The people from the North East taking part in the Olympic Torch relay

PUBLISHED: 23:06 10 June 2012 | UPDATED: 21:29 20 February 2013

Shaun Campbell, pictured here with Newcastle boss Alan Pardew and player Leon Best, hopes his role as torchbearer will bring a statue of Arthur Wharton to Darlington

Shaun Campbell, pictured here with Newcastle boss Alan Pardew and player Leon Best, hopes his role as torchbearer will bring a statue of Arthur Wharton to Darlington

The Olympic torch will be carried through our region this month by people with winning stories to tell, as Jo Haywood discovers

The Olympic torch will come within ten miles of 95 per cent of the people in the UK, but only a lucky few will actually get within touching distance.
Shaun Campbell of Darlington is one of the 8,000 torchbearers who will be carrying the iconic flame around the UK in a 70-day relay from May 19th to July 27th. To say hes a little bit excited at the prospect of carrying the torch through Saltburn on June 18th is like saying Ciss is a little bit good at football.

This is a once in a lifetime opportunity, said the 50-year-old furniture shop owner from Darlington. It was a surreal moment when I learned Id been nominated as a torchbearer. To be honest, I thought someone was pulling my leg at first. But then I got on the shortlist and now here I am, raring to go.

Theres a certain amount of training involved, but its more guidance on the proper way of conducting yourself with the torch rather than actual running. Ill only have to travel 300 metres, but itll be the most important 300 metres of my entire life.

Shaun was nominated for his work as director of the Arthur Wharton Foundation, which is campaigning to have statues raised in Darlington and Rotherham to honour the worlds first professional black footballer.
Born in what is now Ghana, he moved to England in 1882 to train as a Methodist missionary, but soon abandoned his calling in favour of
Seeing thelightbecoming a full-time athlete.

Arthur set a world record time of ten seconds for the 100 yard sprint in 1886 and played cricket for teams across Yorkshire and Lancashire. But it was his exploits as a footballer that he is remembered for today, acclaimed by the likes of England internationals Rio Ferdinand, Theo Walcott and Kieran Gibbs.

He started his career as goalkeeper for Darlington in 1885 before being spotted by Preston North End and reaching the FA Cup semi-finals with them the following season. He signed as a professional for Rotherham in 1889 and went on to play at Sheffield, Stalybridge Rovers, Ashton North End and Stockport County.

Arthur was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in 2003 in recognition of the impact he made on the game, but Shaun thinks more could still be done.

You could argue that there wouldnt have been a Pele without Arthur, he said. His legacy is immense, but hes never really got the recognition he deserves. Hopefully, being a torchbearer in the Olympics will help to change that.

Among the other torchbearers taking part in the North East stretch of the relay are Aidan Kirkwood, 23, from Newcastle, who was injured in Afghanistan in 2009 and given just five minutes to live; Imran Naeem, a 40-year-old public health officer from Stockton-on-Tees who teaches boxing in his spare time to young people from troubled backgrounds; Jess Boyce, a Sunderland teenager with Asperger Syndrome whos also a bronze medal winner at badminton; and Lisa Askew, a 36-year-old from Stockton-on-Tees who survived cervical cancer and is now the official mascot for Butterwick Hospice in County Durham.

But you dont have to be a torchbearer to enjoy the spectacle of this national Olympic event. Celebrations will be held across the North East as the torch makes its way, 300 metres at a time, across the region. The largest of these will be in Newcastle on Friday June 15th when 30 inspirational torchbearers will travel round the city in a 7.2 mile circuit.

This is an unmissable opportunity to be part of the greatest sporting show on earth when it comes to Newcastle, said Councillor Henri Murison, cabinet member for quality of life.

We hope it will inspire young people, particularly the most vulnerable, to embark on their own journey of achievement, while allowing the sports-mad people of the North East to share in the Olympic spirit.

A day of activities in South Shields celebrating the arrival of the London 2012 Olympic Torch Relay - Saturday, June 16

7.45am Torch arrives in South Tyneside

8.15am Torch arrives at Sea Road

8.21am Torch arrives at Great North Run Finish line on The Leas

8.50am Torch passes over to Sunderland at Whitburn

8.30-10.30am Sport & Play arena activities on The Leas

Once the torch has left South Tyneside, keep on celebrating with a Seaside Funday including:

11am-2pm Circus Workshops Five Ring Circus Seaside promenade

1.30pm The Minchella & Co Great Ice Cream Race Sandhaven Beach (details tbc)

1-6pm DJs Beats On The Beach Outside The Sanddancer Public House

2-4pm Acoustic singer James Stephenson Minchella & Co, Sea Road

2-5pm Family Beach Activities STC Sport & Play Dev Sandhaven Beach

2-5pm Face Painting STC Sport & Play Dev Seaside Promenade

5-7pm Acoustic singer Taylor Payne The Rattler Public House Terrace

7-9pm Live bands Tadpole Pie & Mugshot The Amphitheatre

9-11pm Acoustic duo The Rosie McCann duo The Rattler Public House

9-11pm Live band The Lyntones The Sanddancer Public House

For more information and full listings visit or call 0191 4277000. A complete map of the Olympic Torch route through South Tyneside can also be found online at

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