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Thursday, 24 August 2017

Sophie Lancaster: 10 Years On

Today marks the tenth anniversary of the death of Sophie Lancaster. I'm sure most of you reading this know Sophie's story, but in case you don't; Sophie and her boyfriend, Rob Maltby, were attacked by a group of lads on August 11th 2007. They suffered a number of blows to the head, and were beaten so severely that both Rob and Sophie fell into comas. Rob would go on to recover. Sophie, on the other hand, never woke up, and passed away on August 24th 2007. Why was she murdered?

Because she was a goth.

That's it. She was killed for no other reason than the gang who attacked her and her partner didn't like the way that they looked. Afterwards, one of the attackers even bragged about what they'd done.

I remember how sad I felt at the time, but I wasn't all that shocked. Dressing alternatively myself in my teens, by 2007 I was used to getting shouted at in the streets, usually people shouting "mosher" or "goth" or "get a tan" or something along those lines. It'd come from people passing me and my friends, people on the other side of the road, people in cars. Sometimes no one would say anything, but you could feel people staring at you, silently disapproving of how you were dressed. And I didn't even dress all that extreme. Sometimes I look back on those years wishing I had gone the whole emo hog with dying my hair and getting my lip pierced etc, but thinking about it now whilst writing this post I think I'm starting to remember why I never did. Sad, isn't it?

Me in 2007

Luckily, I never got caught up in any violent incidents. There were a few scary moments where, if we spotted a certain type of group, we would cross the road, or even change the route to get to wherever we were going, "in case they start". But I don't remember anything major actually happening to me, save for maybe the odd small object getting thrown at me at school or on the bus.

In the aftermath of the Sophie Lancaster murder after the attackers received, quite frankly, pitiful prison sentences, the law was changed so that attacks against people of alternative subcultures could be classed as hate crimes, and that judges could give much harsher sentences.

Having spoken to some younger girls that I know, aged between 14 and 18, it seems as though alternative kids don't seem to take the same abuse as they did when I was that age. As Melissa, an 18 year old on the gothier end of the spectrum put it...

"See I've never had any bother unless I wear a couple of outfits like my Wicca dress - I've had a few people tell me the typical 'Halloween is over' and to get changed but nothing bad like. To be honest, I get more hate for being ginger."

One of the other girls, Hollie,  mentioned that her high school used to have a day dedicated to Sophie Lancaster, and the day would consist of anti-bullying lectures and workshops. Her school also had a visit from Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie's mum, as part of her work with the Sophie Lancaster foundation, which aims to create respect for and understanding of subcultures in order to reduce hate crime. Hollie also mentioned that they'd been visited by Gee Walker, the mother of Anthony Walker, who was killed in a racially motivated attack in 2005. I think the fact that these two ladies are out there educating people is incredible and I do believe people like Sylvia and Gee are creating a difference amongst the younger generation.

I also think that fashion has helped in the past ten years as well. Things that used to be considered alternative - converse, vans, band t-shirts, ripped jeans, unnatural coloured hair dye, facial piercings - have all come into fashion at some point over the past 10 years, meaning that being alternative has become more about how you style your wardrobe as opposed to what it is you're actually wearing.

Not that any of that should matter anyway. People should be free to express themselves however they want, and should be free to wear whatever clothes they like and dye their hair whatever colour they choose.

I'm gonna close this out by leaving a link to the Sophie Lancaster foundation website here. If you're make up inclined, Illamasqua have started #GothUpForSophie over on Instagram to raise awareness for the cause.

My #GothUpForSophie Instagram pic

Remember to be kind to each other. Be yourself, and let others be themselves. It's really not that hard.

Stacey Rose xx

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