punks against prejudice- in memory of Sophie Lancaster


Sophie Lancaster website

Sophie Lancaster literary awards details here

Dear Sophie,


I have never met you but I feel like I know you.

Those few snapshots of you that circulate the internet paint a sparse picture but knowing your wonderful mother Sylvia and her friend and fellow campaign person, Kate, adds few more colours to the palatte. in some ways I wish I didn’t feel like I knew you because that would have meant that your cowerdly and pointless murder would never have happened and you would have been part of the sea of faces we see at gigs in the North West, just another music lover who liked to dress up, another gentle soul in a brutal world.


Many times I have tried to imagine the fear you must have felt that night but admired your bravery as you looked after your boyfriend Robert, who had been knocked out by the gang before they killed you. I can’t imagine what you must have felt but it always makes me feel sad and angry. And even now I can feel the welling of tears.

At Louder Than War we are very proud to be involved with your wonderful mother Sylvia and her work trying to make something positive from your pointless murder with the S.O.P.H.I.E campaign. A campaign which she runs along with her amazing friend Kate.

They always say that you should never take on the mothers as they will always win and I love the way you have not seeked revenge apart from justice for the murderers. The campaign preaches understanding, whilst trying to get some sort of protection for the people who dress slightly differently.

The announcement that the Greater Manchester Police have accepted that crimes against Goth, punk, emo or whatever you want to call it kids is to be a classed a hate crime is a victory for the mothers and a victory for everybody, no matter how they dress.


It’s hard to believe we still live in a world where a bit of hair dye can result in a murder but we do and maybe from now on that extra protection can make a difference.

On Louder Than War we celebrate anyone like Sophie, anyone who dares to be different and we still feel sad about her death.

We never met you, Sophie, but we have met thousands of kids like you,  we are, infact, the same sort of people, we have got the bruises to prove it from pointless attacks over the years but we never met the type of cowards who would kick a girl to death because she had different hair.

There have been countless deserved tributes to you Sophie and you seemed like an amazing girl. We have always been proud to have Sylvia at our Goldblade gigs doing her speech when we can and we are proud to be part of her campaign selling the S.O.P.H.I.E. wristband and spreading the word from the early days of the campaign.

Sophie, most people will know you as the ‘goth girl’ who was murdered by a gang of bullies and your name has become synonymous with trying to end these hate crimes which is a fitting epitaph for anyone’s life- no matter how short.

In my other world as a member of Goldblade, we are involved in the S.O.P.H.I.E. campaign, selling the wristbands and being honoured to have your wonderful mother on stage at our gigs talking about you and her own campaign to stamp out prejudice and violence. It’s not a world Sylvia can ever expected to have been involved in but she is doing a great job and is warmly loved by everyone on the various music scenes that this has affected.

We wish we had met you Sophie, the more we hear about you, the cooler you sound, a really wonderful person- awake, political, vegetarian, a pacifist, you had left school with A levels and was thinking about what to do with your future when it was taken so brutally away.

We hope that this latest victory by your mother is just another stepping stone in the campaign to make the world a better place and we truly believe that it is.

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Award winning journalist and boss of Louder Than War. In a 30 year music writing career, John was the first to write about bands such as Stone Roses and Nirvana and has several best selling music books to his name. He constantly tours the world with Goldblade and the Membranes playing gigs or doing spoken word and speaking at music conferences.


  1. Met some SOPHIE people at Rebellion, very nice, very committed, and a worthy thing to stand up for.

    Interestingly, the only grief I had all weekend was from a smartly dressed bunch of lads in Blackpool town centre. 8000 punks = zero touble. 6 townies in lager&lauren = bother. It’s not a diffcult equation.

    • Graeme, that is a good point. I remember from my supply teaching days, the real violence came from the posh catholic boys school in Hale. Not from the students who looked like Sophie.

      I heard the radio play about Sophie, Black Roses and it was so moving…heard it again yesterday. Its, overwhelming really. I am Lost for words that seem suitable for a reaction to the content, but just to say to those who haven’t heard it, its worth it.

  2. There was a horribly similar case in north Belfast a couple of years back, a goth/metal teenager called Thomas Devlin was killed by a couple of local hoods. It’s generally been chalked up as a sectarian murder but I remain convinced that he was attacked because of how he looked. His family also runs a campaign – httpss://www.thomasdevlin.com/

  3. I was driving about in my job as a Senior Fire Officer and tuned into the afternoon play on BBCradio. I have over 30 years service and have attended numerous incidents which has involved gghe needless loss of life. However, the moment I tuned to the radio, I felt the hairs on my neck stand on end. I pulled over and listened to the last 15 minutes of the play which was entitled “Black Roses”, the killing of Sophie Lancaster. I was taken totally aback at this horrendous loss of a young life, the needless loss of life because she and her boyfriend decided to dress differently. I am a traditionalist and this is where the death penalty should have been used. A life for a life, I could not show mercy to those who murdered this young girl and maimed her boyfriend. I note they talk about how one of the offenders was from a single parent family. Enough of weak excuses for how this boy only had one parent etc etc. I am from a one parent family and whilst I found life difficult at times, never once it did it enter my head to go on a drunken binge and kill someone, nor did it enter my head to maim an innocent youth. Why, because my Mother cared for me and undertook her responsibilities as a parent should. The mother of Herbert should also have been locked up. Society needs to change its attitudes, the courts need to toughen up and realise community orders DO NOT WORK. Judges, get in line with society, understand what happens in the real world. Parents need to accept responsibility for their children, lone parents or not. ( I know this does not apply to everyone and am only mentioning it through anger and frustration at this needless loss of life). We all need to accept responsibility for our actions. Pleading guilty does not make it any better. I have a daughter who is 17 and could not start to imagine how we would feel if something happened to her. Maybe I would commit a crime and go to jail just to take out the perpetrator, who knows, the mind works in mysterious ways. Life for a life is only fair. I admire Sophies Mother for having the courage to not only give the papers the sad picture of Sophie’s last days on this earth to print, but for sharing in the short story, her emotions, her feelings and allowing the rest of the caring side of humanity to stop and think about how short life really is and how we should embrace every single moment and live for now. God bless Sophie, her familiy and her boyfriend who all live with this torment every day of their lives.

