Manchester charity event hears new material from ‘God is a Manc’ poet

By Hannah Gradwell

“God is a Manc” poet Mike Garry performed new poem “Difference” at the Castle Hotel last week in aid of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation.

The live music event, which also included performances from Harp and the Monkey and event organiser Andy Oliver, raised £391.50 for the foundation.

Sylvia Lancaster, who established the foundation following her daughter’s tragic murder in 2007, took a moment to give a few words on the aims of the charity, and their accomplishments so far.

Sophie died from injuries sustained during an attack on her and her boyfriend in Stubbeylee Park, Bacup in Lancashire, on August 24th 2007.

The couple were attacked because of the unique way they dressed, and Sophie’s Mum Sylvia has since worked tirelessly to help communities understand and respect alternative sub-cultures.

As Sylvia said: “We wanted to create a lasting legacy for Sophie.”

She went on to explain how through her work with the foundation Sylvia has been invited to sit on the Hate Crime Advisory Board to the UK government.

She continued: “We have been petitioning MEP’s to change the current Hate Crime legislation to protect alternative subcultures.”

Since becoming a registered charity in 2009, the Sophie Lancaster foundation has made substantial headway in addressing prejudice against those with alternative lifestyles and dress codes.

Sylvia said: “Educational group-works which address prejudices have been set up and are now running in secondary schools nationwide”.

As she explained: “The current legislation covers disabilities, race, religion, sexuality, transgender and many other groups, and should be extended to protect an individual’s lifestyle and dress-code.”

Susan Williamson, also at the event on Sunday, hopes to keep alive the memory of her son Peter, a rock musician with a punk style and haircut, through live music events.

Peter Williamson, who promoted bands in Manchester, died of swine flu in November 2009 and his family are now preparing to sue health bosses for negligence.

Peter’s mother, Sue, described how her son sought help from the NHS four times, but believes the way Peter looked meant he did not receive the appropriate treatment.

Peter sported tattoos, piercings and a Mohican, which he often died blue in honour of his favourite football team, Manchester City.

She said: “I keep expecting to see his blue Mohican in the crowd whenever I’m in town.”

Punx Inna Jungle was a night created by Peter, with a mash-up of music, from punk to ska, dubstep, jungle and metal and held at Jabez Clegg in Manchester.

The music event continues, even after Peter’s death, and his parents hope to build on the 1,500-strong turn-out seen at the last night, with another gig later this year.

Sunday night also saw the launch of a writing competition, inspired by Sophie who was at University studying English.

The competition is for secondary schools in Greater Manchester and East Lancashire, and will encourage pupils to write poems, songs and stories which celebrate differences and individuality.

The competition winner will receive a cash prize for themselves and their school.

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