Weʼre raising £5,100 to kickstart a theatre production about the circumstances that led to the Grenfell fire.
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What is the play about?
Dictating to the Estate is a documentary play recalling the events that led up to the Grenfell Tower fire of June 2017. Using contemporary blog posts, email correspondence and council reports, it tells the story of the refurbishment of the tower and of residents’ attempts to hold the contractors and local council to account. At the same time, it places this conflict in the wider context of the redevelopment of North Kensington, relating it to local people’s efforts to resist the privatisation of their public spaces and the dispersal of their community.
The idea for the play predated the fire. Early in 2017 I started thinking of writing something on the history of housing activism in Kensington and Chelsea, from the foundation of Notting Hill Housing Trust in the 1960s down to the introduction of Right to Buy twenty years later. I picked up some books on local history, leafed through a few old Council records, and compiled a few dozen pages of disparate notes.
Then the fire happened. At first it posed a dilemma, seeming both impossible to write about and impossible not to write about. It was only after coming across the Grenfell Action Group blog that some way of approaching the event started to become clear. On the one hand, the blog placed the fire in the strictly local context of North Kensington and the Lancaster West estate. At the same time, it related this local context to national issues of austerity, deregulation, estate regeneration and, of course, housing activism. Everyone knows these days that the Group predicted the fire: the play aims, among other things, to show is how it came to make this prediction. This is why a documentary approach has been so important: nothing in the play has been invented or fictionalised, and pretty much every word of it has a source in a contemporary document.
Development so far
I have been working on the script for well over a year now. In June I conducted a residency with theatre maker Ryan Kiggell and a number of his regular actors and collaborators to develop the structure of the play. I have now written a second draft, in which a number of theatres have shown interest. Justice4Grenfell and the housing activist and Grenfell resident Francis o’Connor, have both given their support for the project. The Playground Theatre in North Kensington, a short walk from Grenfell, will host a staged reading of the latest draft at the end of January. This will be an opportunity to test run the script and to hear local audience feedback on the plays content. It will also provide a platform for the project in general, in order to attract further industry support.
Making it happen
To make this play happen we need seed funding to develop the script, raise the profile of the project and build a longer term funding strategy.
In real terms this means venue hire, marketing, artists and producer fees. I have applied a number of times to Royal Borough Kensington and Chelsea but have been rejected. That is why I am asking you to help get the project started.
I believe that this documentary matters, and that it can be an important contribution to the debate on Grenfell by throwing light on the factors that gave rise to it.
Please donate whatever you can - however much your contribution, it matters and will be gratefully received.
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Jan 13, 2019
This is an awesome project. Thank you for this inspiration, Nathan. We will try our best to raise more money to go ahead with this.
Jan 9, 2019
Jan 4, 2019
I think the patterns of classism, neglect and dismissal that led up to the Grenfell fire are disgusting; and that the topics covered in your play should not be allowed to be swept under the carpet.
Jan 3, 2019
Jan 2, 2019
Dec 19, 2018
Great work Nathaniel.
Dec 18, 2018
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About the fundraiser
Nathaniel McBride is a German to English translator. He has published translations of works by the German playwright Heiner Mueller and the novelist and filmmaker Alexander Kluge.