On the sixth anniversary of the Grenfell Tower fire, former UK prime minister Gordon Brown has urged every politician to see Steve McQueen’s searing film about the tragedy. The British artist and film-maker’s 24-minute-long film, titled simply Grenfell (2019), was recently exhibited at the Serpentine South gallery and consists of a single take shot from a helicopter that slowly circles the burnt-out building.
The tragedy unfolded on the evening of 14 June 2017 in West London when a fire caused by a fridge in a fourth-floor flat spread uncontrollably, engulfing the whole building as its combustible cladding fuelled the flames. The fire led to the deaths of 72 people—including the artist Khadija Saye. At the time of the event, around 350 residents lived in the building.
The Oscar-winning artist McQueen, who grew up in West London, filmed the movie in 2017 before the building was covered in scaffolding and a protective membrane. “I knew once the tower was covered up, it would start to leave people’s minds,” McQueen has said about his decision to make the film. “I was determined that it never be forgotten.” McQueen invited survivors and those who lost family in the fire to see the film before it went on show to the public.
A government inquiry was launched after the fire, looking into the multiple failings that led to the disaster, with final findings due to be released later this year. Its initial recommendations for better fire safety in similar buildings are yet to be implemented. There is also an ongoing criminal investigation.
Gordon Brown, who was the UK prime minister from 2007 to 2010, tweeted: “It is 6 years on from the tragedy of the Grenfell fire. Steve McQueen’s powerful art installation show @SerpentineUK should now be seen by every politician to consider what happens next.”
McQueen’s work is now in “the care of Tate and the Museum of London’s collections”, according to a spokesperson for the Serpentine.