A MEMORIAL to those affected by the New Cross Fire – many of whom were from or connected to Rugby – could be built in the town.
New Cross Fire survivors and their families visited the Mayor of Rugby’s Parlour for a cross-party reception to discuss how to provide a suitable memorial.
The New Cross Fire – which claimed the lives of 13 black Caribbean teenagers – took place on January 18, 1981, during a private family party celebrating Yvonne Ruddock’s 16th birthday in New Cross, London.
Yvonne’s family had moved from Rugby to south London in the late 1960s. Friends and Yvonne’s cousins Susan and Lorna travelled to London after school together for the party, two of whom lost their lives – 16-year-old Patrick Cummings and 18-year-old Humphrey Brown.
Survivors and their families attended the reception in the Mayor’s Parlour, including Yvonne’s cousins Lorna Tavares and Susan Sharpe who attended the party, and Yvonne’s brother Robert Ruddock, who also lost his brother Paul in the fire.
Also attending was survivor Peter Mills, who still lives in Rugby, and Fiona Williams, who taught some of the victims and survivors at Harris School in 1981.
The survivors held an exhibition last year about the fire and its consequences at Rugby Art Gallery and Museum, and subsequently took the exhibition to Goldsmiths University of London earlier this year.
Lorna Tavares said: “We were delighted to be invited to the Mayor’s Parlour to discuss a living legacy to commemorate the loss of our family members Yvonne and Paul Ruddock and friends Humphrey Brown and Patrick Cummings, and also acknowledge the survivors.
“We are looking forward to seeing new beginnings for the betterment in the community in times of need.”
Mayor Maggie O’Rourke said: “It was a great honour to have the privilege of hosting an event where we brought all the political parties together to see how we can best support the New Cross survivors and their families.”
The three political parties at Rugby Borough Council were represented at the meeting by Borough Councillors Michael Moran, Ish Mistry, Jerry Roodhouse, Carolyn Watson-Merret and John Slinger, and County Councillor Sarah Feeney.
Coun Slinger, who invited the guests to the reception, said: “It was an honour to invite the New Cross Fire survivors and their families to this reception.
“They are a strong and dignified group of people, committed to ensuring that those who died, and the survivors and others affected, are not forgotten.
“At the meeting I pledged to work on a cross-party basis to create a meaningful, appropriate, permanent memorial to the victims and survivors, that recognises the connection so many have to our town and, above all else, reflects the views of the campaigners.
“I’m already discussing this with senior officers.”
Cllr Mistry also invited to the reception Rugby resident Trevor Hall CBE, former Race Equality Adviser to the Home Office and the first Black Community Relations Officer at Rugby Community Relations Council (1971-1983).
Mr Hall said: “I welcome the initiative to commemorate the personal involvement of the Rugby community in the tragedy. The disaster impacted deeply on the behaviour of many of the pupils of the secondary schools.”
The campaign group will be meeting councillors and officials again in the autumn to discuss the next steps.