Wearside teens are hoping to help save lives

Alex Peel, Faye Alexanders, Natasha Butler from  Biddick Academy
Alex Peel, Faye Alexanders, Natasha Butler from Biddick Academy
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Wearside teenagers are sending ripples through the airwaves, after winning a city-wide competition to help save lives.

Biddick Academy students Faye Alexanders, 14, Natasha Butler, 13, Alex Peel, 13, and Holly Herron, 14, won a competition which saw schools across the city challenge their students to come up with a hard-hitting advert to educate people about the risks around water.

Faye Alexanders, Alex Peel, Natasha Butler from Biddick Academy

Faye Alexanders, Alex Peel, Natasha Butler from Biddick Academy

The students won the competition with their poem ‘I Am the River Wear’, which uses chilling descriptions of Sunderland’s river to bring to life the risks of the water and warn young people about taking needless risks around it.

Local radio station Sun FM, which is now running the 30-second advert on-air, gave the students a masterclass in radio production as part of the competition, organised by Sunderland City Council and delivered in partnership with the Royal National Lifeguard Institution (RNLI) and the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS).

Faye Alexanders, one of the students from the winning team, said: “Staying safe around water is really important to remember, because the river could so easily take your life away.”

Holly Herron, another member of the winning team, said: “The other entries to the competition were really good, so it felt really amazing to be picked as the winners and have the chance to record our ad.”

The girls produced their original advert using their mobile phone, and were one of only five teams shortlisted by officers at the council, from more than 30 entries.

They were then invited to present their advert to a panel of people, including RNLI and RLSS representatives, local councillors and a marketing professional, with two finalists and one winner eventually selected. A second team from Biddick Academy and a team from Red House Academy were placed second and third.

Fiona Brown, director of people services at Sunderland City Council, said: “While we as a council, and organisations like the RNLI and RLSS can push out messages to young people about water safety, it really only begins to resonate when they hear it from their peer group.

“Through this competition, the city’s young people are owning this discussion, and creating engaging content that will help to spread the word about just how dangerous it can be to play around water.

“We have formed strong partnerships in Sunderland that we hope will keep people safe around our sea, river and lakes, but ultimately, the only way we can prevent needless tragedies around water is by ensuring that people keep themselves firmly out of harm’s way. And through this radio commercial, we are doing just that.”

The council is working with the young people who took part in the competition, to develop a water safety ambassadors programme, ensuring that the legacy of the project is felt beyond the airing commercial.

Fiona added: “The young people who took part in the competition said that they had got a great deal out of the experience of taking part, and we know that – through working with them – we have been able to get the message about water safety to a much wider group that we could have done directly.

“We are looking forward to working with the schools and their young people to ensure their clear passion and enthusiasm is harnessed through a longer-term project.”

To find out more about the campaign and to hear the winning advert, visit: www.sunderland.gov.uk/water-safety