Big Issue Vendor

Homeless people and prisoners tell lockdown stories in new exhibition

The Paperchains project will document the impacts of Covid-19 on the ‘less heard’ voices of isolated communities

A new project aims to give a platform to the Covid-19 experiences of isolated communities whose voices are “often less heard”.

Paperchains will offer a space to share the lockdown stories of prisoners, homeless people, the Armed Forces and NHS workers, to ensure that their experiences are recorded for generations to come.

Organisers are inviting submissions in the form of various mediums — from a journal entry, short story or poem to a drawing, sketch or painting.

Bronze, silver and gold awards will be given to the best entries, with a curated selection set to go on display in an exhibition planned for next year. An accompanying book will also be made available.

The Paperchains project is the brainchild of author A.G. Smith, whose work in prison libraries across Staffordshire has been highlighted by C4’s Secret Millionaire and BBC Radio 4’s PM.

In an article for Inside Time, the national newspaper for prisoners and detainees, he said that his aim was to create “a proud record of the voices that are crying out to be heard just as much as everyone else.”

He added: “I want us to create something that future generations will study as they try to understand what this time must have been like for those who lived through it.

The deadline for submissions is 5 July 2020 (which also happens to be the date that the NHS was established in 1948. Entries should be sent by post to Paperchains, PO Box 7482, Stourbridge, DY8 9HH or via email to


The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

Here at The Big Issue, we’re proud to support the project. We also recognise the need to give a voice to those who are so often silenced – now more than ever.

That’s why we recently launched our first ever podcast, The Big Miss You, which highlights the devastating impacts — both financially and emotionally— that lockdown has had on our vendors.

The weekly podcast is also a celebration of Big Issue vendors’ place at the heart of their communities, offering a space for them and their readers to leave messages for each other.

You can listen and subscribe via Apple, Spotify, Google, Acast, Stitcher, TuneIn and YouTube.