T-shirt slogans and architecture help celebrate the legacy of Stephen Lawrence at DMU

What would a green bridge made of plants look like if it spanned the River Soar? Or how about an indoor five-a-side pitch replacing lecture theatres? And could a staff car park be replaced with a lavish fountain to welcome visitors to the De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) campus?

These ambitious ideas were all put forward by school pupils at a creative event held in memory of Stephen Lawrence, nearly 31 years after his death.

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The link between Stephen and architecture may not at first seem obvious but the 18-year-old aspired to be an architect before his life was tragically cut short in a racist attack.

And so, staff from DMU’s Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, established to commemorate the teenager’s memory and use research to work towards a better future, invited primary and secondary age pupils from across Leicester and Leicestershire to explore some of Stephen’s passions here on campus.

Students aged between 11 and 16, from Sir Jonathan North College, Winstanley School and Countesthorpe Academy took part in a project to come up with designs for what DMU could look like in 10 years’ time following a tour of campus buildings.

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While primary school pupils from Kingsway Primary School, Braunstone, and Dove Bank School, Nailstone, created their own designs and messages, covering the legacy themes of hope, love, care and kindness, before printing their work on to T-shirts.

The theme for national Stephen Lawrence Day this year, on April 22, is 'The Power of Learning'.

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Dr Yusef Bakkali, Senior Legacy In Action Research Fellow at the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, said: “Of course Stephen Lawrence Day is a day which can make us feel sad because, in order to try and make the world better, we have to remember and guard against the things that can go so badly wrong. That can be difficult. 

“However, Stephen Lawrence Day is also about remembering Stephen’s life and his promise. How he was a wonderful young person like all the pupils here today, that he was a loving friend, brother and son… a gifted artist and athlete.

“And although his time was short and his death was unjust and tragic, he left an indelible impact on British society.

“Remembering that Stephen was special, helps to remind us that, just like him, all young people are special and it strengthens our resolve to give you the best we can, because,just like him, that’s the minimum young people deserve.”

Zoya Zoya, a year 8 student at Winstanley School, was part of the team that toured the DMU campus and then worked in groups to come up with ideas of how the campus might look in 10 years’ time.

Among her school group’s suggestions was building a campsite and having a picnic area.

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She said: “I learned something new and I got to experience something I have never done before. I never considered architecture as a subject but I would certainly think about coming here to study it.

“Stephen was an innocent person who never got to do what he wanted to and this has been a good way of remembering him.”

Virgil Nyati, from Winstanley, said: “It has been an amazing day. I made some new friends and had so much fun. I got to do things Stephen wanted to, but never had the chance.”

Pavinder Barracks-Sahota studied at DMU 11 years ago and is now a member of Associated Architects, the firm tasked with drawing up a 10-year development plan for DMU’s campus.

He said: “We are working with the next generation which is going to inhabit this campus, and this can help us understand what their demands and values are.

“Sometimes, we are embedded in the process and it can be hard to take that wider view, but it will be good to see if some of these ideas are feasible for a 10-year plan.”

SLDAY - architect proj 1

Primary school pupils took part in a workshop led by Buddy Penfold and Sally Gaukrodger-Cowan from DMU’s School of Fashion and Textiles.

The children started the day by listening to music and using it to inspire their drawings. The pupils then came up with their own designs which were printed as t-shirts for them to take home.

Lecturer Sally said: “It was a joy to work with these young people to prompt discussions and explore creativity inspired by Stephen and his legacy.” 

Nine-year-old Kingsway pupil Thisha Karunaharan, who had the word ‘hope’ on her t-shirt, said: “When Stephen died his parents did not go out for revenge. They looked for justice. His mother (Baroness Doreen Lawrence) has spread wisdom and peace.”

Fumen Nchom and Tommy Lockley are both nine and best friends at Kingsway. Fumen said: “I thought the day was fun as I learned to do these designs. I want to go to this university of course. Something to do with sport would be good so I can then play for Man United.”

SLDAY - Fumen

Tommy added: “The event was really fun because we got to do things as a group. If I had done this by myself it would not have been as good!”

Kingsway teacher Jessica Sadler said: “I think it has been really inspiring for the children and has got them very excited to learn more about Stephen Lawrence.

“It is great the children were having fun while also thinking about what we think the future might look like.”

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Stephen Lawrence was just 18 when he was murdered in a racially motivated attack in 1993. In 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May announced that from 2019, April 22 would officially be recognised as Stephen Lawrence Day. The day is marked officially in the British calendar as a celebration of Stephen’s life and legacy.

The Stephen Lawrence Research Centre, based at DMU, was officially opened by Stephen’s mother, and former DMU chancellor, Baroness Doreen Lawrence, in 2019.

Posted on Thursday 18 April 2024

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