A tribute to Sophie

A MEMORIAL bench to commemorate a tragic young goth woman who was killed last year has been placed in Whitby thanks to the efforts of generous fund-raisers.

The bench in honour of Sophie Lancaster, who died following an incident in a play park in Bacup in East Lancashire, has been placed on the West Cliff.

It follows the generosity of both Whitby residents and goth visitors who raised almost 3,000 for the memorial bench.

Five youths have been charged with murder in relation to Sophie's death and a trial is due to take place in Lancashire, where Sophie (20) was from, on 10 March.

Sophie was a regular visitor to the Whitby Gothic Weekend and the goth community in Whitby have really taken her to their hearts.

The official unveiling of Sophie's bench will take place at the next gothic weekend in April and Sophie's mother, Sylvia, is planning to visit the town to personally thank everybody who helped get the memorial bench in place.

She told the Gazette: "The support from the goth community in Whitby has been very comforting.

"It is lovely to know that Sophie's memory lives on in Whitby because she really used to enjoy spending time there."

The plaque on the bench reads: "In memory of Sophie Lancaster 26th November 1986 – 24th August 2007 – an angel too soon."

Not only does the bench mean a lot to those who knew Sophie, but for others the memory is also significant.

Martin Coles aka DJ Martin Oldgoth, who helped to organised last year's fund-raising, said: "I'm really pleased to see the photos of the bench now that it's finally in place, and am looking forward to April when I can sit there, stare out to sea and just spare a few moments thinking of someone that I never met, but who had such an impact on me."

Ade Varney and Joolz Hyland of Blinding Horror Monster FX ran a special make-up lab workshop at the last gothic weekend to raise money for Sophie's bench.

They told the Gazette: "I know the vast majority of our supporters were deeply affected by this tragedy and they bowled us over with their loyalty and generosity towards the family Sophie left behind."

A campaign entitled S.O.P.H.I.E. (Stamp Out Prejudice Hatred and Intolerance Everywhere) has been started by Sophie's friends and family following her death.

It has so far raised more than 6,000 and special wrist bands will be on sale at April's gothic weekend to boost the coffers.

Whitby man Mike Edwards said Sophie was an intelligent young woman with a bright future ahead of her.

He added: "The awful events of Sophie had a devastating effect on people far beyond the reaches of those that knew her.

"As one of the group of goths from Whitby which travelled to her funeral to pay our respects, I can say it was a heartbreaking, yet peaceful experience.

"She was proud to be a goth – one of us – and we are a close-knit group of people.

"Goths and goth bands across the world have paid tribute to her, and the bench is our tribute to her in what we considered to be probably the most fitting location for a goth memorial.

"We have always been so grateful for the warm welcome we have received in Whitby and now Sophie can rest in peace and safety in the town that loves goths rather than wanting to destroy them."

* A website has been set up for Sophie in which people can pay their own tributes to her and see how fund-raising is going.

Go to: www.myspace.com/inmemoryofsophie

You can also buy a special S.O.P.H.I.E. wristband from Pandemonium in Flowergate – they cost 1 and all proceeds go straight to the campaign.g