In 2007, Sophie Lancaster and her boyfriend were assaulted in Stubbylee Park, Bacup. The couple had not been acting offensively, nor had they any disagreements with their attackers; but the attack was born of hatred all the same.
As Rachel Austin, who plays Sophie in the BBC short film Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster, recites:
‘So the blows fly in with that level of fury which needs to hurt; that depth of anger which goes for the face, which desires to maim. And when they have finished knocking the stuffing out of my man, kicking his skull for all they are worth, and I nurse his broken head on my knee – one turns on me.’
The film talks about hate-crime on a level that goes straight for the core, the heart; but its primary drive is the tragedy of senseless violence, told through the words of bereaved mother Sylvia Lancaster, played by Julie Hesmondhalgh (Coronation Street); and reinforced by the poetry of Simon Armitage’s Black Roses. This is a film that will hit parents particularly hard, but there are messages for all ages, and all persuasions: that no matter what a person looks like, they are still human, still worthy of respect and compassion. Live and let live.
Over the past 4 years, I have worked with the Sophie Lancaster Foundation on a number of productions, and I am due to host a charity fundraiser for them this November. Because of this, BBC Learning invited me to a premiere screening of the film, which is based on the play also acted by Austin and Hesmondhalgh. The Foundation aims to have this film shown in every primary school classroom, to stamp out prejudice and violence at a stage when ideas of tribal difference are still being formed.
On October 11th, BBC4 will be broadcasting the first TV screening of the film. I urge everyone reading this to tune in, because sometimes we need to empathise, and sometimes we need to cry. But most of all, we need to realize that difference makes the world go round.