Behind the scenes

Fabulous Fleecy Fundraising

Jessica Cross is a long time supporter of Big Issue and is also a shepherdess. She recently released a book to support Big Issue vendors.

Jessica Cross is a long time supporter of Big Issue and has a regular advertorial blog in the magazine. She is also a shepherdess and runs wool-based bedding company, Southdown Duvets

During the pandemic, she recognised vendors would be having an extremely difficult time. Jessica decided to collate her favourite blogs in a book which they called Laughing With The Lambs to raise funds to support Big Issue vendors. True to its title, the blogs dealt mainly with farming life and the spontaneity of the domestic and wild animals with whom she shares her farm. 

Southdown Duvets contacted their database of duvet buyers about the book and received an overwhelming response, raising over £2,000. Jessica is delighted to see Big Issue vendors back on their pitches and is also now back to writing her weekly words for Big Issue. All’s wool that ends wool.

In the Repair of Soles and Souls – Jessica Cross

In late March 2020, my Big Issue account manager rang me. The anxiety in her voice was palpable. The country had just been locked down and the implications for the Big Issue vendors was swiftly becoming painfully apparent. With shops closed, the vendors on the High Street would have no customers for their Big Issue hard copies. With this traditional sales model imploding, the cold commercial decision for an advertiser in the magazine would be to pull the financial support. It was of particular concern for me, since just a week prior, I had renewed my advertising campaign for another 4 months. No wonder Jenny was worried.   

I told her not fret. In the first instance, I stand by my commitments and never renege on a deal but, specific to the Big Issue, I told her there was never a more important time to stand behind the organisation.  

Fast forward 2 years. The Big Issue management astutely handled the crisis by moving more to subscription and digital based outlets and channelled hard copy sales through supermarkets. For my bedding company, Southdown Duvets, lockdown was a boom. With folk furloughed and house-bound, the entire home improvement sector benefitted from a pent-up spending spree. My sales, therefore, more than compensated for my dormant advertising spend.   

But lockdown gave us time to think. While it is said you cannot appreciate the trials and tribulations of others until you have walked in their shoes, it was patently obvious that lockdown for vendors must have been downright horrible. And there we were at Southdown Duvets with an archive of past blogs written specifically for the Big Issue. So, we decided to collate our favourites in a book which we called Laughing With The Lambs. True to its title, the blogs dealt mainly with my farming life and the mad spontaneity of the domestic and wild animals with whom I shared my farm. We then appealed to our database of duvet buyers asking for one-off support: buy copies of Laughing With The Lambs with proceeds to go to the Big Issue.  

The response was overwhelming and Southdown Duvets sent a healthy donation to support Big Issue vendors. The project highlighted a number of things for me. There are so many good, caring people out there of which my duvet customers feature prominently. And they collectively recognise the good that the Big Issue does and has been doing for years. But for me, the Big Issue has given me complete editorial latitude to write my weekly blogs. This freedom has allowed me not only to be mindful of the need to walk regularly in someone else’s shoes, but to appreciate the importance of knowing when to give those shoes back, hopefully in a better state of repair, to the original owner. Because this, in essence, is what the Big Issue does, and does so well. And, of course, the repairing of the sole inevitably leads to the repairing of the soul.  

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

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