More than 1,500 people attend memorial six months after Grenfell Tower tragedy
Members of the royal family and senior politicians were among those attending the commemoration.
Bereaved families and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire stood together in a moment of reflection, holding aloft pictures of lost loved ones, at the end of an emotional memorial service at St Paul’s.
Hundreds of mourners gathered outside the historic cathedral clutching white roses and comforting each other beneath a banner with “Grenfell” inside a green heart.
The Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry were among the high-profile guests who attended to pay their respects, six months on from the fire.
Also present was Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Prime Minister Theresa May, who entered through a side door, rather than the main entrance.
Six months on the Grenfell fire remains at the front of our minds as a truly unimaginable tragedy that should never have happened. Many who survived lost everything that night, my Government will continue to do all we can for them and learn the lessons so it never happens again.— Theresa May (@theresa_may) December 14, 2017
Harry comforted one bereaved woman as she broke down at the end of the service. He told Fatima Jafari, 78, that she must have been very proud of her daughter, who read out a poem during the ceremony.
Maria Jafari, 38, lost her 82-year-old father Ali Yawar Jafari in the fire. Mr Jafari, who had a heart condition, was pulled from the building by firefighters but died at the scene.
As Mrs Jafari began sobbing for her husband, the prince said to an interpreter: “Just tell her I am so incredibly sorry for her loss.”
Her daughter said: “It’s very, very hard. Still she (my mother) cries, every day, every second when we are talking about our father, all the memories come out again. It’s six months and it’s still very hard for us.”
This morning, TRH joined members of the community from all faiths for the Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service.— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) December 14, 2017
The service at St Paul's Cathedral remembered those who died, and gave thanks for the people who helped those affected by the tragedy. pic.twitter.com/pfbOfURIgk
As Mr Corbyn left the ceremony he was surrounded by a crowd of mourners begging him for “justice”.
He hugged one woman tightly as she shared her experiences and said he found the emotionally-charged encounter “very moving”.
Jeremy Corbyn said he was "here to try and change things" as he met with mourners outside the Grenfell Tower memorial service in central London pic.twitter.com/vtUYH7MjS9— Press Association (@PA) December 14, 2017
He told the Press Association: “People are very angry and I understand that, I’m here to listen to them. I’m here to work and I’m here to try and change things.”
Dr David Ison, Dean of St Paul’s, welcomed more than 1,500 guests to the service, extending his words to “those painfully affected who could not face such a public event, those who would have liked to be here in solidarity” and those watching on television.
Notably absent was leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) council, Elizabeth Campbell, who stayed away at the request of families.
The Dean led the congregation in a minute’s silence, which the council observed separately at the town hall.
The Bishop of Kensington, the Right Reverend Graham Tomlin, said he hoped the service would reassure those present that they were not forgotten by the nation, and that it would signify the start of a change.
He said: “As we come to the end of this difficult year, as we celebrate Christmas, as we move into a new year, nothing can remove the memory of that night – nor do we want to forget those dearly loved people who were lost.
“And yet my hope and prayer is that this new year can bring new hope of a future, a vision of a city where we lose our self-obsession and listen and learn from places and people that we wouldn’t normally think of reaching out to.”
Bishop of Kensington Graham Tomlin tells those gathered of his hope that the word ‘Grenfell’ would transform over time from a symbol of “sorrow, of grief or injustice” to “a symbol of the time we learnt a new and better way - to listen and to love." #GrenfellMemorial— Jemma Crew (@jemmacrew) December 14, 2017
As the St Paul’s Cathedral choir sang, local schoolchildren scattered small hand-made green hearts, carried in brown wicker baskets, across the front of the Dome dais.
An audio montage of voices from the Grenfell area was played to the congregation.
The Ebony Steel Band, frequent performers at the Notting Hill Carnival, were also present, playing a verse of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
A silent march is planned around the site of the fire in North Kensington on Thursday evening.