* Prices may differ from that shown
Ian Tomlinson, the middle-aged guy who died after being whacked with a trunction at the May Day marches in London, was a chronic alcoholic and earlier in the same day had blocked and then kicked a police van in his drunken state. Mr Tomlinson was staying at a bail hostel in London and was homeless and selling the Big Issue (although on the day also selling the Evening Standard). And so there, for me, lies the problem with the Big Issue - it helps homeless people pay for their vices and make things worse in many cases, this guy losing his life from a brutal but also an innocuous tumble if you consider the life of a drunk. The people who sell them use your money to buy booze and drugs, guys, simple as! And to me it's always been obvious they would. I mean what else are they going to spend it on? A deposit for a flat? A games consul? I'm sure they don't have bank accounts to put it in.
The irritation aside of those middle-class prats who bought the capital to a stand still over a gaggle of pointless issues, the following ruckus further undermining much needed police authority, the same police authority the same middle-class people are always moaning about the lack of, Tomlinson was a drunk who died from a heart attack and swollen burst liver through excessive drinking. He wasn't some sort of martyr to police brutality. Those people that protested for the fun of it also deserved a whack and Just as much responsible for Tomlinson's death as the fatal mix of the old White Ace and the coppers baton as far as I'm concerned. The greatest irony is that the Ian Tomlinson's of the world are the people the middle-class cross the road from.
Homelessness is quite new phenomenon in places like my hometown of Northampton. Just 10 years ago we had a couple of tramps sleeping rough in and around the town centre and that was about it. Now its Euston central of down and outs, as it is in most towns and cities in Britain that have plenty of people bustling around to buy the magazine, feeding the market if you like. But growing immigration and heroine supply from the mystic east has helped create ten junkies a day across the nation and once you're addicted to hard drugs there's a good chance you're going to end up on the streets at some point. The average lifespan of a homeless person is 44. Those idiots who say legalize Class- A, and say we should because alcohol and tobacco is legal and so why not heroine, fail too look at what happened when those two vices were made legal. Usage shot up massively because the government could rake in the tax and the effect far more devastating on all social classes than previously. It became ok to drink. If we legalise Class A use then prepare for a ten fold increase in Big Issue sellers. Now nobody wants that.
I'm more sympathetic to the homeless these days as you are only ever three missed pay packets away from sleeping rough if you don't have support around you. I'm sure the people on the street are not all low lives who were only ever going to end up there. I know 12% are actually ex prisoners who couldn't find an abode for whatever reason and over 25% are ex forces, institutionalised and unable to cope with civil street. Over half of all the homeless have mental health conditions. Baring that in mind a lot of these guys were you and me once and if help is offered and they want it then things like the Big Issue are understandable. But the main problem I have with the Big Issue is it doesn't really help that many homeless people get off the street. My understanding is the vast majority of vendors are in some sort of sheltered housing or temp accommodation and not sleeping rough, many on benefits. I doubt if you would be able to sell it if you were sleeping rough pi**ed up 24/7. The guys and girls who sell it in Northampton seem with it and decent enough people. In fact there was a report that came out from Leicestershire Police where over 200 were arrested for various petty crimes over the year and the cops discovered only 12 of the so called homeless and Big Issue sellers in the city were actually homeless and most were just trying to make money begging, selling drugs or street robbery.
My second problem is that John Bird, the ex homeless guy who created the Big Issue, is now a millionaire off the back of it, the ultimate rags to riches story. I have nothing against him making money from the magazine but he must admit to himself he has exploited homeless people in some way to do that. We know that 95% of homeless people without a bed to sleep in are drug and alcohol addicts; ironically denied access to the more than adequate supply of hostel beds in the United Kingdom because they have these addictions and so would cause problems in the facilities. There are 'drunk's' only hostels but who would want to stay in those? Again giving them cash in the hand only encourages drinking. Tomlinson walked out the hostel door every morning in pursuit of money to buy alcohol, his free housing and the Big Issue enabling to be in the big city to do just that and maximise his revenue.
Big Issue works by the vendors keeping 75p of the £1.50 magazine takings. Again I think we know what they spend that 75p on. I have noticed its mostly female empathy that mostly buys the magazine but most of its articles and advertising geared to men. Bird, who has now released control of the magazine, employed professional staff to write his magazine and generate advertising and effectively had 15,000 'free' vendors across the country selling his magazine. And make no mistake guys this magazine is successful, people at their lowest helping to shift 4m copies a year; the Bureau of Circulations figures showing national weekly sales of the magazine rose by 21% year on year to take the average weekly sale to 174,770 for 2008. Clearly homless people arent rising by 21% a year and so some of the people selling it may be anything but, as we found out in Leicester. Sales in the South-East and the Midlands rose by 27% year on year, while the Scottish edition saw sales increase by 30% during the same period.
Birds deputy editor, Adam Macqueen, would leave in 2002 because he didn't like the radical cost-cutting going on as at the same time directors wages increased radically, four guys pulling a six figure salary in 2006. Ok, the magazine does lots of other charity stuff to raise money but if sales are rising so fast then whats going on? Bird even wants to take the magazine world-wide, including India. There are a lot of homeless people in India.
I tend not to buy this type of Timeout magazine as its Londoncentric and little of is content relates to my hometown. You are supposed to buy it to help the homeless and put up with whats in it and that's that. In fact many of the entertainers and companies advertised in there are not the sort of people that give to the homless. Even the bigissue.co.uk website has a young clean cut handsome guy selling it, hardly representative.
This weeks front cover is adorned by Bob Dylan, plugging his first new record for five years, ironicly looking every inch the down and out. I tend not to read about sport or music in magazines so quickly moved through to find something more interesting to explore for my train journey. Bill Bailey, a comic who can be brilliant or awful, is the next article up and theres plenty of listings on other comics tours in the capital and around the country. But agin this magazine is aimed directly at Londoners so you just struggle to relate to all the listings.
