Naming The Dead
Reading 1,138 names outside Primark on Oxford Street.
Today marks ten years since Rana Plaza collapsed into a pile of rubble, terror and grief. Forever placing a mass grave at the heart of the fashion industry.
In London we have many of the brands who were responsible, both directly and indirectly, for Rana Plaza. To mark the ten year anniversary the Rana Plaza Solidarity Collective held a walking tour of Oxford Street that included laying a memorial at Benetton, sticking blue plaques on H&M, and invading Levis.
The final stop on the tour was to Name The Dead outside Primark's flagship store. We had 1,138 names to read. For context the monthly reading of 72 names to mark the Grenfell fire takes up to seven minutes to complete. With over 1,000 names we decided to split them into eight sections and have eight people call them simultaneously to create a cascade of sound and remembrance, a reverberating wall of names and ages.
The aim was to break the soulless normality of Oxford Street. To bear witness. To interrupt the flow of commerce and business as usual and replace it with the reality of 1,138 bodies wrapped in cloth and thousands more people left to deal with physical injuries, psychological trauma and grief.
Of the Naming itself, I remember only snatches.
The impossibility of hearing all the names that were read out but feeling surrounded by the lives of those lost. Anchoring onto the voices of Yalda on one side and Murad on the other as I struggled not to stumble over reading.
Of the way saying people's ages - 15, 27, 19 - made it feel so much more real.
Of the passers-by who stared at the scoll-like green banner that lists all the names, and who having paused then stopped and stayed till the end.
The heat of the flare in my hand as someone behind us in Primark said we were going to set off the fire alarms and Joanna replying isn't it a shame they didn't have fire alarms in Rana Plaza or Tazreen...
Of the heaviness of 1,138 names that lingered after we finished reading. The silence when it was over and we stood together to remember.
Tonight's events, which mark the day of the anniversary, begin with a memorial at 5.30pm at Altab Ali Park:
To watch the trailer of the film that will be screened tonight click here.
In solidarity, Tansy.