Lucy Cope (left)
London People: Lucy Cope
Interviews with people, who live, or work, in London who have made an impact on the city; each in their own way. And their relationship with the capital.
by Sarah Kinson
Lucy Cope, mother of eight, set up Mothers against Guns after her son Damian, was shot dead in 2002.
When did you first arrive in London?
My family moved from Scotland to Nottingham when I was 14, and then we moved here when I was 21. It was scary. It was a long time before I got used to the fastness of London. And I hadn’t seen any black people before - I thought they had been burnt by the sun!
Where did you grow up?
I grew up by the sea in Ayrshire, Scotland, where kids were in bed by seven and parents were in bed by eight, to be up for work the next day. We didn’t get pocket money, we made things. We collected bottles from the beach and got a penny each for them.
Why did you move to London?
When the mines closed in Ayrshire in the 1970s many people lost their jobs and we moved so my mum and dad could find work.
Where do you live now?
I live in the heart of Peckham, in the refurbished North Peckham estate. Damilola Taylor died just around the corner in the stairwell, which they’ve now knocked down. Pulling down the old North Peckham Estate was the best thing Tony Blair ever did.
This is Chandler Way now, and it’s like the snobby part of Peckham! There are small parks for the kids and each house has got little differences. When I moved here, it was a building site but they have done it up well. I’m lucky because I know what it was like before – it’s been an amazing transformation.
What do you like about the area?
Everybody knows everybody and everybody looks out for one another. It’s a united street and a very close knit community.
Is London a good place to bring up children?
Until the death of Damian I would have said yes, but now, no. If I could turn back the clock I’d never have come here. There used to be the old school criminality that did ruthless things but they had a mark of respect that they wouldn’t go over. Today it’s different. If the Krays were alive, I’m sure they’d be terrified too. There’s no respect for life. You could stand on somebody’s toe and lose your life for it.
What problems do young people face today?
A child can’t go to school with non-brand trainers on or they will be picked on. They have to be able to recognise outsiders or gang members – and it’s not just boys it’s also girls. They need to realise this is not an easy life. They could look at someone the wrong way and lose their life for it. When my boys were 13 or 14, they went out on their bikes and I wouldn’t think a thing of it. Now, I want my girls in at 8 o’clock.
Are there more guns around today than in the past?
It used to be unheard of; you only saw guns in a Western on television. But now if there isn’t a gun in a house near you then, I would be surprised. Often, they’re just there to intimidate people, rather than actually being used. But there’s gang warfare, and it’s drugs and money related.
The youth are greedy for a fast lifestyle, the cars and the bling, and they will go to any length to get it. Money has turned people into animals. I wonder sometimes, will I have to teach my grandchildren how to use a firearm to survive after I’ve gone?
What do you think will help to improve the life of children and young adults in London?
Parents and schools need to be given back the right to chastise children. I have a 14-year-old daughter who rebelled and I had no control over her. She had everything behind her – Childline, Social Services, the Child Protection Unit. I’m not saying these services aren’t needed, they are. But if I was to slap my daughter I could be arrested, and she knows that.
When I was in school there was the strap and I never did anything wrong because I was too scared of the consequences. Give teachers back the right to discipline, I wouldn’t be in favour of the cane, but they should have the strap.
How are parents prevented from controlling their children?
My daughter was 12 when she had a contraceptive implant put into her arm. The clinic had the right to do that without telling me. It’s appalling. Yes, she should be taught sex education, but you shouldn’t have sex until after you are 18 and your body has matured.
Describe a normal day’s work for you?
Mothers Against Guns fights to change legislation and we are asking to be allowed to go into every school. Children need to be taken to see a prison cell or they need to hear it from people who have been directly involved. I want us to be able to get into the prisons too.
Where do you find peace in London?
I go to the cemetery and do some work or just sit and reflect. You can hear the birds there and the windchimes.
What is the worst thing about London?
The amount of deaths of young people.
What is the best thing?
Londoners can turn that around if they want to.
If you only had one more day in London how would you spend your last day?
I’d go somewhere peaceful, with my children and grandchildren.
Where would you like to end up when you pop your clogs?
I’d like Damian’s remains and my remains to be scattered near the sea shore in Ayrshire.
last updated: 28/11/2008 at 11:51
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