The article on the green eco awards made me chuckle, especially in the week e-mails have been released to undermine this man-made global warming catastrophe. I have always said politicions inserted words like catastrophe and armaggedon on the green edition like they did 45 minutes in the case for war in Iraq, giving both the crusades propaganda more impact, knowing the evidence of global warming and WMD was and is ambigious at best. Admitteldy these stolen emails had only the most incriminating evidence released to the media and so devicive and even then the statements were ambivelent. Anyhow the Green Awards are in London and lots of people in army surplass jackets will be there eating lentils.
The Big Issues token lefty columnist Rod Liddle is once again on the atack over Iraq as the public enquirey rolls on, one that actually looks like it will claim some scalps for once. As Liddle puts it, we didn't attack Iraq because they were armed with WMD and nukes pointed our way, we attacked them because they were weak and had no defencess, oil and the privatisation at the heart of the slaughter. Its becoming very clear from the enquiry Saddam was firmly in a box and behaving. If he didn't he already knew the consequences. The gallows await for Blair too one day.
Theres plenty of entertainment reviews like theatre and cinema and some property ad`s and clasifieds to go with, as well all the usaul adverts to generate revenue, the magazines real earner. Where the Big issue is good for non Londoners is it as TV listings and so instead of buying the Mail on Sunday for £1.50 just for that reason then if you buy this then at least this is your charity guilt lifted for the week. I certainly purchased it for that reason this time.
Bird used to write an editorial but it got too politcal and scared of those critical advertisers, these days the new editors comments rather less forthright. A recruitment page, including voluntry postions, as you would expect, and the ubiquitous letters page alongside some competions and puzzles rounds off the magazine. What's the working day without the suduko!.
The main problem with the actual content is it's for Londoners and sort of aimed at commuters and students....something to read on the bus or train. It's also confusing why there's not more homeless content in it and not more homeless types working on the paper itself. It still feels like a magazine trying to make money from the homeless to further the employee's careers rather than the homeless making money from a magazine and furthering their lives. Saying that if the vendors shift 15 a day and make a tenner out of it, plus tips, I suppose it's a tenner less than they need to steel get their particular narcotic to get them through the day. We do know that homeless people are responsible for a high amount of violent crime and homicide in the town centre bowl where they are concentrated and it's the magazine that brings many to the urban conurbations. I'm afraid the Big Issue is creating problems just as its trying to solve them.
I have never fully understood why there are so many homeless people in UK, where the unemployment rate is around 5% and where, to the best of my knowledge, any person who is in decent health can find a work.
The Big Issue is a magazine published by homeless people and sold by homeless people, there is a version in the North of England and one in London, currently selling at 1.40.
The idea is very simple, those who sell it are properly trained and badged and take more than 50% of the cover price as a profit for themselves.
I have noticed that people selling The Big issue come in different colours and shapes. There are the shabby ones, the well dressed ones, those who are a bit pushy, those who are polite.
I buy The Big Issue from time to time, and I must admit that I do not read much of it, although it has some interesting articles on social affairs.
If I like the vendor, I feel that I can part with less than 2 pounds to help somebody who for reasons unknown to me, is in a less fortunate position than I am.
This is a magazine that si sold by the homeless and the idea is that rather than begging it gives them the ability to earn money from a legitimate source and hopefully provide an escape route away from living on the streets or hostels and to get back to leading what most of society would term a normal existence.
Each vendor sells from a location in towns around the country and can easily be spotted by their identification badge, I also find them very friendly and certainly not pushy when it comes to selling the magazine, they do take a pro active approach but it is only ever an invite to buy and is not pushy or intrusive on people.
The great thing is that the product they sell is actuallt very good and makes for an interesting read. Published weekly it is full of interesting articles on world events as well as interviews with celebrities such as actors and pop stars. The fact that it promotes a good cause helps with attracting guest writers and also gives them access to the stars. There are also some quite serious articles that focus on homeless issues both in this country and abroad and of course the magazine likes to promote the success stories but there is also a strong dose of reality to the content.
This is certainly worth reading and at least you know that some of the money is going towards helping not only the individual but also homeless projects throughout the country.
Most people living in one of the large cities of the UK will have a little knowledge of what the Big Issue magazine is since they will have undoubtedly seen it being sold on the streets of their city. Many people will know a little about the concept behind the magazine and a few people will part with their money in exchange for this publication on a frequent basis, but few of us could actually realise how such a seemingly insignificant thing like a magazine could change hundreds of people lives each year, and change those lives for the better, for ever.
This review was inspired by one particular vendor in my home city of Sheffield called Paul who sold the Big Issue on my local streets for around 6 months. During this time his life slowly began to change for the better, and therefore, before I begin I would just like to say, "Paul, if you should ever find yourself in front of a PC reading this review, sometime in the future when your life is finally sorted, then I would like to dedicate this review to you....."
WHAT IS THE BIG ISSUE MAGAZINE?
The Big Issue magazine is a magazine that covers a wide range of issues within the news and current affairs sector. It is published weekly and sold exclusively by homeless people or people who can prove that they are on the brink of homelessness.
The inspiration behind the Big Issue magazine came from a newspaper called "Street News" which is sold by the homeless people of New York.
Gordon Roddick, of the Body Shop empire saw this particular newspaper being sold in the late 1980's and asked lots of questions about how the vendors benefited from selling this newspaper. The answers that he received inspired him enough to speak directly to some of the vendors on the streets, who told him fascinating stories about how being given the opportunity to sell "Street News" had quite literary saved their lives.
