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

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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.

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

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  • Comment number 18. Posted by adelaide123

    on 2 Sept 2011 16:11

    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.

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  • Comment number 17. Posted by paigetheoracle

    on 30 Aug 2011 11:04

    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).

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  • Comment number 16. Posted by JoSammy

    on 29 Aug 2011 20:19

    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.

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  • Comment number 15. Posted by pearlygrey

    on 26 Aug 2011 17:01

    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.

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  • Comment number 14. Posted by songster

    on 26 Aug 2011 16:52

    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.

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  • Comment number 13. Posted by lillepwss

    on 26 Aug 2011 15:19

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

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  • Comment number 12. Posted by PP

    on 26 Aug 2011 12:18

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

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  • Comment number 11. Posted by Anne Sturton

    on 25 Aug 2011 15:19

    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.

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  • Comment number 10. Posted by Listener111

    on 25 Aug 2011 11:22

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

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  • Comment number 9. Posted by mylnhurst8

    on 25 Aug 2011 09:08

    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.

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