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Grenfell Tower survivor Tiago Alves tells us his harrowing story one year on

“Seeing the tower every day is a double-edged sword. I see it as a symbol of our fight for the future and a symbol of what happened to me – the life I used to live."

It was a tragedy that horrified the nation; a disaster that shouldn’t have happened. With 72 confirmed deaths and countless more lives still affected, the inquiry into Grenfell is still ongoing.

On the eve of the fire’s first anniversary, The Big Issue has spoken to one of the survivors. We wanted to tell his story in full.


Tiago Alves, 21, was watching television on the 13th floor when the fire broke out.

“We don’t want these deaths to have been in vain. We want these deaths to mean something to people in authority, to make sure things change,” he says.

My dad stayed and knocked on everyone’s doors on the 13th floor

“I moved into Grenfell Tower when I was nine months old. When my sister was born, my dad saved up all the money he could and became the leaseholder. I had a lot of friends in the building and in the area. This is the place I grew up.

“My dad swung the door open, and shouted that we needed to get dressed and get out. My sister was half asleep, going, ‘I have an exam tomorrow, why is everyone making so much noise?’ We ran downstairs but my dad stayed and knocked on everyone’s doors on the 13th floor.”

Tiago’s harrowing account is one of sorrow yet bravery. He and his family are still in a hotel, but he remains strong.

Tiago Alves. Image: Adrian Lobb
Tiago Alves. Image: Adrian Lobb

“A lot of people were in front of me and I am more than happy about that. There was always a priority list. Bereaved families, followed by people with health conditions, followed by people with children, followed by everyone else,” he says.

“I was happy to be in category four. I wanted to ensure people who needed it most were housed. I am a young man, I can deal with living in a hotel. But it is not great for people with disabilities.”

But Tiago insists the tragedy won’t be forgotten easily.

“It is a symbol of change – and I hope it comes to be seen in history as a turning point, where building regulations became about the health and safety of the people living in the houses more than the profits and attitudes of people in authority,” he says.

Read the full interview only in The Big Issue, out now

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