Sphere to publish Lee Lawrence's story of racism, riots and redemption

Sphere to publish Lee Lawrence's story of racism, riots and redemption

Sphere is publishing the story of Lee Lawrence, whose mother's wrongful shooting by police in 1985 sparked rioting in Brixton. 

Emily Barrett, senior commissioning editor, acquired world rights to The Louder I Sing in a deal brokered with Rory Scarfe at The Blair Partnership.

The book will publish in September 2020 to tie in with the 35th anniversary of the incident and to accompany the unveiling of a memorial of Cherry Groce, Lawrence's mother, in Brixton.

Groce was shot by police on 28th September 1985 during a raid on her home, leaving her paralysed from the waist down and unable to walk. She died in 2011, having spent 26 years in a wheelchair.

The book's synopsis reads that, in the chaos that followed the shooting, 11-year-old Lee watched in horror as the news falsely pronounced his mother dead. And – despite triggering two days of rioting that saw buildings torched by petrol bombs, cars set alight and shops looted – it would take 31 years until the police recognised any wrongdoing.

It reads: "For Lee, [the shooting] was a spark that lit a flame that would burn for the next 31 years as he fought to get the police to recognise their wrongdoing. His life had changed forever: he was now his mother’s carer, he had seen first-hand the prejudice that existed in his country, and he was at the mercy of a society that was working against him. And yet that flame – for justice, for peace, for change – kept him going.

"The Louder I Will Sing is a powerful, compelling and uplifting memoir about growing up in modern Britain as a young black man. It’s a story both of people and politics, of the underlying racism beneath many of our most important institutions, but also of the positive power that hope, faith and love can bring in response."

Barrett said: "Lee’s story has been described in some of the biggest books on race in recent years, including Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Akala’s Natives. But behind the facts of Cherry’s injury that are so relevant to the narrative of racism in modern Britain, it is both a hugely emotional story of an 11-year-old boy whose whole life changed after 28th September 1985, and an incredibly compelling mission to achieve justice in the face of immense obstacles. It was both these elements that drew me to Lee’s book, as well as his capacity to be so positive about the future and his many directives that he’s established or is involved in to implement change. I feel very privileged to be welcoming Lee to the Sphere list and to be bringing such an important book to market."

Lawrence said: "When I was 11 and my mum was shot in front of me, the only reaction I had was to scream – and in turn I was told to shut up. My 31-year fight for justice and accountability has finally allowed that young boy to have a voice and inspire others to find their own.

"The book is important to me because from the time the injustice happened, we have always been reported on and the story has never been told from our perspective. It’s also important for me to honour my mum and the courageous and inspiring way she dealt with this terrible ordeal. I wanted to acknowledge what happed to her and us, as well as the huge impact that it had not only on us personally but on a whole community.

"My motivation is to give a true and honest account of what has happened, to ensure lessons are learnt, in the hope that this will never happen again."