Dr Sylvia Lancaster OBE – Love and Light

Dedicated to Sylvia Lancaster, founder of The Sophie Lancaster Foundation, who suddenly passed away on 12 April 2022.

Sylvia Lancaster came into the public eye, following the brutal murder of her daughter Sophie in August 2007. Sophie and her partner were Goths (although they would not have necessarily defined themselves in this way) and were attacked just because they looked different. Sophie’s injuries were so severe that she died thirteen days after the senseless attack.

Sylvia had been a youth worker for over twenty years, working with young people aged 13 to 25 as an intensive adviser; providing support for those experiencing teenage pregnancy, drug dependency and emotional and educational issues. Through her training, she recognised Sophie’s attack as a hate crime and wanted the perpetrators to be sentenced accordingly. Sylvia was always grateful that Judge Anthony Russell QC who presided over the trial, recognised the crime for what it was.

Judge Russell said “This was a terrible case which has shocked and outraged all who have heard about it. At least wild animals, when they hunt in packs, have a legitimate reason for so doing, to obtain food. You have none and your behaviour on that night degrades humanity itself”.

Following Sophie’s death, Sylvia was determined that she would speak up for Sophie and for all alternative subcultures – recognising the intolerance and often violent prejudice they suffer, all because they are simply being who they are and true to themselves.

Following the murder trial, Sylvia set up the Sophie Lancaster Foundation as a lasting legacy to Sophie and it was registered as a charity in 2009. It challenges prejudice and intolerance through creative and challenging outreach work with diverse audiences in schools, universities, community groups and in young offender institutions and prisons. The Foundation also works extensively with the police and justice system on issues such as victim impact and recognising and recording alternative subculture hate crime. Sylvia was convinced that current legislation is insufficient and needed to be extended to include attacks on people from alternative subcultures.

Campaigning nationally and internationally, Sylvia raised awareness of the Foundation and its work and was guest lecturer at a number of UK universities. For many years, Sylvia was a member of the Government’s Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime.

Sylvia was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2014 for her work in reducing hate crime and community cohesion. She was also awarded honorary doctorates by the University of Bolton (2018) and University of Surrey (2019).

For those that knew her, Sylvia was a formidable woman with fierce determination and desire for social justice. She was determined to make a difference and bullish enough to take on the establishment. Her legacy is the Sophie Lancaster Foundation; we remember a young woman, whose life was cut short by violence and in whose name we challenge prejudice and hate and work to increase tolerance and respect for others.

She will be very much missed by friends and family and thousands more supporters from around the world. She was a one off and a truly remarkable woman. There aren’t many of us who truly make a difference in this world, but she did.

Rest in Peace Sylvia.

Alexandra and Jacks Wedding….

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation has always meant a lot to us. I was 11 when Sophie tragically passed away, and I was just about to start high school; I had a gothic style, and I would be going to a new place every day with none of my existing friends, and it scared me due to Sophie’s story. I considered hiding my interests and my style, but in the end, I decided to be true to myself. I did get nasty comments, and I did get threats throughout my teenage life.

The Sophie Lancaster Foundation gave me hope that future generations would not receive the same treatment that I did, or indeed, the treatment Sophie received. I’m in my mid 20s now and I still have a standing order with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation so that I can contribute a little something every month to show my support. From the times I’ve met Sylvia at various events, I know just how much work is being done at the charity, and I appreciate it, just as many others do.

My husband Jack and I got married on Halloween in 2020. Due to the covid-19 restrictions, we only had a very small and limited civil ceremony, but it still fit our gothic style perfectly. A year later in 2021, we were able to have our ‘big wedding’, with our religious ceremony (I am Pagan), followed by a big wedding reception. Instead of wedding gifts, we asked for donations to The Sophie Lancaster Foundation. We already have everything we need, but the charity still needs the financial support to spread such a powerful message.

We set up a donation pot on a table with our guest book and any amount was gratefully received.

My aunty is also big into crochet – she is very creative with the products she makes and sells her work to raise money for charities. For Halloween 2021, she made some beautiful little bats and pumpkins which sold well, and then handed me the money she raised from those to add onto our wedding donations for S.O.P.H.I.E., which we are grateful for.

Even today we are still getting retrospective donations from wedding guests who couldn’t give us it on the night, and we will continue to donate what we can too. We are so happy we were able to use such an event to raise money for something so important.

Punks and Rockers Unite to Honour Friend’s Memory in aid of Sophie Lancaster Foundation

Our Friend Faren Short was obsessed with music and particularly live music, attending thousands of gigs throughout his life supporting national and local bands. Faren died earlier in 2021 after a brave and dignified battle with cancer; his legacy is one big party to celebrate his life featuring local live music from bands picked by Faren himself. Friends David Chinery (Chinners) and Ross Ferrone were given a letter after Faren’s death and asked them to put this fitting celebration together including a raffle featuring band merchandise and gig tickets along with a sale of some of Faren’s own home made punk waistcoats/t-shirts. His request was that all the funds from the event go to the ‘Sophie Lancaster Foundation’, a charity that was very close to his heart supporting personal diversity.

The event was over held over two days at the Madding Crowd in Bournemouth featuring 16 hand-picked bands that Faren would have most definitely approved of. A wooden cut out of Faren was made to stand on the stage and oversee all what was going on. The pandemic situation at the time brought its own challenges and there were bands than had to pull out along with people who could not come along. Despite these hurdles the event was a roaring success and £3470.24 was raised for ‘Sophie Lancaster Foundation’. Fazza Fest was such a roaring success the venue have invited the organisers to do it all again this year. It will be on 7th/8th October with some very special headliners to be announced in due course.

A cover of the Sex Pistols “Anarchy in the UK” was put together by Musician Andy Nazer along with a host of Faren’s Friends and presented to him before his died.

Words by David Chinery (Chinners)
Pictures by Matthew Rayner

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