Sewing for justice: Grenfell survivors make giant memorial quilt

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Grenfell Tower survivors have channeled the ‘seeds of anger’ felt over the handling of the blaze by sewing a giant memorial quilt in a library in west London.

Local artist Tuesday Greenidge, 55, whose daughter survived the fire, has been running Sewing for Justice sessions at North Kensington Library for community members since 2017.

Using donated fabrics, volunteers have so far created a vibrant 72 square foot patchwork of personal messages and depictions of the deceased.

Artist Tuesday Greenidge, founder of the Grenfell Memorial Quilt Project, holding the work in progress (Yui Mok/PA)

Their sewing techniques were inspired by the National AIDs Memorial quilt and rugs made by enslaved African Americans.

They are aiming to extend it to 220ft – the height of Grenfell Tower.

Ms Greenidge told the PA news agency that many people affected by the tragedy found “comfort and solace” in the sewing sessions.

She said: “All alternative groups – healing groups to help them recover – closed before the investigation was completed.

“That’s why a lot of us have little seeds of anger.

“The goal was to be a hub where people could come and release and express those emotions through creation and color.

“I know what I get from color as an artist.

“There’s something mystical and magical about seeing it all come together.

“I just wanted them to absorb that energy, to remind them that there are people in the community who love and support you all – and we’re not going to leave.”

Ms Greenidge lost several close friends in the blaze, including 12-year-old Jessica Urbano Ramirez, who went to school with Neveah – her friend’s granddaughter whom she cared for as her own.

Jessica’s name was the first she embroidered on the quilt.

London tower block fire
Detail of work in progress of a planned 72-foot-long commemorative quilt (Yui Mok/PA)

Speaking about Neveah’s reaction to her classmate’s death, Ms Greenidge told the PA news agency: “I’ve never heard a child moan like her.

“It was deep. We used to tell him ‘forget it, forget it’.

“She used to sit on my wardrobe and just…yeah.”

Ms Greenidge indicated another name on the quilt – Moses – as the 63-year-old grandfather, Raymond Bernard, was known in the community.

She said, “Moses was amazing. Everyone knew him.

“What we discovered from his side was that there were a lot of residents who ended up in Moïse’s apartment. One of them was Jessica.

“And he put the children in his bed, and that’s how they were found.”

“The children went to his apartment during the fire because they all knew and loved Moses.

“They went for comfort, because maybe Moses knew what to do – and he did.

“He knew how to comfort them during their passage.”

London tower block fire
Work in progress on the memorial quilt (Yui Mok/PA)

Ms Greenidge said her daughter, Charlie Manning, 38, visited friends in the tower the night of the fire and ran to alert her after she escaped.

They then watched the blaze in horror in scenes Ms Greenidge described as ‘like a movie’.

Speaking of her daughter, she told PA: “She doesn’t talk about it often.

“For a few days after, she just stared.

“It’s already a little overwhelming, because there’s a lot going on in the community.

“It’s a difficult time, but nothing compared to what the bereaved are going through, so we’re here to support them.”

Ms Greenidge said pieces of the quilt will be displayed around London to mark the fifth anniversary of the fire on June 14, 2022.

She hopes the striking duvet will catch the eye of the BBC’s Sewing Bee, which could help them reach their 220ft goal.

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