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Artist's memorial to Grenfell dead on banks of Clyde

Brian Carey previously put up tribute to terror attack victims on Squinty Bridge.

Tribute: Latest work focuses on Grenfell fire victims.
Tribute: Latest work focuses on Grenfell fire victims. STV

Surrounded by piles of plastic letters, Brian Carey sorts through the alphabet to find the pieces he needs to spell out his latest artwork.

A helper sits on a folding stool nearby, carefully threading letters onto the railings on the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow.

The pair are working on Brian's latest piece, a tribute to Mohammed Alhajali, the first named casualty of the Grenfell Tower fire.

Mr Alhajali is among the 79 people missing, presumed dead, after a blaze ripped through the 24-storey London tower block on June 14.

Helping hand: Ahmad threads the letters onto the railings.
Helping hand: Ahmad threads the letters onto the railings. STV

For the past few weeks, another of Brian's works has lined the railings of Glasgow's Squinty Bridge. It spelled out the names of the victim of the Manchester bombing on one railing, before those who perished in the London Bridge and Borough Market attacks were added on the opposite side.

"We all can't jump on a plane and see the memorials, be it Manchester, London, whatever. I think people from Glasgow appreciate something like that," explains Brian, from Auchinleck in East Ayrshire.

"A guy stopped and spoke to me on the bridge today and he says, shaking my hand, we're so proud to have work like that up here."

Artwork: Latest public display on banks of Clyde.
Artwork: Latest public display on banks of Clyde. STV

The 56-year-old artist did not seek permission from Glasgow City Council for the work. After it had been erected, the local authority allowed it to remain on the Squinty Bridge until June 18, at which point it had to be taken down.

Similarly, in 2015, another of Brian's installation on the structure - which consisted of hundreds of plastic crosses bearing the names of every British soldier killed in the Commonwealth - provoked controversy.

The council took down that makeshift memorial after it had received complaints from local residents.

Brian says he was so moved by the news of the atrocity at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester that he had to act.

"When that hit the news I thought I need to do something, seeing as it was so close to home with the Scottish girl being involved," says Brian.

"I just went ahead, never bothered asking the council and hoped for the best. I put the Christian names of the 22 victims. To me it's more personal, people connect with the Christian name.

Handcrafted: Brian puts together the pieces for the artwork.
Handcrafted: Brian puts together the pieces for the artwork. STV

"I'm quite sure anybody who's lost someone in any of these disasters, apart from seeing their faces again, anytime they hear somebody just say 'Eilidh' or 'James', it will just bring it home to you."

Bunches of flowers and notes of condolences were left underneath some of the victims' names.

White ribbons were tied and Union flags affixed to the bridge railings. The name of Barra teenager Eilidh MacLeod, who was killed in the attack at the Ariana Grande concert at Manchester Arena, was decked with flowers.

Remembrance: Brian sketches out the words for the piece.
Remembrance: Brian sketches out the words for the piece. STV

The latest work, which has been installed on the banks of the River Clyde, again without seeking permission, uses the same plastic letters from the tribute on the Squinty Bridge.

Brian was joined by Syrian refugee Ahmad Jalloul in erecting the piece earlier this week.

It reads: "Prayers for our brother Mohammad Alhajali and all others affected by Grenfell Fire #lived #loved #laughed #cried #and shamefully #died."

Mr Alhajali, who was a Syrian refugee, was laid to rest this week after the London tower block fire.

Brian explains that the focus of his latest work is to bring people together, with many nationalities and ethnicities affected by the London blaze.

"I know how close all the Syrians are and they feel it, when something like that happens," he says.

"Not just for the Syrian guy but all nationalities. I try to get as many nationalities involved so we're all the same, working together for the right causes."

Unity: Brian and Ahmad hope piece will bring people together.
Unity: Brian and Ahmad hope piece will bring people together. STV

For Ahmad, working on the piece is important to him.

"[Brian] is sending a good message with this work of art," Ahmad says.

"For Syrian and for all people, we are here. God makes Arab, Muslim, Christian, black, white. We have one goal, all people together."

"As it should be," adds Brian.

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