtime reading, but essential for those seeking to grasp the multiple causes of failure which culminated in the deadly Grenfell Tower fire.
The London 🔥Brigade shouldn't escape without censure, as their archaic structure that never really allowed adequate training for senior staff / call centres, proved to be decisive in the disaster, as dropping the normal "stay put" guidance and instructing people to leave their homes earlier would at worst have saved many more lives, and may even have allowed all residents to have made it out had this been enacted earlier. Peter Apps has written a searing indictment of what he rightly calls "the most serious crime committed on British soil this century" in this forensic account of the deregulation, cost-cutting and sheer negligence behind the Grenfell fire and its human cost. It’s essential reading if we are to avoid such needless tragedy in the future.'The book is structured chronologically, taking us through the night of the fire minute by minute. As this timeline progresses, Apps explains the choices that lead to each failure. Why were the first firefighters who reached the tower delayed in getting to the fire? It was because of issues with the system used to override the elevators, which was more complex than necessary. The more complex system was chosen “because of a perceived risk of anti-social behaviour”; there were fears a simpler system might be misused. “Prejudice against social housing residents appears to have actively undermined the safety features of the building,” Apps writes. Prejudice against social housing residents appears to have actively undermined the safety features of the building. Apps, who has covered the inquiry daily, alternates these narrative chapters with a forensic examination of how building regulations and corporate safety standards have been watered down since Margaret Thatcher’s deregulation bonanza. Rising Stars 2023: agility underpinned by a sense of communi... Rising Stars 2023: agility underpinned by a sense of community