Gordon Roddick on his return to England discussed the concept with a media publicist called John Bird and together as partners they launched the first issue of the Big Issue Magazine in September 1991.
Initially the magazine was published monthly and sold only within London, but its popularity soon grew, helped by favourable press coverage who commented on the magazine's raw edge of journalism which was often quite close to the bone and hard hitting.
In June 1993 the magazine went weekly. It was still sold only within London but now had a weekly circulation of close to 25,000 copies. Later that year the Big Issue Magazine went national and set up regional offices throughout the UK.
The regional publications of the Big Issue Magazine are currently as below:
Manchester - The Big Issue in the North
Glasgow - The Big Issue Scotland
Cardiff - The Big Issue Cymru
Bristol - The Big Issue South West
Birmingham - The Big Issue Midlands
The version sold in Sheffield is the Manchester publication "The Big Issue In The North" which currently retails at £1.20. The London version simply called "The Big Issue" currently costs £1.40.
In the last few years International editions have also been launched in Sydney - Australia, Cape Town - South Africa and Los Angeles - USA.
The Big Issue magazine is sold exclusively by homeless people and is designed to give these people a feeling of self worth as well as to provide them with a legitimate means of income. Anyone wishing to become a vendor can apply to be one providing that they meet the criteria of homelessness.
Once accepted all vendors undergo a training session during which the "Big Issue Code of Conduct" is read out to them and explained in detail. This agreement is then signed and the vendor is given an official badge and a bright yellow fluorescent jacket. They are also given 10 complimentary issues of the magazine to start them on their way.
The Code of Conduct lays down many different rules that must be adhered to. These include no begging, no harassment of the public, and no drinking of alcohol whist in possession of the magazines.
Once the vendor has been badged up they are then free to sell their Big Issue magazines. Following the initial sale of the first 10 copies they can then purchase further copies at a heavily discounted price. Currently 70p from the version of my regional Big Issue goes directly to the vendor, although this figure is 80p in London.
THE SUCCESS STORY
The success story of the Big Issue magazine is obviously two fold. On one hand there are the hundreds of personal success stories of the vendors who have managed to turn around their lives, and on the other hand there is the commercial success of the magazine itself.
To put things into perspective there are now over 10,000 vendors badged up annually in the UK and over 150,000 copies of the magazine are now sold every week. The magazine itself is a non profit making publication with the remaining revenue from sales going towards not only the publishing costs of the magazine, but also contributing towards the Big Issue Foundation which is a wider project that provides counselling, vendor support, shelter, and a whole range of other services to help the homeless. The Big Issue Foundation is a registered charity in the UK.
WHAT'S IN THE MAGAZINE?
When I first started buying the Big Issue magazine the first thing that struck me was that this is actually a very well pieced together publication.
Each magazine is generally quite topical as you would expect from a weekly magazine and the particular issue to hand that is still lying around my bedroom (June 5th-11th 2006) has a picture of David Beckham on the front on the cover above a caption which reads " I still consider myself to be a working class boy." Inside there is a two page interview with the man himself giving his views on England's chances in the World Cup.
Another main story within this issue covers transracial adoptees, which discusses black and ethnic minority people who have been adopted and raised by white families. This feature deals with many of the issues concerning how a lot of these people were viewed by society in general, and how they were often treated differently from those ethnic minorities raised within their own cultures.
One other interesting feature concerns itself with the designs of modern city housing estates. This particular feature is entitled "Designs for Life" and proves to be a very interesting read. The article is actually written from the view of the burglar or criminal and discusses how these estates are designed to look aesthetically pleasing, but how their designs make them magnets for crime.
The magazine does contain a fair bit of advertising but I don't really have a problem with this as it can easily be skipped past and the revenue from this is helping to contribute towards a worthy cause.
There are also many regular features too. These include music, film, book and theatre reviews, including a round up of the latest pop singles and albums released that week plus a full week's TV guide.
There are also recruitment pages, a large section relating to voluntary work opportunities, classifieds, editorial comments and a readers letter's page. Plus competitions and puzzles.
Overall the Big Issue magazine has a good balance of interesting articles but it also manages to retain its dignity. There are few sensational showbiz gossip style articles and most tabloid style stories are avoided for more sensible or sensitive issues.
That said however the Big Issue magazine is not without its occasional scoop and back in 1996 following George Michael's "act of lewd conduct" it was with the Big Issue magazine that he finally decided to break his silence and he spoke frankly and exclusively to this magazine surrounding the events of that day in a LA Park.
MY FINAL THOUGHTS
I think that the idea behind the Big Issue magazine is ingenious and I receive a certain amount of satisfaction each time that I part with my £1.20, knowing that 70p of this amount is going directly to the vendor.
Many people believe that giving money to these vendors is unethical and I have heard it said that the money they earn only goes towards buying alcohol or drugs and helps to fuel the addictions of these people. However, I take a different view, and I believe that these people have the right to earn their own money and therefore they have the right to take responsibility for themselves on how they choose to spend this money.
Where I live there are many people begging on the streets and asking for 50p for a bus fare or food, and although it is often difficult I tend to choose not to give to these people. My reasons behind this are because I believe that anyone that has taken the decision to become a Big Issue vendor has already made a conscious or subconscious decision to try and improve their own personal situation, and although in a perfect world we should help all of those less fortunate than ourselves, I personally believe that those that are making an effort to help themselves are more worthy of the help of others.
I accept that many of these vendors do have alcohol and drug problems but simply by signing up to the scheme and becoming a vendor these people are then given access to many forms of counselling and help. There is a careful vetting process for all vendors, but any vendor looking to try and scam the system will generally fall at the first hurdle and blow the income from their first complimentary batch on a fix, whilst those genuine vendors will invest some, or all of that initial money into buying their next batch of magazines.
