For two decades, Sylvia Lancaster has been working to ensure her daughter’s legacy.

Sophie was just 20 when died after being brutally attacked by a gang of teenage thugs in a Lancashire park.

It was a crime that shocked the nation and left an indelible mark on the Rossendale town where Sophie grew up.

Sophie's family, prosecutors and police insist she died simply because she looked different.

This week, Coronation Street aired upsetting scenes which mirror the attack on Sophie and her boyfriend Robert Maltby 14 years ago.

Popular characters Nina Lucas and Seb Franklin were violently assaulted by a gang during scenes aired on Wednesday night (May 5).

Fans of the show were horrified by the scenes.

But Sylvia hopes the storyline - watched by millions - will have a major impact on how people view those from alternative subcultures.

Sophie Lancaster died from her injuries 12 days after she was attacked in Bacup

“People don’t only see the person she shows the world she is, they also see the real person underneath that and I think that’s really important and can change people’s attitudes. So that’s massive.”

Over the years The Sophie Lancaster Foundation - the charity Sylvia founded in the wake of her daughter’s death - has been approached numerous times by TV and film companies.

Many have asked to use Sophie’s story but Sylvia says it hasn’t felt right.

With Coronation Street, she hopes the issue of hate crime will get the audience it deserves.

“The message has to be right,” Sylvia says.

“It has to be done in a way that’s positive and I believe, talking to the people at Corrie, that it will be.”

Sylvia has met with Corrie producers, approved scripts and met the actress playing Sophie as the team worked to tell the story in the most appropriate way.

Sophie, she says, would have found it very strange to think of herself being portrayed on the show.

The mum and daughter used to watch Corrie together when Sophie was a girl.

“She loved the character Spider, the way he dressed and what he stood for,” she says.

“We always thought she would bring someone like him home.”

'Sophie would have found it strange to see herself portrayed on Coronation Street'

In August, it will be 14 years since Sophie’s death

Sylvia has used every moment of that time to try and make changes to how hate crime is tackled.

Much of the Foundation’s work revolves around education, with Sylvia presenting at schools, colleges and prisons to challenge perceptions of people in subcultures.

“Children are amazing and it’s a privilege to be able to go into schools and do this work with them. You can see a lot of them have never even thought about it,” she says.

“And I know it makes a difference. We were doing something in Halifax and went into this cafe and the woman serving us said ‘I know exactly who you are, my son was in one of your presentations’.

“She said he came home and told her all about it and they had a big discussion which was so unusual for him. So I know it works.”

When the pandemic hit, the charity’s work around schools and music festivals had to stop. But they have been busy all year working to update the website, revamping education packs and piloting online educational programmes, to make sure the work continues despite schools being closed.

The charity was awarded £55,000 from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund to help them develop new ways of working. It was a lifeline during a year which hit charities hard.

“Last year was very difficult,” Sylvia says. “Thank God we got that money.”

“We got the lockdown and that was all our work gone - no schools, no festivals.

“But we have been really busy throughout digitising everything and we’ve got a new website that came online last week.

“I have missed speaking to people face to face though. To me that’s the most important thing.

“We have had young people come to us and say they have been in that difficult position, or they have targeted someone alternative and they wouldn’t do it again. So it works on so many levels.”

Sophie Lancaster

Over the years Sylvia and her small team have made great strides towards change.

In 2013 Greater Manchester Police became the first force in England to record and monitor hate crimes and incidents against people from alternative subcultures.

Another 17 forces have since followed suit to record hate crime in this way.

But there is still a long way to go.

The Law Commission is currently re-evaluating hate crime legislation and as such, Sylvia put forward a proposal to ask if hate crime relating to people from alternative subcultures could be included in the proposed changes.

“What they are arguing is there’s not enough data and figures,” Sylvia says.

“I was gutted to be honest. But we have to carry on and see what we can do.”

Sylvia says hate crime against alternative subcultures is still prevalent.

“It’s interesting talking to Mollie, who plays Nina. She’s lovely and she’s actually quite alternative herself.

Nina Lucas, played by Mollie Gallagher, and Seb Franklin, played by Harry Visinoni

“She lives in Manchester and says she’s never really seen any prejudice. It’s not seen as quite as strange as it might be in Bacup.

“But we have done work in schools in Manchester and it’s been quite obvious that prejudice has been going on and they will tell me so.

“You can tell the work that has been done in schools on sexuality, race and religion because the kids know not to discriminate in that way. That’s taken decades to instil in them.

“But what we are seeing is that they will target alternatives as they don’t know they’re not supposed to.

“So they will still stick it to the alternatives. It just takes time.”

Sylvia has worked for years to make changes to hate crime laws

Every change Sylvia and the Foundation have made has been an uphill battle, but they have made plenty of progress.

Sylvia hopes the Coronation Street storyline will shine a light on an issue she feels is as important as ever before.

“I think we have stayed true to ourselves as a charity over the years,” she says. “We have stuck with what we originally intended to do.

“And we keep going.”