The Grenfell Tower fire is the single biggest tragedy Britain has had to face since Second World War. Not for a long time has the country come together to help those affected. In these divided times, it was humbling to witness people coming to the aid of those who needed it most.
However, for all the nationwide effort, there remains an important responsibility for the local community to do its bit.
With a crisis such as Grenfell, there is no understating the impact the support of the local community can have. Individuals and businesses alike did what they could for the greater good.
Barely a mile from the charred Grenfell Tower is Olympia London, one of the UK’s oldest and most recognised exhibition and convention centres. In the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, the venue selflessly offered whatever it had at its disposal to help.
A few weeks after the incident, I went to meet Anna Golden, Olympia London’s commercial director, to see how the venue did its bit for the community effort.
“We look at it every day, it’s heart breaking,” says Golden. “It’s a visual reminder of what a tragedy it was. It’s tough on some of our staff, some of whom know people who were caught up in it.”
What was Olympia’s first response? “We reached out to the council and asked what we would do to help. On the day, our caterers took over water and sandwiches for not just the victims, but for the emergency services, who did a phenomenal job.
“We asked the council if they needed volunteers, but there were thousands of volunteers there already, but they weren’t able to facilitate what was needed. The day after we received a call from a councillor who said they needed help delivering the donations and supplies to the emergency centres, and that they needed vehicles. Olympia doesn’t have any vehicles, but we put a shout out to organisers and contractors on site, our traffic team went out on the street to identify any vans in the parking areas. We contacted service partners to help – we contacted everyone we could, and within 30 minutes had 11 vans at the site.”
The relief centres soon became full, prompting Olympia to offer its vast space to help store the donations. “We brought the donations here, but had no one to empty them. Once again we put a shout out and were inundated with offers of help. It was everything from furniture and clothing and nappies to car seats.”
Golden reflects that Olympia’s response had to be constructive. She says: “We want to help, but in a measured way. We didn’t just go down to the site, because that might not be what is needed. We are being constructive.”
It’s testament to the important role that the events industry can play not just for the industry itself, but much closer to home.
Golden concludes: “We will do whatever we can to help. That won’t give those affected their homes back, but we will do all we can to help our community.”