Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Culture
  2. TV & Radio
18 June 2018updated 03 Aug 2021 9:31am

How the BBC is exploring our response to trauma

From Grenfell to Manchester Bomb: Our Story, new BBC documentaries are looking at what happens to those affected by national stories of trauma after the spotlight begins to fade.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

There are some scenes in the BBC documentary Grenfell that are enormously difficult to watch. The first third of Ben Anthony’s 90-minute film exploring the events of last year’s tower block fire throws you straight into the middle of the catastrophe. We see mobile phone footage of the blaze, and people trapped inside. We hear survivors explain how their loved ones spent their last minutes. Their pain can feel too much to process.

The documentary focused on the normal people who lived in the tower. Grandmother Lorraine Beadle, one of the first to move into the tower in 1975, instructing producers off-camera, “Do not let me ramble”. Natasha Elcock, who escaped the tower with her six-year-old, and explains “My main concern was keeping my daughter calm”.

56-year-old resident Edward Daffarn, who foresaw the fire, writing a blog addressed to the council in 2016 arguing that “a serious fire” resulting in “serious loss of life” was on the horizon if the tower was not brought up to health and safety standards. Zeyad Cred, a softly-spoken giant of empathy with permanently wet eyes, who dropped everything to help rescue and relief efforts. All are heavily involved with Grenfell United – an organisation for survivors and the local community that sprang up to fill the conspicuous absence of the local council.

It’s another brilliant exploration of the human response to tragic violence from the BBC, which has recently released documentaries about last year’s Manchester bombing (Manchester Bomb: Our Story) and the 1993 murder of Stephen Lawrence (Stephen: The Murder that Changed a Nation). All three films ask what happens after the media spotlight on a national outrage begins to fade – and how those most affected struggle to return to normal life.

In the case of Grenfell, the NHS estimates that 11,000 local people have been psychologically affected by the fire. As the film moves away from the night of the fire, and into its aftermath, we see the government’s callous incompetence on full display. And we see how grief, anger and trauma linger in a community let down by the state.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s weekly environment email on the politics, business and culture of the climate and nature crises - in your inbox every Thursday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A newsletter showcasing the finest writing from the ideas section and the NS archive, covering political ideas, philosophy, criticism and intellectual history - sent every Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.

Content from our partners
How do we secure the hybrid office?
How materials innovation can help achieve net zero and level-up the UK
Fantastic mental well-being strategies and where to find them