A Stereotype-busting event organised by students from Sunderland College has brought together people from all walks of life.
Second year creative and media students invited a diverse range of guests to take part in People’s Pages – a project aimed at challenging attitudes and breaking down cultural barriers.
The impressive list of attendees included a nun, a man who works with refugees, a transgender woman, a woman who has changed her life through alternative healing, a woman with bipolar disorder, a woman with MS and a police officer who has Lupus, a disease affecting the immune system.
Guests took on the role of human books who told their stories to students after they were ‘loaned’ from the college’s Arts Academy at Bede Campus.
One of the contributors was Leo Berry, an army veteran who was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Bosnia and Northern Ireland.
The 41-year-old now runs Green Earth Pathfinder, an organisation which offers counselling and outdoor therapy for people with mental health conditions, and he also leads outdoor activities for families and groups.
He said: “I felt very welcomed by everyone who was at the event – I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and felt totally at ease. All of the students who listened to my story were polite and curious, and I appreciated the opportunity to share my story and help spread the word about mental health.”
People’s Pages was the brainchild of TV and radio presenter Gilly Hope, who lectures on the creative and media course at the college.
She said: “The event was designed to bring the community together, break down stereotypes and to decrease divisions and isolation as well as educating and celebrating diversity.”
The level 3 BTEC creative and media students were tasked with producing and organising the event, and each were assigned individual roles with responsibilities for stage management, marketing and publicity, and front of house.
Student Daniel Clarke, 18, said: “I really enjoyed the project and it was very successful. It was a good way for students to meet people who they wouldn’t necessarily meet in their everyday lives and it was interesting to hear so many diverse stories. It’s nice to think we’ve helped to influence people’s perceptions of others for the better.
“It was a great experience for our class and we all put our heads down and worked really well together. We’ve never really worked with members of the public before, so we gained lots of experience on this project and I feel I’ve developed new skills. I’m interested in a career in journalism and this has given me an insight into what it’s like to speak and work with members of the public.”
Gilly added: “This was quite a challenging project I set for the students as they had to source the human books and organise the logistics of the event, but it helped to develop a lot of the skills they need to work in the media industry. It’s quite nerve-wracking approaching members of the public and asking them to speak about personal issues, but it’s something that has to be done on a regular basis if you work in TV or radio.
“The students were very professional throughout the event and the feedback we received from the human books and the people who ‘borrowed’ them was very positive. It’s been a very rewarding experience for all who have been involved and we’re already thinking about how we can make the event bigger and better for next year.”