What kind of world do you want your children to grow up in? My kids are little at the moment. It is difficult to see who they will be when they are older, difficult to see what influences they will gather to form the people they will be. It is hard to imagine them one day making their own choices on clothing, hobbies, friends or music. It is hard to see them as people who will have a sexual preference.
All of these things will happen. Our children will become unique, individual, autonomous people with their very own personalities. They will portray their image in a variety of ways, some which we may not have anticipated or may not even visualised we would like. But they are our children, and we hope that we would love them and support them regardless of who they grow up to be. This is the essence of parenthood.
However, there are wicked people in this world who target others because of the way they look, their attire, their complexion, their religion, their sexuality, their musical tastes… Sadly, this list goes on.
A 20-year old girl called Sophie Lancaster fell victim to a group of these wicked people in 2007. Sophie, from Bacup in Lancashire and her boyfriend Robert headed to a local park after visiting friends for the evening. In the park were a large group of teenage boys who had been drinking. They struck up a conversation with Sophie and Robert, and at first it all seemed friendly, the couple even handing out cigarettes to some of the boys. However, from nowhere it turned nasty. “Let’s bang him”, said one of the boys as he indicated towards Robert. The violent delinquents unleashed their callous onslaught on Robert first, before turning on Sophie after she tried to protect him. These boys attacked Sophie and Robert because they were goths. Sophie died of her injuries 13 days after her attack.
In the ‘about’ section of my blog, I write about of some of the things I loathe. These loathes include prejudice, racism, xenophobia, and intolerance. These loathes are the qualities that motivated those despicable people to kill Sophie that night.
I feel livid that my children are going to grow up in a world where people like this exist. It saddens me to know that my kids may not feel free enough to be the people they want to be for fear of falling victims of attack for the people they are. It worries me to think that if they choose to be proud and open about whoever they want to be, that they will be constantly looking over their shoulders. Is this the world you want your children to grow up in?
The truth is unless we make some changes, this is how the world is going to be for our children. We need to start inciting change and breeding tolerance. The ghastly people who killed Sophie were little children once – babies. They weren’t born with evil and violence in their heads. I truly believe that. Something must have gone wrong for them. They became hateful, intolerant and wicked. We have got everything in our power to teach our children that they should be free to be who they want to be, as well as to be accepting, tolerant and welcoming to the choices that others make.
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation is a charity founded by Sophie’s family following her murder. They wanted to bring educational programmes aimed at challenging prejudice and intolerance towards people from alternative subcultures. They want to influence change in attitudes, targeting the young people in particular. In addition to educational programmes, they also want to change UK Hate Crime Legislation to include crimes against people from alternative subcultures. After all, what is the difference between hate crimes against people on the grounds of religion/ethnicity/sexuality, and hate crimes against people because of a subculture they follow?
The Sophie Lancaster Foundation have created some innovative educational resources. The Sophie Game was designed for schools, youth groups or young peoples’ organisations, for 11-year olds and up. It has been shown that this age group is most susceptible to developing discriminatory tendencies. It contains 30 different cards which represent people from different ethnicities, religions, social groups and subcultures. It is designed to show young people that it is easy to be tolerant and accepting to people of different walks of life, regardless of their appearance or lifestyle choices.
The other resource that the charity has developed is for primary school children. It is very new and was only piloted in a selection of primary schools late in 2014. It is going to be available to all primary schools from January 2015 (now!) who are interested in utilising it. Again, this pack is designed to challenge common preconceptions by facilitating a wide range of interactions through role-play, discussion, creative writing, art and music. By doing this, children can explore their personal values and beliefs in the safe environment of school.
What is striking is the amount of thought and work that has gone into designing these contemporary resources for our young people and children. I think that resources such as these could be crucial to improve the attitudes of some young people that may have otherwise developed a negative way of thinking. I would be delighted for my children to have access to a resource like this in their schools when it is their turn.
The only way that this will happen will be for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation to receive more funding. They can develop more resources and broaden their outreach. There are many ways you can help them with donations, and I’m going to cover some of them here.
For makeup lovers, let’s face it, a little bit of black eyeliner is the staple of most comprehensive makeup bags. For every Illamasqua eye pencil in jet black that you purchase, a donation is made to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. If you haven’t heard of Illamasqua then please go and check out their cosmetics range, but your first port of call should be this link to their black eye pencil. Illamasqua were moved by Sophie’s story, and have been heavily involved in the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. You can see more about this story by following this link.
For literature fans, check out this book, Black Roses, by Simon Armitage. The book contains a poetic sequence written from Sophie’s perspective. Many of the reviewers of this book have been deeply moved by the connection it gives them to Sophie. Some have suggested that this book should appear on the national curriculum. A third of the profits from this book go directly to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.
For those who want to make a subtle statement, join an array of celebrities who are showing their support for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation by donning the Sophie Lancaster wristband. You can purchase yours here, along with an array of other unique merchandise, the sales of which all go towards the charity.
For rock music fans (me), a friend of mine has shed blood, sweat and tears to produce a 2015 calendar featuring photographs of modern rock legends The Darkness. It includes some exciting, exclusive and unseen photographs of the band. Don’t worry if you’re feeling alienated by flamboyant vocals, outrageous hair and guitar solos, because I can guarantee that this calendar will have something for everyone.
If handsome men is your bag:
If you adore amazing tattoos:
Or amazing tattoos and Gibson guitars:
If you fancy a bit of ‘tache:
And if you admire women who rock out just as hard as the fellas (their new drummer is Emily Dolan Davies), then you need this calendar in your life.
I’m pushing this one the hardest because it is the choice I made in supporting the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. My calendar will be arriving in the post very soon! You’ve only missed 20 days of the year, so don’t delay and grab yours by following this link. (*The pictures I’ve just shown are not the photos in the calendar and this is not an official The Darkness calendar – even more reason to buy it – it will be rare and unique!)
Finally, if you’d like to make a simple, no-frills donation, you can do so directly to their charity by following this link, which takes you to the Sophie Lancaster Foundation’s website and straight onto their donations page. Alternatively, you can utilise TEXT GIVING by texting: SOPH with the amount you’d like to donate (eg 05 for £5 or 03 for £3) to 70070.
Whatever you do, I implore you to support this unique and worthwhile charity so that Sophie’s violent end won’t be in complete vain. I’m certain you don’t want your children to grow up in a hateful world of prejudice and intolerance. I’m certain that you would want them to feel free to be the people they want to be, regardless of their cultural choices, sexual preference, choice of attire, hair colour, religion or complexion. Our children are little at the moment, but in a few years they could be like Sophie – expressing themselves openly, beautifully and harmlessly through their musical tastes, clothing, hair, and literary tastes. The truth is, if the news headlines and newspaper reports are anything to go by, this supposed free society that we live in isn’t quite as free and tolerant as it should be. Let’s collectively stop this right here, right now.
How will you be supporting the Sophie Lancaster Foundation?