Human books bring their stories to life for Sunderland students

Lecturer Gilly Hope (third right standing) with Sunderland College students and the human books.
Lecturer Gilly Hope (third right standing) with Sunderland College students and the human books.
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College guests became human books - bringing their stories to life for Sunderland students.

The event organised by young people at Sunderland College was aimed at bringing people from all walks of life together to bust some stereotype myths.

The event was designed to bring the community together

Gilly Hope

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.

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.

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.

Gilly added: “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.”