S.O.P.H.I.E., by Stacey Panton

On Saturday, 11th August 2007, Sophie Lancaster, along with her boyfriend Robert Maltby, were targeted by 5 teenagers of the ‘chav’ variety, attacked, beaten into comas, and, in the case of Sophie, sent to an early grave.
BBC News report
Far from an isolated incident, the attack shocked the nation, and even made an impact in America, with various bands dedicating songs and performances to her memory. A campaign, called Stamp Out Prejudice, Hatred and Ignorance Everywhere (S.O.P.H.I.E.) was created by Sylvia Lancaster, the mother of the bright 20-year-old killed for her unique style and for protecting her boyfriend. It highlights the issues the alternative subculture faces, but has far from solved the problem.

The website for the charity – http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com

Growing up, I was always called on for wearing black nail varnish, or for putting badges on my schoolbag, or for not being interested in the drivel most other girls my age were sharing. I was called a mosher, a grunger, a freak, and, had the word been in common usage at the time, I’m sure I’d have been labelled an emo, too. Luckily, the ignorant kids did stop at just using nonsensical names, and I was able to learn about myself and develop as a person with little hassle. Elsewhere, others had a tougher time. In 2004, a 16 year old girl was stabbed in Lancashire, Sophie’s home county, with police describing the event as a ‘one-off’.

A senior police officer is quoted as saying ‘I want to reassure people that it’s a one-off incident and it has been dealt with.’ 2 years later, Sophie Lancaster was killed. In March of this year, a group of 6 ‘goth’ teenagers were attacked by 10 youths. Not isolated to Lancashire, across the country other attacks have taken place in recent years. On November 6th 2007, 4 ‘hoodies’ appeared in court for attacking a group of 14-15 year old ‘goths’ in Colwyn Bay, Wales. Others near a skate park in Llandudno were attacked on other occasions.
More info on the Daily Post news feed

In May 2009, a group of 17-22 year olds attacked 5 ‘goths’ on their way home from the cinema in Runcorn. Each and every one of these attacks, as well as those that go unreported and unpublicised, emphasizes the prejudice still faced by subcultures that have existed, in some form or another, for at least the last 4 decades.
The real question is, what are we supposed to do about this?
The answer is simple – the only thing we can do, which is to carry on exactly as we are. For those of us wishing to do a bit more on the positive side, the S.O.P.H.I.E. foundation accepts donations and often holds charity gigs throughout the country, but, in my opinion, simply being ourselves and refusing to be forced down is one of the best stands we can make.

Clearly, avoiding parks and other lurky places at night is a pretty safe bet to avoid trouble, but these past attacks shouldn’t be a reason to stop being who we are or going to the places we like – in fact, they give us even more reason to carry on. This makes the actions of those ignorant thugs seem even more pointless, doesn’t it? I started going to alternative nights so that I didn’t have to listen to the same music I’d been surrounded with my entire school life – I could listen to music I actually liked with like-minded people. I, for one, will not be giving that up for anyone.
Tolerance, acceptance and difference is a huge part of the ‘sub-culture’. It’s just a shame others feel so threatened by things they don’t understand that they have to lash out. Luckily, not all ‘chavs’, or however they want to be labeled, are the same.

Difference is a great thing, in so many ways.