Teacher's tribute leads Philip Pullman to name character after pupil Grenfell fire victim

26th June 2017 at 17:41
More than £18,000 has been donated after Pullman offered to name a character in new book to raise funds for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire

Author Philip Pullman will name one of the characters of his new book after a teenage victim of the Grenfell Tower fire, following an auction in which more than £18,000 was raised for those affected by the blaze.

Pullman offered the right to name a character in his new book as one of a number of literary-themed lots on Authors For Grenfell Tower, an auction site raising money for the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund, for residents affected by the blaze in West London.

Teacher James Clements said that he used to teach 15-year-old fire victim Nur Huda el-Wahabi, who lived on the 21st floor. He bid £1,500 to have a character in The Book Of Dust, a companion trilogy to the author's famous His Dark Materials series, named after his former pupil.

"The real Nur Huda was an ex-pupil of mine who lived in Grenfell Tower and didn't make it out of the building that night," Mr Clements' comment read. "A life that was so full of promise has been cut short in the most terrible way.

"As well as raising some money, this would mean her name would live on. Plus, Nur Huda is a pretty cool name for a character. 

"Please outbid me by lots, though – it's an important cause."

'Life-affirming'

Since Mr Clements' comment, a succession of users have made offers increasing his bid, rather than offering a name of their own.

The scheme's organisers say that, by Monday afternoon, 156 contributors' smaller contributions raised Mr Clements' bid to £18,430 – all to ensure Nur Huda's name is used.

The organisers say they have been in touch with Mr Clements, who told them in a statement that he taught Nur Huda at Thomas Jones Primary School, where he also coached her in the school's sports teams.

"Apart from sadness, my overwhelming feeling at the whole tragedy has been helplessness," he said. "It has been frustrating to not be able to do anything practical to help the families affected.

"The prize is amazing, so I didn't expect for a moment that my bid would be anywhere near winning. It is incredibly life-affirming to know that there are so many good people in the world."

'Failed so grievously'

The Authors For Grenfell Tower site has hundreds of lots on which bids can be made.

Other popular bids on the charity site include signed books from authors Malorie Blackman and Caitlin Moran and afternoon tea and a book reading with TV personality and children's author David Walliams at Claridge's.

The charity scheme's organisers, Molly Ker Hawn and Harriet Reuter Hapgood, said it has exceeded expectations.

"We had initially hoped for £50,000, but right now it looks like we will raise well in excess of £70,000. We'll see where the bids finish tomorrow night," Ms Ker Hawn said.

"We knew the publishing world would respond to this but we had no idea that everyone would respond quite this enthusiastically.

"I think we're all furious that the residents of Grenfell Tower were failed so grievously by the state, and grateful to have a way to contribute to recovery efforts."

Theresa May today called for authorities to speed up checks on at-risk buildings – including schools – to ensure that they are not encased in combustible cladding.

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