Grieving mum helps spread peace message

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The mother of a girl killed in a hate crime has talked of her experiences with pupils in Luton and Dunstable.

Sylvia Lancaster’s daughter Sophie was murdered in 2007 following a vicious attack on her and her boyfriend by a group of teenagers because the couple were dressed as goths.

Pupils from Queensbury Academy, in Dunstable; and Stockwood Park Academy, Chalk Hills Academy, the Avenue Centre for Education and Lea Manor High School, all in Luton – attended the one day workshop raising awareness of hate crime at UK Centre for Carnival Arts, in Luton, on Thursday.

It was part of a week of action to encourage more people to speak out against hate crime.

Sylvia set up charity the Sophie Lancaster Foundation to “focus on creating respect for and understanding of subcultures in our communities”.

Charlie and Steph, two pupils from Queensbury Academy, said of the day: “It’s brilliant. The part about Sophie was really touching. We hadn’t heard about her story before. The talk wasn’t graphic but it certainly created an image in your mind.

“We have heard a bit about hate crime at school but not a lot. It’s amazing how serious sentences can be for hate crime, even if you’re not involved very much.”

Pupils also took part in interactive workshops run by Bedfordshire Police and the Crown Prosecution Service, and watched a play about Islamophobia.

Hannah Kelly, one of four young actors from Luton-based Next Generation Youth Theatre who performed the play, said: “Theatre is a great way to shine a light on some of these problems. The play was written around the time of the attacks in Paris. We wanted to show what Islam really is – it’s a peaceful religion.”

For more about how to report hate crime, visit www.bedfordshire.police.uk/tackling_crime/hate_incidents.aspx