Weirdo. Mosher. Freak. Person.
Today is a day for celebration, as the new report on Hate Crime released by the Law Commission includes the potential to include Alternative Subcultures in the legislation. Jupiter’s Managing Director Fiona Horton has entered the arena to battle in favour of the victims.
It’s becoming more and more common for professionals to have a portfolio career, otherwise known as multiple roles at the same time. This has had quite a dramatic impact on the Employer Communications market in that it both opens up high level roles to the otherwise engaged and flexibly skilled and, simultaneously, makes it all the more difficult to attract professionals to those demanding roles that tend to require work outside of normal hours.
Whichever way you look at it, though, there’s no arguing that it’s had a hugely positive impact on professionals undertaking this model of working, allowing as it does the opportunity to meet multiple goals without conflict, e.g. making a skills-based living whilst also indulging a personal passion. And, I’m delighted to say, that I’m just one such professional and, yes, it has really changed my life.
As well as running the brilliant Jupiter Advertising agency – which pushes me professionally, gives me my living and also makes the most effective use of my very specialised skillset (25 years in any industry will do that!) – I’ve also had the privilege of taking up the post of Non-Executive Director for the Sophie Lancaster Foundation, a charity that’s very close to my heart.
Sophie Lancaster was the daughter of a good friend of mine, Sylvia. I say, ‘was,’ because Sophie is no longer here. And the reason she’s no longer here is because, quite bluntly, she was beaten to death by a gang of bullies just for being a goth. Now, I’d known Sophie since she was a toddler, along with her brother Adam – they were (and Adam still is) like family to me. So, as you can imagine, Sophie’s death shook me to my very core.
What made immediate sense to me was when Sylvia set up the Foundation in her name with the goal of raising awareness of hate crime and working to ensure that attacks on people like Sophie were added to the Government’s Hate Crime Action Plan. I, like Sylvia, believe that beating someone to death just because they identify as a goth should be judged with greater seriousness than, say, a crime of passion. Hate in all forms is intolerable and, when it results in the death of an innocent, it must be punished with maximum effectiveness.
It was then, a huge honour when I was asked to be on the Board of the Sophie Lancaster Foundation. It would give me the chance to have a direct influence over the Foundation’s work, training and education and, much as it’s a huge responsibility, it’s also immensely satisfying to know that I’m doing something with a fundamental, positive impact on people’s lives. It’s also had something of a two-way impact because, whilst it’s allowed me to bring my own professional understanding of the motivations, behaviours and impacts of others’ actions on people to the Foundation on the one hand, it’s also taught me to take a more altruistic view of my role as MD of Jupiter. What the Foundation has learned from my experience in Employer Communications has been returned to me tenfold in terms of my own understanding of the need for empathy and tolerance.
I take my role on the Foundation Board very seriously, so when I first started, I undertook a training day in a school hosted by Sophie’s brother Adam and another member of the team. The session saw a class of pupils completing a card game of sorts, which challenged them to answer which types of people they’d like to hang out with and those they wouldn’t, based on appearances alone. Sophie is on one of those cards and, 95% of the time is regularly (I’m told) picked out as someone the class would not like to hang out with. Towards the end of the session, Adam reveals that Sophie is his sister and that she was murdered for the way she looked. The reaction from the pupils during the session I attended was staggering. Suddenly, their prejudices turned into sorrow and regret and they all learned that day that it’s okay to be different. It was a very emotional experience and, yes, tears came to my eyes as I witnessed, first hand, the turnaround in people’s attitudes. If just one child grows up with a better view of people who appear different to them, then the Foundation has achieved something. If it saves a life, even better. And if, by helping to change Hate Crime legislation, it saves multiple lives, then its work is done.
This year, the Sophie Lancaster Foundation won a BAFTA for best single TV drama for the 2017 Murdered For Being Different, which was screened on the 10th anniversary of Sophie’s death and examined the causes and consequences of the brutal attack. This hugely high profile award is not just an achievement in itself, but has helped to highlight the cause of the Foundation, which has led to some amazing results. On a personal level, I have recently secured long-term funding for the Foundation to allow it to continue its education programme, starting with every school and Social Worker in the Rossendale Valley. And, this week, I am delighted to tell you that the Foundation is one step closer to achieving one of its major goals, during this yet early stage in its development.
On 16th October, the Government announced that it is putting new measures in place to tackle hate crimes, including a review of legislation, which will consider if there should be additional protected characteristics, such as misogyny, age and, you guessed it, identification with alternative subcultures. This is such a huge step forward and looks likely to have a long-lasting impact that will make the streets of Britain a safer, more welcoming place for people of all cultures, subcultures, backgrounds, age groups, sexual orientations and ethnicities. I only wish it had been achieved over a decade ago, in time to save the life of a young woman very dear to my memory. Nevertheless, it is indeed a day of celebration. So here’s to the moshers, the freaks, the weirdos, the goths and all the other self-styled alternative people who make our world that bit more interesting. This is your victory.