We must remember that these people are vulnerable within society and all too often they are considered to be outcasts, people surviving on the very edge of our society, but before you cast them all aside just remember this, these people are no different to anyone else but many of them do have mental issues and other problems that need to be addressed. I believe that they deserve a chance....
... and finally before you call them losers consider that Paul who I referred to at the beginning of this review graduated from University with a first class honours degree and had a very good job until the breakdown of a relationship led to mental problems and his ultimate downfall. Yes, he did slide down the slippery slope of drug abuse, and yes, even 12 months on from quitting from selling the Big Issue he is still battling with a heroin dependency but he now has a much more positive outlook on life now and he is now on a drug rehabilitation programme which keeps him clean for long periods of time, and his relapses are becoming fewer and further between.
So the next time you pass a Big Issue magazine vendor on the street before you walk on by, think twice, you really could quite literally be saving somebody's life.
The basic idea of the Big Issue is to support homeless people and allow them to help themselves in small ways - such as selling a magazine. Many people - particularly if you live in a city -will have seen people standing on street corners selling the Big Issue...and many of those will have looked in the other direction and kept walking. I hope in this to give an explanation of Big Issue, the Big Issue magazine, and the possible reasons why it may not be such a good idea as well as why it is a good idea.
The Big Issue Foundation was founded in November 1995, it is now an International movement whichoffers support to those on the streets by allowing them to take some control over their own lives and tries to help homeless people help themselves. It was set up as the charitable side of Big Issue, to strengthen and develop support services for Big Issue Vendors.
To enable those who are homeless to make a legal living and to learn ro help themselves.
Provide people who wouldn't usually have a voice in the media with one.
Provide a magazine of high quality to readers which will grip attention with issue which affect them but are overlooked by the national media.
Provide an alternative to conventional charity.
Basically it aims to allow those on the streets to gain the dignity of independance, self esteem and the ability to help themselves.
The aim of the magazine is to give a helping hand up to those in need rather than a simple hand out.
The magazine itself is at the heart of the Big Issue campaign, priced at £1.40 until today when it has become £1.50 it's not all that expensive to buy - a darn site less than the usual magazine you will find in shops and has better articles than some of them!The vendor buys the magazine for 60p and sells it on for £1.50 leaving them 90p for there own purposes which is well over 50%.
The inspiration for the magazine originally came from the USA where it was noted that people on the street were selling a magazine called 'Street News' by Gordon Roddick of The Body Shop on a visit to New York. With the assistance of The Body Shop International, Roddick and A. John Bird launched The Big Issue in September 1991, initially as a monthly publication in London.
The set up:
Basically it is set up as a main interview, articles, current news affairs, and entertainment section including snapshot, film, gigs, books, art & theatrem a Last words section including street Lights, Letters, Crossword and King for a Day and Advertising.
Now, when I first bought the magazine I was expecting jumbled together writing - an excuse for money rather than a proper magazine as such. The writing quality received however very much suprised me. It's well written with an obvious amount of thought gone into it, professional writers and in general an engaging and interesting style incorporating humour to make it easier to read. Whoever wrote it knows their job.
Again, I was expecting at best low stream celebrities, at worst people from the streets telling their life woes - which may be what some people want to read but not the best subject for a Monday morning. And again, I was suprised. If we take this weeks interview as an example you have Noel Gallagher from Oasis talking about how Oasis have become one of the biggest bands in the world even with walk outs, drug psychoses, critical maulings and not to mention a legendary fraternal rivalry. And this isn't a one off - they've had Kate Moss, David Beckham, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as a few examples. These aren't mundane, boring interviews, they are actually quite capturing and often entertaining. The editors know that whatever the plight of certain people on the street is this doesn't sell copies, and so they go for a mix between serious and humourous, but keeping the topic fairly light.
You really are going to think that I am naturally cynical...well actually I am but that's not the point in question...but yes, as you have probably guessed I was once again expecting uninteresting topics, badly written, coddled together as if done by a child and completly irrelevant to the everyday world. And again - I'll give you 3 guesses - I was wrong - Suprise, suprise. They focus very strongly on the weeks events and concerns and the journalist who writes them often writes a very thought provoking piece. They tend to have 3 of these articles - 1 based on a film star etc - this weeks is Ben Affleck and his come back to Hollywood, one on a currect political or social concern - How the messages from mainstream Muslims get swamped by dramatic headlines and one other. All tend to give you food for thought and all keep you interested while reading.
You may be wondering why I keep giving my original preconceptions on what it would be like - basically, I thought I was going to be paying for a some paper I could put in the dog basket. There is however a reason - I don't always have a method to my madness but on this occassion I do - by showing my own preconceptions, steotypes and biases I am hoping to alert people to their own, and say that although on occassions we are right - on others it may be better to give it a chance first.
There are 3 sections to the news: Homelessness - which explains itself really - there is an article on some secton of homelessness. Society - which can often be interesting and quite horryfying - 'Nine Year Olds Going To A&E With Drink Injuries', bringing up some of the nastier parts to our society that we often don't think about. And News in Brief which is 6 short pieces on interesting parts of the weeks goings on. There isn't an amazing amount of space dedicated to the news and if there was I think it would be rather boring!
This section is based around new snapshots, films, music, gigs, art, books, theatre and TV. The basis of this is the same for each you get a detailed article on one new of each and then a list of other new titles and a star rating. Personally this tends to be the section that I skip over although I do spare a glance at the book section. It's not that it's badly written...it's more that I couldn't care less!
