Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Sophie Lancaster: Remembered and Celebrated

After listening to the heart-wrenching Radio 4 Afternoon Play - Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster I felt I 'knew' her a little more. Sophie Lancaseter died 4 years to the day, 24th August 2007. The radio programme did an impeccable job bringing her to life, beyond the flat image I had of a rebellious "mosher"/"goth"/"emo". With carefully composed poems by Simon Armitage, Sophie is seen as warm, eager, intelligent and full of spirit and hope. The black clothes and dreadlocks were indeed, as Illamasqua has it, an "alter ego." It is therfore a perfect commemoration to her that Illamasqua has championed her cause; given her name and the eponymous Foundation a great deal of publicity - and ultimately, to stand for bold colour and a quirky, brave makeup style.

Hearing Sophie's mother Sylvia was very difficult. I know from personal experience that losing a loved one is almost impossible to bear; listening to her remember the dreadful memories, "It were horrible, it were horrible" - her lilting northern accent emanated such pain. It is clear that in her brief life Sophie had a wonderful mother, one who supported her when -let's face it- most mothers would be livid! Sylvia said that when Sophie decided to be a Goth, far from being an outsider, it was actually the moment she began to belong.

Being a Goth is part of a clique and has its own set of rules, just like being a yob (not sure what they call themselves?) or any number of different identities that are not unique. The trouble is, Sophie and her boyfriend Rob were not out to harm anyone, maybe Goths do enjoy that frisson of the stuffy soberly garbed who pull away as they walk by, but that is the extent of their aggression. The yobs who killed Sophie were literally young bored teenagers - some only 15 years old. Fights happen all the time, and heads are kicked in. It is usually GBH but sometimes the miracle return to health does not happen. It happened with Rob, but as a slight, small 5'1, Sophie Lancaster did not get the lucky recovery. People forget - be it through abusing their own body with drugs, alcohol, bad diet, or beating flesh and bone - we are not made of steel and life is fragile. Even with the recent riots, it is these same aimless young teens who feel so bored and so bereft of hope, that anyone with a forceful self-worth and imposing identity, would be a provocation.

I was in tears as Sylvia recounted Sophie's death. The absolute senslessness of the crime, which as the judge said, was like a pack of animals hunting, but here for no purpose at all. Reading the transcript of the 999 call is nothing short of agonising. I just hope in prison these criminals have been educated, as according to reports at the time, the accused and his mother were laughing about it?! It is Illamasqua's aim to help raise funds for the SOPHIE (Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere) message with interactive school based Youth Workshops and games, to avoid this ever happening in future.

Please check out the newly commisioned video here to find out more.

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