The trust set up in the memory of Stephen Lawrence is facing a battle to survive funding cuts, Doreen Lawrence has warned, after the mother of the murdered teenager announced an all-star concert in his memory.
Emeli Sande, Ed Sheeran and Tinie Tempah are among the stars who will perform at the O2 Arena concert in September, which marks 20 years since the aspiring 18 year-old architect was stabbed to death by a racist gang.
The show, which also features Plan B, Jessie J and Rizzle Kicks, will raise much-needed funds for the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, set up in 1999, to help give employment opportunities to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The Trust has awarded more than 100 bursaries and assisted young black students break into professions such as architecture and law.
But Mrs Lawrence, 60, Stephen’s mother who founded the charity, said it is now struggling to stay afloat.
Twelve full time staff have been let go since funding was withdrawn in 2011 following the closure of the London Development Agency.
Mrs Lawrence said she received emergency funding from the Home Office following a meeting with Theresa May but added “we shouldn't have to do that”.
She said: “We shouldn’t have to think ‘that’s just a one-off’. They should look to continue to do it.
“They have seen the work that we do, they have seen the progress we have made, they have seen all the opportunities that young people have had since they have been at the Stephen Lawrence Centre.
“I think that should be something that makes them say: 'OK, we want to support an organisation like you, you can make a difference to so many young lives, get them off the streets, get them into education, get them into a profession.’ That is what I would like to see the Government do a lot more of. It saves money in the long run.”
The “Unity” concert at the O2 could secure the Charitable Trust’s survival for 20 years said Mrs Lawrence, who launched the event at the Abbey Road recording studios, accompanied by Sande and Rizzle Kicks.
Gary Dobson, 37, and David Norris, 36, were jailed for life in January 2012 after being convicted of Stephen’s murder in an attack by a racist gang in the street in Eltham, south east London, in 1993. It is believed that three or four other killers are still at large.
Mrs Lawrence said that a BBC Crimewatch appeal in Spring for new witnesses to come forward had produced “a couple of good leads”.
She criticised a decision to give her son’s two convicted killers more than £400,000 in legal aid. “Most people say they know it is them (who were guilty) and they have managed to secure the best legal team that there is and so no, I don’t think the public should be paying for them,” she said.
“They have chosen not to work, they have chosen not to get into society like everybody else, have a job and be respectable. Why should we have to pay for them?”
Asked about the impact Lawrence’s murder had on her when she was growing up, the chart-topping Sande said: “I was quite young when it happened but coming from a mixed-race family it was a big issue that we spoke about, and (we also spoke about) the issues you face being mixed race and this being something that happened in our country.”
“All the work Doreen has done has felt very empowering - that you can speak out about these things and changes can be made if you are brave enough to stand up.”
Mrs Lawrence said that there have been a further 106 racist murders since Stephen was killed 20 years ago and warned that there are “still too many young people who do not have a sense of hope.”
Tickets for the O2 Arena concert go on sale on Friday at www.aeglive.co.uk
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