And finally - Street Lights
Now this was the section that confused me most at first 'What the hell is Street Lights?' I think was my first thought. Then I bothered to read the information! Street Lights is the voice of the street, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it is the only media area that homeless people can truly get their thoughts heard. This is quite possibly the best bit in the whole magazine - and the rest of it is pretty good. The letters and poetry often show a keen intelligence and strong opinion...but a voice that is normalkly lost to the wind. The poetry is by a long way not the best I've ever read...but it has a real power to it which is captivating. You get a sudoku (which I am addicted to) and a crossword included as well.
My only bugbear is the advertising - and by God is there a lot of it - I can understand that this is the only way they can produce the mag at such a low price, but it is highly annoying to flick the page expecting the rest of an article and find 2 pages of adverts in the middle of it. I dislike having advertising shunted at me so obviously.
My experience with the vendors has been wholly positive, I regularly see them giving directions, or pointing someone in the right way. My only problem is that I don't know how to say no, so even if I have got a Big Issue already I'll still give some cash, but this is a fault with me not them!!! It's their job to ask, and I always feel so sorry for them when people walk straight past with eyes strictly ahead as if they don't exist. £1.40 isn't a lot of money, and the magazine is well worth it...
It is obvious from this that I am quite firmly supporting the Big Issue, but I don't feel it would be fair if I didn't note some of the arguments aginst:
- My soical workers comment was - 'The Big Issue is not the magazine but they don't get off their backsides and get a job.' Basically his thought lines work along the lines of you can get simple manual labour jobs easily with no references - and as in a case I know - a criminal record and a recent release from prison. He doesn't see why he should pay for them to stand on street corners...equally he hates buskers...but again I am going off at a tangent.
- The company would be far better training them and trying to get them into a simple but reliable job instead of just giving them magazines to sell.
- It's the same people there day after day, year after year - it's obvious that they are just liking the free money aspect. They should have been able to save enough by now to get a decent (albeit cheap) set of clothes and get a manual labour job.
I don't necessarily agree, but I can see the logic behind the points...and I'll leave it up to you to decide what you feel.
Thanks for reading,
Also on Ciao as Secre
I have been buying Big Issue for about a decade now, having first been introduced to it while living in London.
Before talking about content, let me explain how the publication helps the homeless.
The Big Issue is an international publication which gives people facing homelessness the opportunity to help themselves.
Each vendor is given training and support before choosing a pitch from which to sell copies of the magazine to the public. Instead of pan-handling, The Big Issue gives people the opportunity to ear money through the distribution of the weekly magazine. The magazine is sold for £1.20 and a portion of this (70p I believe) goes directly to the vendor while the left over profits go to covering the expenses of producing it.
It is so great to see these people who, for what ever reason have fallen on hard times, being given the opportunity to regain their dignity by working legitimately. So often, the resources and support allocated to these people are limited leaving them with low confidence which inevitably leads to further problems such as alcohol and drug addiction and the inability to fit comfortably into society.
Selling the magazine gives each individual the same sense or responsibility and achievement that we all need to feel.
Most of the vendors I buy from are extremely friendly and curteous and genuinely appreciate you stopping for a chat.
Not only does The Big Issue help the homeless to regain their rightful status in the community, it is also a brilliant magazine to read - one i look forward to on a weekly basis. It profiles a different vendor each week interviewing them on their views on current events and how selling the magazine has benefitted them, giving them the recognition and encouragement they need as much as the rest of us.
The magazine covers a variety of topics from hard-hitting current affairs issues such as asylum seekers rights and the state of the NHS to great music reviews and interviews with celebrities.
When George Michael decided to break his silence after his arrest in 1996, he did so to the Big Issue. Stars such as Kate Moss, David Beckham and Arnold Swartzenneger have also featured.
The Big Issue has also had a host of guest editors involved with their publication including artist Damien Hirst and Scottish author Irvine Welsh.
The magazine also acts as a great resource tool for its readers as well as the homeless who benefit from its sale. A fantastic job section which covers vacancies mostly in the charitable organisation arena is available as is a forum which allows homeless people to publish their written work for its readers to enjoy.
This is a well respected publication which has justly received a number of awards over the years including theCRE Race in the Media Award, the PPA Publisher of the Year Award and International Federation of Journalists Award. Where some publications shy away from difficult issues, The Big Issue tackles them head on with 100% conviction.
Not only am I proud to be contributing to a cause which I back fully, I relish being able to read a magazine which is so well put together. This is an important publication for all the reasons I have mentioned and I wish it was manditory for everyone to read.
Increasingly on the high street more and more retailers are leaving to set up shop on one of the out of town shopping centre however there is always one place where you can find a reasonably priced quality read which you can then take to anyone of the 50,000 designer coffee shops that are invading our towns and cities.
The Big Issue has been in existence for almost 15 years now and it has grown to such an extent that it is not uncommon to see more than one vendor selling the product on a busy high street. Certainly in more former home town of Stratford on Avon there were two vendors selling the magazine a couple of Saturdays ago.
How It Works
The central premise behind the Big Issue is that it is better for homeless people to work for a living rather than begging. The Big Issue was set up to give homeless people the chance to earn a living and the Big Issue Foundation campaigns on behalf of the homeless.
Each vendor needs to meet certain criteria and sign up to a contract. The majority of sellers are homeless although it is recognized that getting a roof over your head is just the start of integrating someone back into society so those who are classed as being vulnerably housed are also able to sell the magazine. Each vendor will be wearing a badge and id card and are easy to spot.
Each vendor purchases the magazine for 60 pence and sells the magazine on the street for £1.40. Like anyone selling on the street the vendor is able to advertise their wares publicly and in a polite manner and it is a sign of the training that a Big Issue seller is always polite even if you are saying no thank you.
The Big Issue is a glossy weekly produced magazine which has come a long way in the past 15 years.
