Wearside Echoes: Preserving a day of our lives

Martin Brooks at the Donnison School, Sunderland.

Martin Brooks at the Donnison School, Sunderland.

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WEARSIDE Echoes readers are being urged to help capture a snapshot of life in Sunderland.

Charity worker Martin Brooks has won the chance to document a day in the life of city workers and residents – but needs a team of 15 volunteers to help him out.

“The idea is that people will let me know what they are doing throughout a 24-hour period, using emails, texts or photos, and I can then build up a picture of life in Sunderland today,” he said.

“I want to document what the people of Sunderland are doing now, in 2012, and preserve these details for the future. It will be like an IT time capsule of a lively city for one day.”

Martin, who volunteers at Living History North East, an oral history charity based at the Donnison School in Sunderland’s East End, won financial backing for his project through Vodafone.

The phone firm’s World of Difference UK scheme provides funding for 500 people to work for their dream charity for several months – and Martin, from Hendon, was one of the lucky few chosen.

“I’ve been volunteering at the Donnison for the past two years, getting involved with projects, archiving photos and becoming the Honorary Secretary of the Friends of the Donnison,” he said.

“When I saw details of the Vodaphone scheme advertised on the JobCentre website, I decided to grab the opportunity. I like working, and like to keep busy, so it seemed ideal for me.”

Applicants were asked to come up with ideas for why they deserved the funding and, after asking advice from project director Janette Hilton, Martin submitted his idea for the 24-hour life snapshot.

His project, called Sunderland – A Day in the Life Of – Voices Captured, caught the imagination of judges and, for the next two months, the 36-year-old will be working to turn his ideas into reality.

“I need to recruit 15 people, then select a day to capture through their texts, email and pictures. I’m looking for all sorts of people, anyone from 18 to 80, students, working or retired,” said Martin.

“I’m keen to find volunteers from as broad a background as possible too, and it would be great to include people with different careers, such as doctors, teachers, council workers and bus drivers.

“It will all be done quite informally. I won’t be looking for exact details of workloads or cases, I just want general information – something that tells the story of what Sunderland people do each day.”

Martin is hoping that the results of his finished project will be shown at an exhibition in Sunderland later this year, and is enthusiastic at the prospect of creating a little piece of his own history.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had funding for a project,” he said. “I love history, I love socialising and I love the internet – and this is what this project is all about. It is a sociable, modern project.

“Vodafone has given me the opportunity to get out and do something for myself. I’m really looking forward to it and hope people will get involved. We can make history!”

Living History project director Janette Hilton, who supported Martin’s initial application for funding, today urged Wearsiders to sign up for the project and help make it a great success.

“Martin has been a very valuable volunteer for Living History over a number of years. When this opportunity came up, he was very eager to give it a go and try to secure some funding,” she said.

“There is such a diversity of individuals who live and work in Sunderland that it would be good to celebrate the variety of challenges that people face every day at work, rest and play.

“Vodafone seemed very impressed by the overall idea. I am thrilled that we are able to support the development of our volunteers. and it is even better when you can help secure some employment.

“We know Martin will work hard and we are looking forward to seeing the results.”

** If you would like to volunteer to take part in Martin’s project he can be contacted at Living History on 565 4835 or by mobile on 077639 1881.