The Big Question: What has Grenfell Tower taught us about housing, racism and social justice?
The inferno that engulfed the Grenfell Tower was a personal disaster for the many who lost their friends and families. The subsequent analysis and media frenzy highlighted issues of housing, social justice and racism. In a city celebrated for its diversity and social liberalism but which is polarised by race and class, poor working class and communities of colour appear to have been corralled into the worst housing in a global city in the 21 century.
Housing has become a microcosm for societal ills which extend beyond Grenfell and London to other places in the UK and internationally. We will look at whether cities will become the refuge for the very rich served by the very poor, explore the impact of gentrification in cleansing places of working class and communities of colour, and consider how political and policy strategies could promote decent housing, greater social justice and race equality.
We are delighted to be joined by two people who have been at the forefront to debates on housing and social justice:
Glyn Robbins is a housing and community activist who has played a key role in campaigns for decent housing and community development through Defend Council Housing and as a trade unionist. His recent publication There's No Place: The American Housing Crisis and what it means for the UK was published in 2017 with Ken Loach, the renowned filmmaker commenting “Glyn Robbins knows what he's talking about. If words are weapons, this will be just the ammunition we need to fight for an end to homelessness".
Lisa McKenzie is a Lecturer in Practical Sociology at Middlesex University and Atlantic Research Fellow at the Inequalities Institute whose work relates to class inequality, social justice, and British working class culture. She grew up in a working-class family in Nottingham and was involved in protests against social inequality including the anti-gentrification riots in Shoreditch from 2015 where infamously the Cereal Killer Café was targeted as a symbol of gentrification. Her book Getting by: Estates, class and culture in austerity Britain documents the issues that the event will be discussing.
The event will be moderated by Harris Beider, Professor in Community Cohesion at the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University. Before working in higher education, he was Executive Director of the Federation of Black Housing Organisations and campaigned on housing and race equality.
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For enquiries please contact Charlotte Martin