United effort launched for Rugby to have New Cross Fire memorial
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And on the back of that, a campaign has been launched to get a memorial to all those affected by the tragedy, many of whom were from or linked to the town.
On Friday, August 4, Borough Cllr John Slinger (Lab, New Bilton) invited survivors and their families to a cross-party reception at the Mayor’s Parlour to discuss a way forward.
The New Cross Fire took place on January 18,1981, during a private family birthday party celebrating Yvonne Ruddock’s 16th - and 13 young black people died.
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 for the party. Two of them lost their lives in the tragedy - 16-year-old Patrick Cummings and 18-year-old Humphrey Brown.
Those attending the reception included survivors and their families such as Robert Ruddock, who lost his sister Yvonne and brother Paul in the fire – and Lorna Tavares and Susan Sharpe, Yvonne’s cousins who went to the party.
Also at the reception was survivor Peter Mills who still lives in Rugby.
Fiona Williams, who taught some of the victims and survivors at Harris School in 1981, also attended.
The political parties were represented by leader of the borough council’s Labour group Cllr Michael Moran (Admirals and Cawston), deputy leader of the Labour group Cllr Ish Mistry, leader of the Lib Dems Cllr Jerry Roodhouse (Paddox), last year’s mayor, Conservative Cllr Carolyn Watson-Merret (Admirals and Cawston), county Cllr Sarah Feeney (Lab, Benn) – and Cllr Slinger.
Mayor of Rugby, Cllr 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.”
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 the survivors being acknowledged.
“We are looking forward to seeing new beginnings for the betterment in the community in times of need.”
Cllr Slinger said: “The survivors and their families 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 invited Rugby resident Trevor Hall, former race equality adviser to the Home Office and first black community relations officer, Rugby Community Relations Council.
He 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 meet councillors and officials again in the autumn.