Written by the Streets of New York

New York City is home to 8,224,910 people who speak approximately 800 different languages, take 1.6 billion subway rides a year and use 8.5 million Chinese food take-away containers every month.

But some of the most impressive numbers that New York generates come from the media industry, which is the largest hub in North America. To get the thousands of events and stories out to New Yorkers and to the entire nation every day, New York creates 270 news channels, 350 consumer magazines and 300 non-English magazines and newspapers. The giants of the publishing industry and cable TV networks are here in force, not to mention the reach of social media.

But beyond the stories, news and business analysis, New York also has a different layer of stories. They happen in the millions everyday, but never make it into the spotlight and onto the great stage of the city’s media. They’re the stories that happen to New Yorkers every day on the street, in the subways and cabs, in the restaurants, or even in the Chinese food containers. Like New York, they cover everything from the funny, bizarre, emotional, action, danger or mystery.

Whether you’ve just visited NY for a weekend or you’re a hardened native, everyone has at least one crazy or amazing story they witnessed or that has happened to them on the streets. But they’re a bit like great jokes – you might remember the really funny, menacing or dirty ones, but the majority quickly fade away.

In 2011, NewYorkWritesItself.com was launched as a simple destination for New Yorkers to write down these stories and moments they experience every day, and the site has been gathering a motley crew of stories from the 5 Boroughs.

They’re pieces of writing that are from people’s everyday lives in the city, from the characters:

Entry written by ‘Queenbee’ in downtown Manhattan:

As a twenty something girl walks down the street a homeless man approaches her asking for money. She says: “Fifty cents? Buddy I’m not even wearing underwear!”

To the more picturesque moments:

Entry written by ‘Village Idiot’ in Manhattan:

As I walk toward the subway, umbrellas of all shapes, sizes and colors densely populate the entrance. Tall umbrellas rise up over short umbrellas. They jockey for position, moving left to right and up and down, trying to keep their carriers dry for as long as possible. Then just as quickly as the umbrellas all find their spots, like curtains on a stage, they begin to close. With the right music playing, it looks just like a ballet, one that happens every time it rains in NY. There is no charge for this show and everyone gets to play a part.

In November this year, a collection of these real stories are being re-created in an Off-Broadway play called ‘8 Million Protagonists’, described as ‘An Off-Broadway play written by the streets of New York.’ The plot of the play has been driven by the written submissions from New Yorkers, and is being created in partnership with the Village Voice newspaper.

The stories being re-created aren’t what you’d find in New York’s mainstream journalism or on the news. But if they were, the reporter would definitely be wearing no pants under the table.

Ultimately, the project celebrates the gems found on the streets of New York and reminds us that not everything worth listening to is broadcasted through mass media. It reminds us how interesting the individual is, and how when you remember to look and listen out for them, there really are 8 million protagonists walking around New York.

Check out villagevoice.com/8mp for more info.

Kieran and Antill

By Michael Canning and Kieran Antill, Executive Creative Directors of Leo Burnett New York. LBNY is a Gold Corporate Member of the ADC.