The story of a bright, creative young woman whose life was cut short by an unprovoked attack in a park has been told to students at Bradford College.
Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, a drama documentary about the life and tragic death of Sophie Lancaster, was screened online to a virtual audience of students and staff.
Sophie’s brother Adam Lancaster introduced the film, told through a series of poignant poems written by the award-winning poet Simon Armitage.
Coronation Street’s Julie Hesmondhalgh plays Sophie’s mother Sylvia Lancaster. The actress speaks Sylvia’s words as she remembers her daughter’s life.
My dark fairy
“I used to call her my dark fairy” said Sylvia. She remembered Sophie as a vegetarian from a young age with a strong will and views on animal rights and green issues.
“Why ask me to toe the line? I can’t” said Sophie, played by Julie’s soap co-star Rachel Austin. She then recalled her youth when she marched “to the beat of a different drum.”
“Have we said the wrong word?”
Sophie and Sylvia then described the terrible events in August 2007, when Sophie and her boyfriend Robert Maltby encountered a group of teenage boys in Stubbylee Park, Bacup, Lancashire. “Have we said the wrong word?” Sophie asks, as she ponders the night she and Robert decided to visit the park. “Have we made the wrong turn … Have we stepped on their patch?”
The gang of boys targeted the couple for the way they looked. First, a group attacked Robert, seriously injuring him. Sophie was cradling him when she was also violently attacked.
“She didn’t say anything, she didn’t do anything” Adam told the audience. “She just looked different.”
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation
In response to the horrific events, her family set up The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. The charity works to create respect for and understanding of subcultures. As part of their work, the charity has visited schools and colleges and worked with police and social services to raise awareness of hate crime.
In a Q&A session after the screening, Adam said: “At the end of the day, we’re all people. That’s the most important thing.
We all have more similarities than differences
“Just because we’re all different, doesn’t mean we won’t have something in common with someone. People in the corridor who you never speak to, have a chat with them. Because you’ll have more similarities with that person than differences and they could even be your new best friend.”
Students asked Adam a variety of questions about Sophie, his relationship with her and how he and his family now feel about the events.
“Just be yourself. Just be kind.”
Other students asked Adam what advice he would give young people in the same situation as Robert and Sophie. They asked: “What would you say to help young people accept who they are?”
Adam said: “Just be yourself.” He also urged students to report any hate crime they experience or witness to the police. “Hate crime across the board is very underreported. Reporting it to the police is the only way things will get better.
“Just be kind. That’s it.”
You can find out more about the Sophie Lancaster Foundation on their website.