New exhibition puts The Big Issue at the heart of British magazine publishing

Hold the front page!

The first edition of The Big Issue, published in September 1991, signalled a historic moment in the media landscape, and from today it features in a new exhibition tracing the story of Britain’s independent magazines. A new exhibition at London’s Somerset House called Print! Tearing It Up documents how certain titles shook up the magazine industry.

“It shows how the concerns of art, social activism and dissent can combine to create a powerful force for change, and magazines such as The Big Issue have been the blueprint for today’s generation of independent publishers,” says Claire Catterall, Somerset House’s Senior Curator.

Tracing the history of independent magazines from the early 20th century to 1991 when The Big Issue was founded, the exhibition celebrates the resurgence of the magazine in the digital age.

“The experience of reading a magazine – of picking it up, leafing through the pages, being delighted by the graphics, the photography, the smell of ink and the texture of paper – is one of the great pleasures in life,” Catterall continues.

“It’s therefore unsurprising that the printed magazine has continued to have such a hold on us while all around us digital media expands exponentially. But while many newsstand favourites have fallen by the wayside, it’s the independently produced magazine, such as The Big Issue, that has thrived.”


Thanks to the hard working vendors, and loyal readers, The Big Issue is riding high with three consecutive years of circulation growth. Sales today are at their highest since 2012 – a seven per cent increase in three years – with 83,073 copies sold each week.

Print! Tearing It Up features a wide range of titles, from Oz to Private Eye, but what they all have in common is that they gave new and alternative voices a platform for the first time. This is a tradition we proudly carry on to this day.

‘Print! Tearing It Up’ June 8 to August 22, Aldwych, London;

While you’re here, we’ve a small favour to ask. Our Activist Army cover has been chosen as one of the 10 best magazine covers in Britain in 2017.

The Big Issue no 1254

In May 2017, we called on the people to vote for change and join our #ActivistArmy with this front cover.

Once again we ask you to vote, but this time to help us bag the coveted Cover Of The Year award once again.

Head here to cast your vote.