Anthony Walker drama shows how a bright life was ripped away by racist thugs — just like my brother Stephen


ANTHONY Walker was just 18 when he was killed in an unprovoked racist attack in 2005.

Michael Barton, then 17, brother of ex-footballer Joey Barton, and his cousin Paul Taylor, then 20, were convicted of the Liverpool murder.

Now the drama Anthony, on BBC1 on Monday, will imagine the life he should have had – studying law, getting married and having a family.

It is by Jimmy McGovern, who wrote Cracker, Hillsborough and The Street.

As part of our Time For Change campaign, Stuart Lawrence, brother of murdered teen Stephen Lawrence, saw a preview. He tells Alison Maloney his reaction, and his hopes for the future . . .

ONE of the hardest things to do, 27 years on from my brother Stephen’s death, is to imagine what his life would have been like if he had lived.

So watching the drama Anthony — which imagines the unlived life of murdered teenager Anthony Walker — was incredibly emotional for me.

Like Stephen, Anthony was just 18 when he was killed in an unprovoked racist attack in 2005. Like Stephen, he was a bright, ambitious young man from a quiet family who just wanted to go about their lives.

Like Stephen, he wasn’t the aggressor. He was just trying to do a decent thing, walking his girlfriend and friend to the bus stop, when he was senselessly attacked and lost his life in a Liverpool park.

The new BBC drama, written by Jimmy McGovern at the request of Anthony’s mother Gee Walker, starts six years after the horrific attack and imagines Anthony as a lawyer, married with a daughter.

From there it works backwards to the tragic day he was taken, on July 30, 15 years ago, and the unusual structure makes it even more heart- wrenching because it shows the possibilities lost in that moment.

I feel great respect for the family, who have been brave enough to look through that lens of what could have happened if Anthony was allowed another six years on this planet.

People ask me what Stephen would be like now, at 45, and I find those questions hard because I don’t want to think about what could have been.

It’s like tormenting yourself because you go down a path of possibilities that can never come true.

Anthony had just done his A levels and wanted to become a civil rights lawyer when he died. Stephen wanted to be an architect.

Would he have been a great architect? Would he have been a husband and father?

What would our relationship be like now?

Stephen was two years older than me and was a typical big brother — a great role model, great friend, and annoyingly good at everything.

He set the bar high for me and I’m still trying to live up to that and be the best person I can possibly be. In turn, I try to be the same for my younger sister, Georgina.

It’s heartbreaking that families have to experience the loss of a young life in their prime, when they’re just about to go off and make a difference in the world.

But this drama sends an incredibly important message about what happens when a young life is lost.

Anthony saves his best friend’s life, after finding him sleeping on the streets, and him not being there meant that that intervention wouldn’t have happened.

And who knows what his daughter would have gone on to do, after seeing the great work that her father did? That’s what happens when a young life is snuffed out.

You will never know if that was the one person in the world who could have solved global warming, poverty, the world’s famine. You will never discover where that person’s journey would have taken them.

By the time Anthony was killed, 12 years after Stephen, I had been teaching for two years and I had hoped that things were getting better.

His death came as a massive shock, because it echoed so many characteristics of what happened to Stephen, so I was all too aware of the impact this would have on his family and siblings.

It was a reminder that, while many mindsets had moved forward, some people’s attitudes hadn’t changed.

I get a lot of hatred on social media, people saying that somehow we are using Stephen’s death for personal gain, but I always say to people, ‘Walk a mile in my shoes’.

I would much rather not be talking about these issues, but have a normal life and still have my brother.

When I want advice, I can go to my parents, but I should also be able to go to my older brother and I don’t have that.

For me, that’s a massive gap in my life and leaves me with a sense of loneliness that never goes away. Right now, 15 years after Anthony’s death, racism is still as big a problem as it was then, with social media acting as a breeding ground.

Just today, on my own feeds, there is abusive language, hysteria and false truths about my brother and who he was as a person.

Earlier this month, a 12-year-old was arrested for racially abusing Crystal Palace footballer Wilfried Zaha, so we need to get better at stamping this out.

Education is a big part of it, and I have been calling for an element of citizenship, taught from reception to when schoolkids leave at 18, because with skills and knowledge they can really understand how they fit into the world we live in today.

I also think we need to hold some adults to account because, as teachers, we can provide the education but they are more influenced by their parents and the adults who support them.

So I can spend all day telling them the right thing to do but they go home and hear something else.

I am a father and, if my nine-year-old son was a teenager, like most parents I would be fearful when he went out because the knife crime and violence out there is crazy.

But I try to be as hopeful and open-minded as possible because, if it’s all doom and gloom, what’s the point of it all? We might as well give up and say, ‘Our kids are always going to have to face this’.

I believe we can make a difference over the next ten years. We’ve got to try to keep on pushing the narrative of equality for everyone because, if we don’t, nothing will change.

That’s why I took part in The Sun’s recent Time For Change Q&A, along with Anthony Joshua, Trevor Phillips, Patrick Hutchinson and Katharine Birbalsingh, because it’s an issue we need to keep discussing.

The Black Lives Matter movement, after the death of George Floyd in the US, was a great way to start the conversation and, this time, it feels like it has a worldwide momentum, rather than being an isolated case in America or in the UK.

Anthony, this powerful drama, is another way to add to the crucial conversation.

As a family, through the Stephen Lawrence Foundation, we have tried to make Stephen’s legacy a change for the good.

Yes, a terrible tragedy happened to us as a family but in light of that we have been able to go forth and change people’s minds and attitudes and provide life experiences, and opportunities.

Similarly, Anthony’s mum Gee carries on her son’s legacy with the Anthony Walker Foundation.

She visits schools and does work-shops to show people the implications of one rash moment in time and how it can affect you and your life, and other people’s lives as well.

She spreads messages of racial harmony and I know she’s out there doing great work.

I am a hopeful person because, without hope, we can never change what is wrong in society.

There has to be a positive out of the negative because, otherwise, it’s just been a life lost and all the hurt and pain has been for nothing.

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