« Previous | Main | Next »

Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster - Four years on

Post categories:

Simon Armitage Simon Armitage 20:00, Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Editor's note - In 2007 a young student, Sophie Lancaster suffered fatal injuries while protecting her boyfriend Rob from a ferocious attack by a group of youths. She later died on August 24th 2007. Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster is a drama documentary marking the anniversary of her death in which Sophie tells her own story through a series of poignant poems written by poet Simon Armitage alongside her mother, Sylvia Lancaster remembering her daughter's life. On the blog Simon writes about meeting Sylvia and the making of Black Roses - PM.

Sophie Lancaster

As soon as I heard about what had happened to Sophie Lancaster in the park that night, and more so after hearing that details that came out following the court case, I felt as if I wanted to get involved.

It seemed to me that Sophie had been killed because she was different, and for no other reason, and as well as feeling angry and upset about it, I probably felt some underlying kinship with her, having grown up in a small northern community not unlike Bacup where to be different was to risk ridicule or aggression. Also, in images and photographs that begin to circulate, Sophie seemed so innocent, beautiful and vulnerable, yet she met with terrifying and almost unimaginable violence.

I met Sylvia, Sophie's mum, not long after the offenders were jailed, and was immediately struck by her great courage and her determination not to let her daughter's killing go unnoticed.

In Black Roses, Sylvia's brave and sometimes harrowing testimony is interspersed with poetic monologues in Sophie's voice, based on Sylvia's descriptions of her daughter's life and death, and their heartbreaking goodbye when the life support systems were eventually switched off.

I wanted to give Sophie her voice back, allow her to speak again, and to celebrate her attitudes and character as well as commemorate her.

Black Roses isn't an easy listen, but of everything I've ever written it seems to have made the most impact, in terms of listeners getting in touch and wanting to sympathise with Sophie or to relate similar episodes of prejudice and intolerance in their own lives.

I never mean to campaign or to crusade when I sit down to write, but on this occasion I hope I have done justice to Sophie's story and to Sophie as a person.

Simon Armitage wrote Black Roses


  • Comment number 1.

    This is a really effective use of radio and of poetry - I heard it first time around and I was ready to disappointed but I had to admit all involved impressed me:

    1) the mother
    2) the poet
    3) the voice of the reader

  • Comment number 2.

    What an outstanding piece of radio. It was so very moving and the poetry along with Sylvia's own words gave such an effective picture of her daughter and of her dreadful death. I haven't forgotten this case from the time of the sentencing and this piece is a wonderful tribute. Thank you so much to all concerned in bringing this to us.

  • Comment number 3.

    I missed this the first time around and caught it today. Eddie Mair in the Radio Times said it would have you sobbing - I wasn't so sure but he was right - I ended up in tears. An outstanding piece of radio all round - the poetry, the reader, the dignity of Sophie's mum. Thank you, BBC

  • Comment number 4.

    I too cried while I listened to this - what great radio. What dignity from Sophie's mother. And how evocative Simon's words were. And how sad that it happened at all to Sophie and her boyfiend. Huge thanks to all involved in allowing us to hear Sophie's story.

  • Comment number 5.

    My first ever post... Caught this while driving down the endless M4 for the umpteenth time. Actually wanted the journey to last long enough so that the Bridge didn't interrupt this 5 star piece of radio. Everything was outstanding, the poetry (thank you Simon Armitage, what a genius) the reader, Sophie's Mum and Sophie herself who shone through in all her honesty and humanity. I speak as someone who has also lost an adult child, but am so grateful that he died in an accident and wasn't trampled to death by dreadful people. Every respect to Sophie's family and I hope that her boyfriend has managed to remake his life.

  • Comment number 6.

    What a truely remarkable piece of radio. I don't mind saying I sat in a my car and cried. My son is individual and was attacked on News Years eve simply because he was wearing a vintage tweed suit he had bought himself with his christmas money. He also has long hair and many piercings as well. Fortunately it wasn't hurt too badly. Maybe the play struck a cord I don't know, but I do know it was very moving and powerful.

  • Comment number 7.

    I listened to the play this afternoon, and was deeply moved. A very powerful piece of drama, and so unusual to hear a real account juxtaposed with such sensitive dramatic writing. Tears fell, both because of the horror of what happened, but also because of the deeply moving beauty of the piece. Thankyou to the writers and to Sophie's mum who told her story without glamour, and in a way that gave us deep insight into a mother's love and loss. A painful listen, but one that has changed me as a person.

  • Comment number 8.

    A brilliant piece of drama. I wasn't going to listen but thought I'd give it 5 minutes to see what it was like. I was hooked immediately. Loved Rachel Austin's voice and expression. Sophie's Mum was amazing in all sorts of ways. Great, great writing, so sensitive and moving, and very clever; an unforgettable drama.

  • Comment number 9.

    Mrs Lancaster's involvement in the project was inspiring and her love for her daughter shone through in the very smallest of details.

    The programme was a testament to the power of poetry. A perfect illustration of the need for continued funding for the arts.

  • Comment number 10.

    This was truly moving radio. Sophie's mum is an amazing lady and the poetry unforgettable.

  • Comment number 11.

    Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster

    I would just like to say how moving I found todays play as a mother and grandmother my heart ached for Mrs lancaster, I just wanted to hug her.

  • Comment number 12.

    stunning piece of work, I had to stop the car and listen, very evocative. Well done Simon, and well done Sylvia for hacking it

  • Comment number 13.

    wonderful play - thank you. I wonder if the mindless thugs who killed these gentle young people would bear to listen to it?

  • Comment number 14.

    Wonderful play making us face up to reality, with beautiful poetry by Simon and huge bravery on Sophie's Mum's part. A huge thank-you, greatly appreciated. Two thoughts: 1) Would the killers and their families sit through the performance? 2) This needs to be part of sixth form curriculum across the country.

  • Comment number 15.

    It left me in tears...and wondering just what it is that drove those young men - children, really - to need to annihilate someone, something so good, so gentle and so kind? I doubt they will ever be able to face or understand what they have done.

  • Comment number 16.

    Missed this last week but remember it from first time as it made a powerful impact in many ways - its harrowing subject matter, excellent written content, moving manner in which the brave Mrs Lancaster and the compelling reader of poetry spoke. I agree it would be brilliant as a lesson - even for GCSE level; it is moving and provocative and provides material that is relevant because it is real. I admire Mrs L no end. Well done to all and how sad that it had cause to be made.

  • Comment number 17.

    This is prejudice in action. Label it, denigrate it, destroy it as with Hitler and the Jews. This is negative thought in action. If we praised differences and enjoyed them, those involved in hate crime wouldn't succeed in dividing life from itself (Unite and conquer or divide and fall as a civilization, this is the choice that leads to all forms of violence, whether crime, revolt or war against the supposed class, race, sex or political/ religious enemy: No man is an island but hostility as opposed to love makes it so).

  • Comment number 18.

    Thanks so much to Simon and Rachel, this was a truly heartfelt creation, an extended prayer for tolerance, honouring the life of a beautiful young woman. You excelled yourselves. Thank you again.


More from this blog...


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.