    Thinking of you all
    A sad Firefighter

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  5. Thank you for posting this blog. As campaign manager for the S.O.P.H.I.E. campaign I can say it has been a pleasure working with you and Goldblade over the last few years, our motto, “Make A Noise” really rings true at your gigs !
    We are now reaching schools and colleges, youth clubs and young offenders institutes where we challenge the often violent abuse faced by alternative people.
    We have recently trained the first teachers in the delivery of the SOPHIE educational resource, a powerful tool in any classroom.
    We were in Ireland working with an anti-bullying project through Trinity College University. We met politicians to discuss ways to include our resource in the curriculum and will be returning in the New Year when we have evaluated the impact of the “game”.
    The award night on Tuesday will celebrate “difference” as the work of the students will be read by famous actors from Shameless and Corrie St and poets (Simon Armitage who wrote Black Roses).
    The shortlisted works have been published in a book which will be available on the nght and then from our sites. All proceeds to the charity.
    look forward to as many of you being there on Tuesday !
    Kate Conboy-Greenwood

    • All the best for your campaign, this is a truely horrendous story and needs highlighting. To attack anyone for looking different must surely be fuelled by hate, but why, why does this hatred occur? As David Crosby once sang, “im gonna let my freak flag fly” and we should all embrace difference. As I said,all the best with your campaign,I really hope it will make a real difference. Good luck.

  6. I have been bullied for the same reason that Sophie was killed for. I am lucky that I am still alive and I feel angry that anyone could be capable of this cold-blooded violence.

    • Not ‘reason’; ‘excuse’. Psychologically normal people don’t respond to difference with hatred and violence. Hope things are better for you now.

  7. […] Sophie Lancaster (above) death be in vain In a scary echo of the tragic murder of ‘Goth’ Sophie Lancaster a few years ago there has been another attack on a teenager heavy metal fan a couple of miles away from where Sophie was […]

  8. […] against prejudice- in memory of Sophie Lancasterthe tragic death of Sophie Lancaster will be put on stage later this year. Black Roses will be staged at Manchester’s Royal […]

  9. […] a sad echo of the murder of Sophie Lancaster two men in their forties have been jailed for attacking a ‘Goth’ girl on a tram in […]

  10. Today’s Guardian has published part of Simon Armitage’s wonderful poetry that accompanies the Radio 4 play Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster can be found here: httpss://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/apr/04/simon-armitage-black-roses-killing-sophie-lancaster

    You can buy the full poem, and part of the proceeds go to the Foundation. It’s harrowing, heart breaking and very beautiful.

    This is a lovely blog post. Thank you.

  11. What a horrible world we live in, find it hard to believe that this could happen to someone so young because of their taste in music and dress. Are there people out there deliberately looking for reasons to attack because of taste, is this the new racism?

  12. R.I.P Sophie . No-one no matter what music or style they chose to adopt should anyone suffer what you suffered. Shallow comfort as it may seem here is hoping the horrendous torture you undoubtably endured may go some way however small to stop such heinous acts from ever befalling anyone else whoever or whatever they choose to be. Love & eternal peace be your legacy

  13. Tears were welling up as I read this. This is such a tragic tale. Not much I can say…but your words, John, and your support of this, is highly admirable and respected. God Bless Sophie x

  14. I was lecturing in Newcastle when I was told of Sophie’s murder by a lady who was a mutual friend of Sylvia and I. I have never been so effected by the death of a stranger before. Maybe it was because she was a goth and hence a kindred spirit. I ended up dedicating a book on monsters and ghosts from Japanese folklore to her. Hardly a day goes by when i don’t think of her.
    Great Letter from John Robb. The Membranes are a brilliant band.

  15. Wonderful sentiments & a great open letter. Fair play to GMP for being the first force in the country to significantly highlight the abhorrence of hate crimes. The strength & courage shown by Sophie’s mum is amazing & should serve as an inspiration to us all to stand up & take on the bullies and cowards whose actions destroy so many lives

  16. I am a biker, and heavily tattooed, and used to being treated differently. I was once attacked and knocked off my bike by a bunch of lads who ambushed me from some trees, and they started kicking me. I yanked my helmet off to show them I was a girl, but it made no difference. I was lucky, I got away with a fractured kneecap and bruises. That’s why I identified so profoundly with Sophie Lancaster, and why her death affected me so. I was there in the courtroom on the day the killers were sentenced. The courtroom was filled with all sorts of people from alternative lifestyles. We were silent, and dignified. Sylvia was there, and took the time to come and thank us all. In 2013, I took part in the Preston Guild march for the SOPHIE campaign, joined again by Sylvia. It was an honour. Rest in peace, Sophie.

  17. Those psychopaths who attacked Sophie Lancaster, were given “permission” in their own mind to do so, because they’d been influenced to kick and damage, people in society who seem to be a bit different.
    Who is doing the influencing?
    Who is forming the opinions out there?
    If you find yourself at a gig, and the lead singer makes a shitty remark about a certain group in society, (say.. Jews, or Christians, or Hindu’s or the Disabled), and gets the crowd to sneer and snigger…. be careful. Being influenced to hate, has no effect on normal people, apart from a moment of malice. But what effect does it have on the psychopaths? I think it gives them a reason to head towards violence.
    Tread carefully out there people


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