Tayshan-Hayden Smith had already overcome challenges in his life to become a promising footballer. But the Grenfell fire turned his focus on how to support and strengthen his community.
He planted a Grenfell Memorial Garden, then founded Grow2Know to connect young people with nature. Now 25, his career continues to blossom – he’s appearing on TV shows like Your Garden Made Perfect and just won a top prize at the Chelsea Flower Show.
This is what Grenfell Tower means to him.
Born and raised in North Kensington, Grenfell Tower was part of my everyday landscape. Whether it was gazing out my bedroom window at bedtime as the tower stood among a star-filled night sky, or reflecting in the garden with my late mother as the building peeked through the trees above. Or what I imagined to be the football stadium of people watching down on what we called ‘green pitch’ at the base of the tower – I would convince myself that there must be an Barcelona scout watching me from one of the windows up there. Or a mischievous teenage night with friends which ended up in an overnight stay or two. Or a reminder that we were close to home as I looked out the window of my mother’s car on the Westway.
The truth is that, without knowing it, Grenfell Tower was my first insight into the values of the community
I’ve grown to love and was a true symbol of home. It was always about the people.
Many people around the world will remember Grenfell Tower because of the fire that took 72 people on the night of June 14, 2017. Grenfell Tower meant a lot more than that to me. It was memories, it was neighbours, friends and a part of my everyday life. I still find myself in moments of anger reflecting on the events of that night and, even more so, the five years that have now passed. I have come to the ultimate realisation that the system that we are meant to rely on to help us is the same system that caused this tragedy – and I have no reason to believe that is going to change anytime soon.