Tuesday 18 January 2011

30th Anniversary of New Cross Road fire

Today is the 30th anniversary of the tragic fire at a New Cross Road house party in 1981, as a result of which 14 young people died. I blogged in December about a commemorative event at the Albany Theatre. Much has been written in the press and blogs, much better than I can express here, notably Transpontine's posts, Darryl's post at 853 and a Radio 4 interview, with one of the survivors of the fire. I just wanted to acknowledge the anniversary. 

Also I was pleased to see our local MP, for Eltham, Clive Efford, sign Joan Ruddock's Early Day Motion:
"EDM 1289

Ruddock, Joan
That this House records the tragic events of 18 January 1981 when a fire broke out at a birthday party resulting in the deaths of 14 young black people: Patrick Cummings, Andrew Gooding, Peter Campbell, Gerry Paul Francis, Steve Collins, Patricia Johnson, Rosaline Henry, Lloyd Hall, Humphrey Geoffrey Brown, Owen Thompson, Yvonne Ruddock, Glenton Powell, Paul Ruddock and Anthony Berbeck; regrets that no condolences were sent from Parliament or the Prime Minister; notes that the prevailing racist attitudes of the times resulted in an inadequatepolice investigation, an inconclusive coroner's hearing and a lack of respect and empathy for the bereaved families and injured survivors; and further regrets that 20 years later the re-investigation by the Metropolitan Police and the reopened inquest did not result in a conclusive verdict, but believes lessons learned contributed to greatly improved community relations in Lewisham and London as a whole and a determination that never again would the black community suffer such discrimination."

You can read more about that at the OBV post.

Today was also the day when some small ray of hope out of this terrible tragedy was celebrated. The New Cross Awards, which were set up in 2005 as the result of an initiative by Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham, to find a way of commemorating the fire of 1981, were announced. A substantial bursary was given to each of two deserving Lewisham students to study at Goldsmiths, University of London for degree programmes. Many of the relatives of the New Cross Fire victims were also present. This seems a pretty appropriate, albeit small, tribute to the lives which were so sadly cut short. It may not seem much but reading the back story of these two students, they have really struggled against the odds to get to university. Good luck to them.

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