‘A boy who loved to run’ – Stephen Lawrence garment

‘A Boy who loved to run’ 

This running-top belonged to a young boy who loved to run, and bears the logo of the running club he attended regularly from age 11-14.  He won medals and even ran a marathon.

It’s an unassuming garment. The fabric has ‘bobbles’ on its surface. The logo is still boldly emblazoned. The label inside is worn away with washing and perhaps the abrasion of garment on flesh during running.  It’s limp and lifeless so it’s difficult to grasp and a challenge to stitch on.

It belonged to Stephen Lawrence, murdered by a gang of white youths in South East London in 1993- because he was black.   It was donated by his mother, Dr Doreen Lawrence.  When I explained THE STITCH LIVES OF LONDON to her, she responded by saying she would like to donate a piece of Stephen’s clothing.  In 2011 we met at the Stephen Lawrence Centre. She handed me his running- top in a modest plastic bag. She told me about Stephen, his love of running, his achievements, his awards, and his enjoyment of life. She told me ‘he lived for today — the moment’.

So this was to be a piece that celebrated his life rather than mourning his death.

Amidst the pages of his drawings and his documents, one stood out. Written on A4 foolscap paper was an A ‘level essay, written a couple of weeks before his death.  Stephen left it unfinished mid- sentence. His hand was sure and urgent with a strong forward slant.  These were the words I decided to stitch into Stephen’s running-top.

As both he and his mother were so proud of his sporting achievements, I placed four of his running medals on the front, remade by hand in a textile version, next to his stitched words.

The back nods to the legacy that Doreen Lawrence has created through the tragedy of Stephen’s death.  It bears the pattern that covers the Stephen Lawrence centre in London — the artwork was designed by Chris Ofili.  When Doreen saw the work, she said ‘Yes, Stephen would have liked that’.   A boy who loved to run is an example of how The Stitch Lives of London will be both contemporary and historical, mixing old and new, juxtaposing ancient and modern.  It will not flinch from showing the conflicts of past and present, alongside the comic, the wonderful, the strange and the beautiful.