“Our involvement with the fantastic Sophie Lancaster Foundation began in 2008, in a chance meeting with a close family friend of Sophie’s. At the time, Julie was in Coronation Street, playing longstanding regular, Hayley Cropper, and she was handed a newly minted SOPHIE wristband and told about the trial and Sophie’s mother’s commitment to setting up an organisation in her daughter’s memory. Around two years later, we had an idea to set up and fund a creative writing competition for schools in East Lancashire and Greater Manchester, and having followed Sylvia’s story since, we decided to hold it in memory of Sophie. We set the theme of Difference and asked for poetry and prose pieces that had something to say on the topic. Difference, and the embracing and celebration of difference, seemed to us to be at the heart of the foundation’s work. The act of combatting prejudice and hatred starts with the breaking down of the divisions between us that grow out of fear of the unknown: whether that unknown is ethnicity, sexuality, disability or simple appearance and dress: cultural identity and its unique expression.
Our writing competition took place in 2011 and resulted in a beautiful book of young people’s experiences of Difference in two age categories, and a fantastic evening at the Contact Theatre in Manchester where stars of the stage and screen read the winning entries, chosen by a panel of judges that included New Order’s Peter Hook and the poet Simon Armitage. It was this evening that really cemented our commitment to and involvement with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, and we became patrons shortly afterwards. Julie has subsequently appeared as Sylvia in the award winning “Black Roses” on stage and screen, and Ian has written a Sony nominated play for Radio 4, Porcelain, about the trial of Sophie’s killers.
We have seen the organisation grow and develop with wonder in these last few years as Sylvia and her co-workers have taken the message of love and acceptance into schools around the country, and as police forces have gradually started to recognise attacks on people from alternative subcultures as hate crimes, starting with the GMP in 2013.
We have never stopped being amazed at how Sylvia has turned her unimaginable grief into a force for good in the world and kept her beautiful daughter’s memory alive. Her work in this field only strengthens and intensifies.
We are very proud to be patrons of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation and to wear our SOPHIE wristbands every day as a reminder not just of a senseless death, but of the possibility of a better, more diverse and inclusive world in all its colours.”