In quality it is no different to the Sunday supplements you get with the Times or Telegraph with a good variety of main features, news items, entertainment reviews, competitions and advertisements. It also serves to provide a voice for homeless people through the section entitled Street Lights which allows them to voice their own opinions about the issue facing them and the wider public, the three contributors in last weeks magazine voiced opinions on youth homelessness, the fear of rats and the noise from personal stereos all delivered in a concise entertaining way that would put the majority of Dooyoo reviewers to shame myself included.
What you do not get with the Big Issue is a long series or articles about the homeless and housing issues, this is a magazine sold on its merits alone as an entertaining read. The feature items are varied with a range of topics covered. In last weeks issue there were main features on Jamie Bell, Hiroshima, Nuclear Weapons and Ska music.
Whilst in my opinion there is a left wing bias to the magazine this does not come through in the actual article. For example the discussion on the review of Trident which is due this year was well balanced with the views of CND head Bruce Kent being countered by a respected author and an independent nuclear consultant and relative of the bombs inventor Oppenheimer. Where the bias does come through is in the setting of the agenda of what is to be discussed particularly as the review of the UKs nuclear deterrent was ignored at the last election.
What I do enjoy about the magazine s the variety within its pages and whilst the news section is limited there are informative and sometimes witty articles on a range of topics including the marketing of water and the problems of e-smut in the workplace.
In each issue there is a full review of new film releases and coverage of major art events on film, stage, TV, literature and music.
There is a jobs section which focuses primarily on social services vacancies and quite a few pages of advertising which bring in the revenue for the magazine.
When you get to the back there is also a stark reminder of one of the issue of homelessness and runaways with a page dedicated to trying to find missing people with pictures and a brief history of the missing person with contact details for anyone who has information.
There are different versions of the magazine published dependant upon your location.
What you get is a good quality read that is entertaining and informative. Added to this you are helping someone get back on their feet and to earn a bit of respect. So next time you are about to board a train or head off for a solitary coffee forget Hello, OK or whatever other celebrity drivel is out there and pick up a copy of the Big Issue.
Top Big Issue Sellers
If you are ever on the tourist trail in Stratford on Avon do spend a minute with the politest Big Issue seller I have ever had the pleasure to meet, he is usually outside of WH Smith.
One of the most entertaining and animated sellers can sometimes be found outside of Euston Station although he has been missing on my last two visits.
Thanks for reading my review.
Is it less than 14 years since the first edition of The Big Issue? This multi award-winning magazine seems to have been here for much longer. Inspired by Street News, the newspaper sold on the streets of New York, John Bird and Gordon Roddick (of the Body Shop) produced the first - then monthly, now weekly - edition in September 1991. Since then it has become as much a part of our high streets as Woolworths.
I hadn't thought of reviewing TBI until a friend of mine, seeing a copy left on the front seat of my car, remarked that it wouldn't interest her. Explaining that it wasn't all Social Services and Shelter I gave her the mag and she was surprised indeed. With the shiny appearance of a sunday newspaper supplement this is a journal written by professional journalists; and the awards include that for the world exclusive interview with George Michael after 6 years silence as well as Publisher of the Year Award and International Federation of Journalists Award. So you see this is no mean scribble.
Ah! I have forgotten the most important thing. The Big Issue is sold on the streets of our towns throughout the country by the homeless. The seller buys the mag for 60p and sells it to us for £1.40. Good idea isn't it? It means that someone who could well be begging has the dignity of a small business with the chance for new beginnings, however small. Aware that abuse can be a possibility all vendors are issued with an official badge and undergo training as well as signing a Code of Conduct. This states that the public must not be harrassed, there is no swearing, drinking or begging and the mag includes a telephone number for those who wish to comment on vendor behaviour. Earnings are declared to the DSS. The pitch in my own nearest small town tends to be held by Eastern Europeans who I assume are immigrants and I have never been bothered, just shown the mag as I pass with an announcement "Big Issue" and change has always been offered immediately.
What do you get for your £1.40 apart from the satisfaction of a small aid to those who want to lift themselves from homelessness or what is described as "vunerable housing"? The edition on my desk has rock band The Doves on the cover and a sample of the contents. Inside I read an in depth interview with The Doves and found that I liked them and what they have to say so much that I shall listen to their music for the first time soon. Yes Men, Andy Bichybaum and Mike Bonnano, justify the elaborate and surrealist pranks they play to embarrass the big corporations.
A review by John Bird of Nick Flynn's book "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City" (to be filmed) had me putting this title at the top of my list. Willy Mason ("the new Bob Dylan") is featured, an article on London's less than safe drinking water , News in Brief, John Bird's opinion column and politics; as well as a letter page, requests for help from the Missing Persons Helpline, classified pages which include recruitment and more are all offered within 46 pages. This mag is punchy, well written, accompanied by good photography and I find it great value. Of course there are advertisements and these tend to be charity orientated. It is also up to date with comment on the recent engagement of Prince Charles and Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles. So you see, rather than a dull old weekly to be bought to make us feel good, it is eminently readable as we relax with a cup of coffee.
The Big Issue has progressed further since its beginnings and now The Big Issue Foundation exists and does more than just support its vendors. It helps find accommodation for the homeless, whether for short or longer term and gives support for those who need it when managing a new home. Along with emotional care for TBI vendors the Foundation has joined with other agencies to offer help with housing, health, drug and alcohol problems and much more. The Foundation runs writing, art and photography groups and Street Lights is a feature within the magazine produced entirely by the homeless or those who have been. Altogether a great deal from our purchase of a magazine from a street-seller.
I happen to feel greatly about a situation in a country such as ours which permits people to live and sleep on the streets. Perhaps I should do a lot more. What I like about The Big Issue is that it gives people a chance to progress by their own efforts and with all the dignity which that means. Which brings me to a gentle reminder that a smile and few words don't come amiss as we hand over our weekly £1.40.
