Mum has made cause her life’s work
SYLVIA Lancaster has every reason to be angry - but instead she has chosen to dedicate her life to peace and tolerance.
“I think our work is really important,” Sylvia says, proudly, from the Sophie Lancaster Foundation office.
The walls are covered in artwork and paintings, some created by Sophie’s boyfriend Rob Maltby, who suffered horrendous injuries in the attack which killed her. The small staff of volunteers work hours on end at various events up and down the country.
Sophie’s legacy has become her mum’s life’s work. And her dedication to the cause occupies most of her time. People still contact the team - on a weekly basis - to share their frightening stories of discrimination and hate crime.
“They send pictures of their injuries as well. That can be shocking,” says Kate Conboy, a friend who has worked alongside Sylvia since 2007. “Behind the scenes of our social media we support victims and people who have been attacked. We hear about kids in school who are bullied and people who go to gigs and then get beaten up in the chippy.”
The foundation is supporting the Crown Prosecution Service’s new guidance calling for online hate crimes to be treated as seriously as those committed in person.
But Sylvia is most proud of the educational work the charity carries out in schools, colleges and prisons to challenge perceptions of people in subcultures. She eventually hopes it will form part of the national curriculum.
Though Sophie’s tragic death was the catalyst for this important work, former youth worker Sylvia said she had the idea even before her daughter’s murder.
“Even before Sophie’s attack I was working in local high school and it became very apparent that alternative people were picked on,” she says.
“If I was walking down the street with Sophie and Rob I could hear people’s comments. So it was always in my head to do something. I had wanted Sophie to come into local youth groups with me so they could see she was a normal person.
“I wanted people to see that how you look is your choice and you should be allowed to be who you are without fear.”
●● Sylvia Lancaster