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The week in radio: Grenfell: Dust on Our Lips; Darknet Diaries; The Tip Off

Father Alan Everett, vicar of St Clement, in front of Grenfell Tower.
Father Alan Everett, vicar of St Clement, in front of Grenfell Tower. Photograph: Graeme Robertson for the Observer

Grenfell: Dust On Our Lips (Radio 4) | iPlayer
Darknet Diaries |
The Tip Off | iTunes

Six months since the Grenfell fire, and the wounds are still raw. In Radio 4’s Grenfell: Dust On Our Lips, a local mother described how, on the night of the fire, she saw children at one of Grenfell Tower’s windows, “with the fire behind them. And then they weren’t there any more”. She explained how her own children talk about the tower, which they see every day: “They’re scared it’s going to fall on them.”

Father Alan Everett, vicar of local church, St Clement, spoke too. He called the tower “a perpetual indictment of incompetence and neglect”. He’s been writing a poem. Some lines stood out: “… the body parts/ are being identified for burial/ or to complete the process of cremation.”

This was a devastating and sensitive programme, with presenter Faisal Metalsi, who grew up and lives in the area, talking to people directly affected by the tragedy. There are many. He spoke to the police commander who oversaw the terrible forensics: “We haven’t been finding bodies … the best way to describe it is human remains.” The councillor from Harrow in charge of making the tower safe now (oh, the irony). The man who’s keeping all the residents’ rescued stuff until they are found new housing. The locals, including bereaved families, who march silently together around their area on the 14th of every month. Their chant at the end: “No justice, no peace”.

Metalsi confessed that he can’t stop thinking about the disaster, the friends he lost, how the community is coping.

“I keep my curtains closed now,” said one woman who lived opposite the tower. “I won’t open them until it’s demolished. It is very difficult looking at that building.”

What is the future of the building itself? Should it stand as it is? Should it be pulled down? This programme looked, gently, but with justice at its core, towards the future.

A real-life tragedy such as Grenfell puts virtual ones into shadow. But Darknet Diaries does contain small disasters: players of online games seeing all their work disappearing – all the treasures and ammunition and safe spaces they spent so long building up going phoof!, just like that. It sounds ridiculous, if you’re not a gamer (I’m not), but if you know people who are (I do), you can understand the upset. It’s not real, but it’s real.

The consistent topic of Darknet Diaries is the staggering lack of security of many internet-related institutions. It looks at games, such as World of Warcraft, at hardware like an Asus router, at services such as Talk Talk. And it shows us how easily hackers have broken into them and accessed people’s personal lives. Neatly edited and charmingly presented by Jack Rhysider, the podcast does occasionally stray into nerdiness, but it’s chock-full of real-life examples of when our virtual lives fail. Start with episode 6, where a man called Jayson E Street walks into several high street banks and hops straight on to their computer systems…

Finally, a quick reminder that The Tip Off is back. The podcast about investigative journalism was one of my favourites of 2017, and its new series is just as quietly hard-hitting as the last. Three episodes in, and we’ve heard about the lack of women’s refuges and the appalling state of those that exist; the cover-up of negligent practice at a Manchester health trust; how prices of drugs bought by the NHS were manipulated upwards.

And the council that reduced its women’s refuge funding by 45%, that housed women in places where the ceiling fell in, the electricity failed, that were riddled with vermin? The council that triggered the nationwide investigation? Kensington and Chelsea. Where Grenfell Tower is situated.

This article titled "The week in radio: Grenfell: Dust on Our Lips; Darknet Diaries; The Tip Off" was written by Miranda Sawyer, for The Observer on Sunday 17 December 2017 08.00am

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