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metal talk
19th September 2012

sophie lancaster

An award-winning radio drama about the murder of 20-year-old Sophie Lancaster, who was killed in a Lancashire park in 2007 for being a goth, has been adapted for the stage.

"The reaction to the radio play was greater than for any other project I've ever been involved with," says Simon Armitage, which is quite something coming from one of Britain's most popular poets.

Armitage told Sophie Lancaster's story, from birth to violent death, in a series of powerful poems that were broadcast on BBC Radio 4 last March.

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"It was immediate," he says of the reaction. "People were phoning in to the BBC switchboard on the day, writing in, emailing, getting messages to me afterwards about how much they'd been affected by the whole thing.

"If there's ever a signifier of whether something on radio has caught people's attention, it's where people get in touch and say 'I was driving the car but I had to pull over', or 'I'd got to where I was going but I had to stay in the car until the programme came to the end'.

"I can't tell you how many hundreds of people got in touch with me and told me that had happened."

Few recent dramas can have carried such emotional force as that play, in which Armitage's words, spoken by Rachel Austin, were edited together with clips of a real interview with Sophie's mother Sylvia.

It is now being staged at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, with Austin again portraying Sophie and Julie Hesmondhalgh, better known as Hayley Cropper from Coronation Street, playing Sylvia.

Sophie and her boyfriend Robert Maltby were in a park in Bacup, Lancashire, on a Friday night in 2007 when Maltby was beaten by five teenage boys in a vicious, unprovoked attack. Two of them then kicked and stamped on Sophie when she tried to protect him.

Robert survived but Sophie died in hospital two weeks later.

Sentencing the attackers, Judge Anthony Russell QC described it as "a hate crime against these completely harmless people targeted because their appearance was different to yours".

Armitage got in touch with Sophie's mother after reading about the trial, he says.

"This was a young girl who was just on the point of entering her adult life, full of potential and full of possibilities, and she seemed to have been attacked simply because of what she looked like and because she was a bit different," he says.

"It was something I just felt I had to speak out about, and maybe I identified with her.

"I recognised myself, maybe, at that age, not wanting to live a conventional or normal life but always being worried that in certain communities, to swim against the tide is to take a bit of a chance."

To put himself in Sophie's shoes, Armitage spent several days listening to Sylvia talk about her daughter's life and the events of that night in August 2007.

He wanted to give Sophie a voice because she could no longer speak for herself, he says, and had some trepidation at how her mother would react when he handed her the completed poems.

But she gave him her full blessing, and said Armitage had captured Sophie's attitude and tone of voice. "It's actually like listening to her," Sylvia said.

Sylvia had already set up a charity, the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, to do work in schools encouraging tolerance and to campaign for a change to hate crime laws to cover members of alternative subcultures, such as goths.

Armitage says he hopes the stage play keeps Sophie's story and the campaign in the public eye.

Julie Hesmondhalgh, whose role in Coronation Street has helped increase understanding of transsexual people, agrees.

She already knew Sylvia Lancaster through previous work with the foundation. "I'm trying to get a little bit of her steel and spirit and compassion, and to try and make universal what it was in her that turned this terrible tragedy into something positive for the future," she says.

Hesmondhalgh, too, was "blown away" by the radio play, but believes the stage version will tell Sophie's story in a new way.

"This gives you a very three dimensional look into what she was like as a baby and a child and a teenager and about their relationship," she says. "I think because of that, you feel the loss even more strongly. She's a fully rounded person and you lose her too."

Black Roses: The Killing of Sophie Lancaster runs from 19-29 September at the Royal Exchange theatre in Manchester. Simon Armitage's poems have been published under the same title by Pomona Books.



Wacken Winter Nights 2018 takes place between February 23rd and 25th 2018 and the great news is that you can now experience a full-on, top class German Metal Festival easily and affordably.

It only takes an hour to fly to Hamburg from London and we've had longer journeys than that within the capital and they were certainly more expensive than the £33 air ticket that just appeared in our 'flights to Wacken Winter Nights' search.


Wacken Winter Nights is organised by the same team who are responsible for the world's greatest Metal festival, Wacken-Open-Air and the 2018 bill includes Skyclad, Orphaned Land, Elvenking, Finntroll, Grave Digger, Aeverium, Comes Vagantes, Coppelius, Corvus Corax, Die Pressgëng, Elvellon, Heimataerde, Hell-O-Matic, Ignis Fatuu, Ingrimm, Irdorath, Johnny Deathshadow, Krayenzeit, Letzte Instanz, Mr Hurley und die Pulveraffen, Pampatut, Pat Razket, Schandmaul, Sündenrausch, The Aberlour's, The Moon And The Nightspirit, Torfrock, Visions Of Atlantis, Vroudenspil, Wind Rose and more.

Besides this rich billing of superb Metal bands, there is so much more to see in the festival area including the medieval market and also the walking acts and jugglers you will meet at the theme worlds, including Robert Blake, three-time World Cup winner of street magic.

Wacken Winter Nights is something not to be missed and you can check out the amazing ticket and accommodation prices right here.

We just priced up the whole four day trip with hotels, flights, shuttles and festival tickets for less than £300 and we don't think you will get a better value festival than that, anywhere.


MetalTalk recently sat down with Wacken founder and owner Thomas Jensen and that interview will be online next week and it's a fascinating insight into how Wacken originated from nothing to become the world's premiere Heavy Metal event.


Wacken 2018 takes place from 2nd to 4th August 20218 and as with Wacken Winter Nights, if you have never experienced all it has to offer, then you owe it to yourself to remedy that.

Already announced for Wacken 2018 are Judas Priest, Nightwish, Running Wild (exclusive), Arch Enemy, Dirkschneider, Doro (Special Anniversary Show), In Extremo, Sepultura, Amorphis, Amaranthe, Firewind, W.A.R., Belphegor, Mantar, Knorkator, Deserted Fear, Watain, Night Demon, Epica, Knorkator, Belphegor, Firewind, Deserted Fear and many more and we'll have more Wacken 2018 announcements during December.

As well as being the greatest Heavy Metal festival in the world, it is without a doubt the Mecca of Metal and the one thing that every single person who loves our music should have on their bucket list.

For 2018, MetalTalk have joined forces with Wacken-Open-Air to help you get to Wacken easily and inexpensively and you can peruse the ticket and travel options right here.

If you are interested in going to Wacken 2018 and have questions, please fill out the form below and we will contact you with answers to all your enquiries. You are under no obligation whatsoever by filling this form out. We won't add you to any mailing lists or send you loads of spam - all we will do is help you get to Wacken as easily and inexpensively as possible.



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