My title is taken from the top of the front page of the Big Issue and their website is www.bigissue.com
I've read the big issue fairly regularly since it's inception- that must be about 10 years ago so it is pretty obvious that I am a supporter of the magazine and it's ideals. So what is it? It's a magazine that is sold by the homeless. It?s quite a popular idea and there are street papers all over the world including the USA, Canada and Russia. They are all based on a similar idea, the vendor buys the magazine at a discounted rate, at present 60p and sells it on for £1.20. They are initially given a pack of 10 to sell and after that they put the money up front. It can be looked upon as running your own business, you have your pitch where you sell, and also you have to look at your outlay, how many you will sell, how many you can afford to buy, where you will keep them overnight, what happens if you don?t sell them all that week and have spare copies? the list goes on. It's not a soft option and although the vendor makes 50% on each item sold, the responsibility for everything is on them. It isn't easy for someone who is on the streets or living in a hostel to live an ordered life- you may not know where your next meal is coming from, or where you will sleep that night, so to assist the Big Issue foundation gives support and assistance. Each potential vendor is given a certain amount of training and has to sign a ?Vendor Code of Conduct. After this a Vendor cannot beg, or harass the public. I'm not quite sure that I agree with the implication that a homeless person is more likely to 'harass', but unfortunately it does happen and I have experienced it on more than one occasion. The magazine itself is fairly good. It is very socially aware and often touches issues that other publications leave well alone. It has crosswords , articles, letters pages, cartoon and is as well presented as any rival glossy. It is an entertaining read- and is sensibly put together. Many a time I have read things in the Big Issue and
been horrified at social circumstances and situations which have been ignored by the rest of the media. For example there was a long article on a mentally disturbed young man who has been jailed for decades for the crime of setting some church curtains on fire. He has slipped through the net and it is likely that he will be imprisoned for a long time still. However the problem is this. When I read an article in the Big Issue that I know anything about, I find the article unreliable and badly researched. It may just have been bad luck on my part, but there was once a large articles on computer hacking- now I am not a hacker, but I work in computers so know a fair amount about the subject. The article wasn't good- but only because I knew that some of the things they were saying just weren't right. Similar story with an article on some film industry thing that I knew a fair amount about, so I wonder if the reporting is a little sensationalist. I may be wrong, but, once bitten twice shy- and I am unlikely to take anything they say too seriously now, which is a pity, but other friends have said the same after reading articles that they know a lot about. They also run writing groups for the vendor, this is good for self esteem and general literacy and must in general be applauded. Much of what is provided is published in the Magazine, and sadly, a lot of it isn?t particularly good.. Now again you can shout , maybe these writers haven't had the benefit of an education or the opportunities that a lot take for granted, I agree, but I am not sure if printing poor poetry is doing anybody any good. Seems a little patronising to me and I don't like it. My next gripe with the Big Issue is attitude related. As far as I am concerned I have had a lucky life and am willing to give infinite time to those who have had problems, regardless if the problems are self inflicted or not, we all make mistakes and we all are constantly learning. H
owever I feel that the Big Issue is trying to be 'all things to all men' In one way we are told that the vendor is doing a job of legitimate employment, and the magazine should be bought because of its appeal, not as a charity donation. However, when I proffer £2 for a 1.20 magazine, I am rarely offered change. I don't mind giving money to the homeless, but I like it to be my choice, Also, which often happens, If I buy a copy of the magazine I don't like to be told ? Oh can I just take the money and keep the magazine- or 'I need £2 for this Issue'. A price is a price and if the magazine wants to be treated in a professional way that can't happen as often as it does. Now, a lot of people could say, but these Vendors are homeless surely you don't grudge them a bit extra- and I don't, what I don't like is the inference that on one hand you are a professional commodity, and the other hand 'it's chariteee mate', so you must give. This attitude was shown wonderfully in one of their cartoons- which I remember reading years ago. It had a guy in smart clothes, carrying a walkman, a big radio, a laptop ,dripping in jewels etc walking past a Big Issue vendor saying 'Sorry, I already have one'. Regardless of personal wealth, you have a choice of where to spend your money- looking wealthy doesn't mean that you have to buy the Big Issue, and maybe you already have bought one. Is the idea that, you are well off so you *have* to buy two copies I've bought two and three copies some months, but that's my personal choice and I don't like the implication that people have to buy it. That mixed message pervades round the magazine and I don't like it, it must put people off, I will continue to buy it anyway- with my misgivings , but a different type of person will think of buying a magazine once, get hassle and never do so again. To be really honest I don't buy it as often as I used too,
I go back because of the basic person that I am, I know it's hard for people, I try not to judge, it easily could have been me but really, they have to make a stance one way or another, or eventually they may lose me as a reader for good.
