Image: Andrew Stawarz on Flickr. A Big Issue seller I met in a local affluent town a couple of weeks ago said that people in that town weren’t being nice to her. I believe her. I witnessed the man who had her pitch a few years ago suffering the same fate. People seem to be under the misguided impression that Big Issue sellers are begging for money. They couldn’t be more wrong and so, just after the 21st anniversary of The Big Issue, I thought I would tell you why!
The Big Issue was founded in 1991 to help homeless people help themselves – it’s a business. Sellers buy the magazines with their own money at £1.25 a time, then sell them on at designated pitches for £2.50 to you and me. They can keep the difference and use it to help themselves build a better life. Imagine you have reached the point where you can’t afford a bus ticket or suitable clothing for the interview for a job that could propel you out of homelessness. These are people who are picking themselves up from difficult and often tragic circumstances, and fighting back. They are motivated individuals who want a better life. Some are living in sheltered accommodation, some are on the verge of homelessness, some are actually living on the streets, but all have signed a code of conduct with The Big Issue and all are spending money to buy stock to sell you, not begging for your money. This needs to be applauded. It’s also a weekly magazine, so that’s some timely stock they have to shift.
Reading sellers’ stories, which you can in the magazine back page ‘My Pitch’ or on The Big Issue Foundation website here, you realise how easily this could happen to you. Sellers can be educated, have families, are hard workers, artists, writers, friends – they’re people with their own complex stories.
Putting this to one side, The Big Issue is a fantastic product. If you don’t stop and buy it, then you’ll never know. It is written by a wheel of popular contributors, including The Lady’s Editor-in-chief Rachel Johnson and Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda (in the last issue, he was writing about politics, not music). The copy I have in front of me from a couple of weeks ago discusses the American presidential battle, and features an interview with Charlotte Church where she talks about the Leveson Inquiry and growing up in the public eye. It’s an interesting and engaging read. I always read The Big Issue from cover to cover. It’s also just the right length.
Have I persuaded you yet? I hope so. Also, a fact that I didn’t know, The Big Issue is available in other countries, too, so look out for it on your travels!
To find out more about The Big Issue, visit the magazine website here. To find out more about The Big Issue Foundation, a charity that helps sellers develop their skills and get back on their feet, see this website. And to find out about events in your area to celebrate 21 years of The Big Issue, click here!