Book Review: Weirdo.Mosher.Freak

Weirdo. Mosher. Freak. By Catherine Smyth

(Taken from www.apex-magazine.co.uk/2011/03/weirdo-mosher-freak/)
By Jenna L. Grabey

(If only they’d stopped at name calling) by Catherine Smyth

This narrative account on the murder of Sophie Lancaster, the goth girl who was killed for the way she and her boyfriend dressed, gave me shivers from start to finish.

The S.O.P.H.I.E campaign was established to teach people to tolerate subcultures and campaign to extend the UK hate crime legislation to include ‘alternative subcultures’.

The book opens by telling the reader that if it weren’t for this book, newspaper articles and court papers would be the only literature on this horrific event. This is also Smyth’s attempt to find the truth of what happened that night: why three ambulances were called, why two went to the wrong place and why a journey that takes two minutes by car took an ambulance 14 minutes.

It is written by a journalist who became personally involved in the S.O.P.H.I.E campaign through her work. This ensures an emotive tone and prevents the telling from being too formal, however, at times, it does make you wonder how different the book would have been if told from another perspective.

Smyth provides plenty of background information, such as education, personality and anecdotes, on the attackers, defendants and victims, as well as the history of the town and its racist, violent and intolerant past stemming from the 70s.

The re-telling begins with Smyth receiving a phone call about an incident in Bacup Park; she goes on to describe how she discovered the attack of Sophie and Rob. We then go back in time to the night of the attack, where Smyth describes the unfolding of events beginning with Sophie and Rob visiting a friend through to the brutal primordial attack. From here the story is told in chronological order. We hear how Sophie’s death led to an accumulation of concerts, film festivals and peace marches in her honour.

Smyth describes how one of her most difficult interviews in her long journalistic career was with Sylvia Lancaster, Sophie’s mother. As Smyth became more personally involved, she describes Sophie’s funeral which she attended. This is followed by an account of the court trials including the attackers’ appeals for shorter sentences. Reliving the attack for ourselves we read the narrative transcript, of the phone calls made to the ambulance service, including background noises and voices.

Overall, it is amazing to find how one death caused such a ripple throughout the alternative community and sparked such a proliferation of fund-raising events and rightly so!

To find out more about the S.O.P.H.I.E campaign visit http://www.sophielancasterfoundation.com.

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