The Big Issue is a magazine I try to buy every week – and the beauty of it is you don’t even need to queue up in the newsagents for it! No, seriously, it’s a great way of offering a way for homeless people to earn money, without begging. The vendors buy copies of the magazine for 40p each and sell them for £1.00 each. There are Trusts which provide much behind the scenes organisation, offering sales training, supervision meetings, and so on. Each vendor operates by a strict code of conduct, including the instruction to stand at all times (sitting is obstruction, and illegal) and they now sell numbered magazines, designed to reduce the problem of fake vendors, and the ‘patches’ where they sell the magazine are designated. Some patches must be far better than others, so if a vendor has a good one (e.g. by a busy railway station) they would be crazy to break the code and risk losing that patch. Buyers are advised not to give extra money to the vendors, as that would make the vendor appear to be begging, not something that The Big Issue is about. That’s all great, but the magazine is actually worth buying, too. There is usually a celebrity interview – which is often the picture on the cover. The last couple of weeks it’s been Mis-Teeq and George Clooney, so generally they get some pretty big names. Famously, in the past, Oasis gave an exclusive interview to the Big Issue while refusing to talk to any of the music press. The interviews are often just 2 pages long, so not exactly in depth, and often they are promoting something such as a concert or theatre appearance – but what’s new there? It’s similar to the kind of thing you might read in the Sunday supplements. Feature articles are often on subjects around homelessness – but this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a depressing read – often they tell the stories of ex-vendors who have gone on to do big
ger and better things, or simply got their lives back together again in some way. Social issues are covered in manageable, sensible articles, recent examples are the sex industry in Bosnia, and abuse in care homes. But there are also more light hearted pieces, like how to flirt. There are 4 pages worth of news, both UK and global, again mainly relating to social issues – and often things that the vendors themselves may find of interest. One of the most moving sections is the regular “Missing – can you help?” featuring photos of missing people. Many have been missing for months, some for years, but some may well be living on the streets, and it’s an excellent way of raising awareness. There’s a crossword The Options section is usually the one I turn to first. It offers a good round up of what’s new, including: - Cinema and TV - Video - Theatre - Music reviews (CDs, concerts) - Restaurants and shops - Clubs Any the reviews are what I'd call honest - they'll let you know if they think something's not worth buying or going to see. There are regional editions, and the one I usually buy is called Big Issue in The North. Not only is the title different, but, as you’d expect, the job adverts are mainly for jobs in the North of England, and the restaurant and theatre / club reviews are also relevant to us, oop North, that is. For me, the Big Issue has become an essential purchase, not just as a way of doing my bit for the homeless, but as a way of catching up with what’s going on – it’s not the kind of read that’s going to absorb you for much longer than a train ride to work, but the writers seem to know what’s what culturally speaking, and politically it’s right-on. Cost £1.00 – once a week (Now costs £1.20 down South, so no doubt there'll be price increases across the co
I think this evne though this magagine is cheap, it is really laid out profesionally. I have brought quite a few of these magazine, and they worth the moeny that i have paid for it. It is funny, informative, a good read, and at the same time it is helping people who are in need of the essentials that most of us have. A percentage of the money given to them ,does go to them, and the Big Issu vendors are polite, most have them have a smile on their face, and are cheerful. The overall impression i get from this magazaine, is that it is produced efficiently. The articles are informative, but zat the same time, they are not talking rubbish, they get to the point, and there are pictures in the magazine to keep you focused. Overall i really enjoy this magazine and i would tell everyone to read this magazine as well.
The Big Issue is the only thing that our country should be proud of when it comes to Homelessness.It means that homeless people can earn enough money to get themselves together and maybe even find a home and job for themselves. At £1.20 it is the cheapest magazine you can buy, and the low price does not effect it's quality at all.I try and buy the Big Issue every week and and every week i'm suprised to see how well articles are written and how informative the magazine really is.It should be realised that although most people but the Big Issue purely for charity reasons that it should be read because of it's high quality. The Big Issue always includes news stories, wordsearch(where the prizes are good and easily won)info on what's happening in the area, music, cinema, and book reviews,and a whole lot more.There's always a celebrity willing to give an interview and in Wales there is even a part of the magazine dedicated to welsh speakers. If you have a company you can advertise in the Big Issue as many people but it, so,right now, wherever you are, do u'rself a favour and buy the cheapest interesting mag around.
First of all, I like the mag. I like the mix, the presentation, and enjoy the ever so slightly self righteous and "arent we hip for buying this" presentation style. As well as helping, it's a good buy for your money. However, what has now stopped me buying this any more is that I now do business about 3 times a year in Leeds, and on one trip alone, after buying a copy, I was asked no less than 17 (yes, seventeen)more times as I walked around the town. This has happened to similar degree every time I visit that town.What the people who work in Leeds every day must make of it I do not know (maybe they just get resigned?)Similalry, the same guy has pleaded with me to buy his "very last copy" on 3 occasions so far. Now I always thought that it was one of the conditions that the sellers did not hassle pedestrians, but I've certainly found this to be the case there. A seller where I used to buy it, about 4 miles from where I live in a small town North of Newcastle, also asks as you pass, but quietly and with a smile, and certainly does not put himself or the magazine in front of your face. This aggresive selling style has certainly put ME off buying any more.
Big Issue Vendors often come in for some criticism. People frequently look the other way and pretend they don't see them. Why the stigma? Official vendors wear a badge to verify their authenticity and they are monitored to make sure their earnings aren't going on drink or drugs. They are homeless people trying to do something to help themselves. At just £1 the Big Issue is good value as a paper. There's plenty of reading in it. So next time you see a Big Issue Vendor buy a copy. Its only £1 and you will be getting something decent to read and helping someone else out!
The big Issue is a magazine that is a magazine that is sold by the homeless, so that the receive honest money for an honest days work. The magazine is cheap at a mere £1. If you bother to take the time to buy one, you will find that the articles are not only interesting. Be prepared at times to be challenged while you read. Before anyone tells me that some of the vendors have homes, I know. The circumstances they find themselves in differ greatly, besides who are you to judge. Let's face it, vendors stand out in all weathers, trying to earn a drop of cash - while most are in warm cosy offices!!! Getting back to the magazine though the magazine tends to have regional variations and also has a reasonable jobsearch section, granted there are a number of professional jobs, but if that is you kind of field, then its good. Articles can include good celeb interviews. What's more some of the money goes straight to the vendor and cuts out red tape and the middle man. So next time you see a vendor give them £1, better still give them £2 so that they can get a coffee to heat them up a bit after being out in the wind and rain - REMEMBER THE WINTER IS FAST APPROACHING!!!