Church service and mural unveiling to mark 41st anniversary of New Cross fire

Pic: Vron Ware

Two events are taking place in Lewisham this week to commemorate the victims of the 1981 New Cross fire and mark the 41st anniversary of their deaths, which takes place tomorrow.

The fire occurred in the early hours of the morning of January 18, 1981, during a birthday party at 439 New Cross Road. Some attendees managed to flee but many were trapped inside the three-storey home due to the severity of the flames.

After the fire was extinguished, nine people were found dead and four more died within the following days from their injuries. Thirteen young people were killed in total and another victim took his own life 18 months later. To this day, nobody has been charged with causing the fire, although many believe that it was a racist attack on the party guests and that the investigation was inadequate.

A memorial service is taking place tomorrow morning at St Mary’s Church on Lewisham High Street at 11am. The service will also be livestreamed on the Lewisham Parish website.

A mural commemorating the event will be unveiled at midday on Saturday in memory of the victims and those who are still affected, at Cummin’ Up Caribbean Take Away, 265 New Cross Road.

Richard Simpson, the event organiser and owner of the takeaway, uploaded a YouTube video on Friday to provide more detail about the mural.

He said: “We are going to install a three-and-a-half metres memorial mural to our friends who died and are still affected to this day by the New Cross Fire.”

“We lost friends. I lost Glenton Powell who used to eat in my house and watch television in my house. We are all personally affected and the voices of those that who walk around with trauma are not being heard.”

“We are going to do this for our friends, those who were playing the music, those who were the celebrants, those who were enjoying themselves and we are going to mark this now on New Cross Road, where it took place.”

Simpson also told ELL that he wishes to keep some details of the mural a surprise until the day of the event. He said: “It’s a silhouette. The silhouette represents the anonymous people who didn’t have that voice and so there will be lots of imagery and significance within it.”

“This is something that is very personal to me. This week I am going to be introduced to one of Glenton’s relatives. I will be able to tell her the story of him that she hasn’t been able to hear yet.”

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