Steve McQueen: Grenfell happened because no-one was listening to poor people

The director is working on a memorial project marking the fire.

Oscar-winning filmmaker Sir Steve McQueen has said the Grenfell Tower fire happened because “no-one was listening to poor people”.

The 12 Years A Slave and Small Axe director has been a vocal supporter of the families of the victims of the 2017 fire and previously announced a film project acting as a “lasting memorial”.

The June 14 fire, in Kensington, west London, claimed 72 lives and left hundreds homeless.

Grenfell fire anniversary
Grenfell Tower in west London (Steve Parsons/PA)

It was recently reported ministers were set to announce the 24-storey tower would be demolished for safety reasons.

Appearing on Annie Macmanus’ podcast Changes, the 51-year-old said: “And I think with what happened in Grenfell, I remember I was shooting Widows in Chicago when it happened. I just couldn’t believe it. And it happened because people were poor.

“It happened because no-one was listening to poor people. The only reason these people died was because they were poor. That was it. There was no other reason other than that.”

He said the pandemic had meant the project was delayed but he would be able to discuss it further publicly “hopefully soon”.

Sir Steve, whose latest project, Uprising, a three-part series exploring key events in race relations in Britain, will air next year, also recalled experiencing racism while at school.

Speaking about growing up in west London, he said: “There was a little bit of shit going on there, you know, subtle racism going on there. With stuff going on that time, you know, and I thought to myself, you know what? Boom. F*** this, I’m gonna apply to Chelsea. ‘Cause also there was a BTEC course, and then there was a foundation course.

Brit Awards 2020 – Arrivals – London
Annie Mac (Ian West/PA)

“I’m going to say it, there was always white middle-class people. And they turned their nose up to us, BTEC people. And it was just totally, you know, this class thing, it was really weird. So anyway, I thought, you know what, I’m going to f****** apply to Chelsea School of Art, to do the foundation.”

He added: “And I applied. And I got an interview, which was great. I went there and I got in and they said, your English, I think I had a C in English. Don’t worry about that. Your joining is amazing. You can come in.

“And the funny thing is that years, years later, then the head of that foundation school wrote to me for a recommendation for the school he was applying to, to be the head of.”

The fourth series of Changes with Annie Macmanus airs from now to November 29 with new episodes released weekly.

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