Big Issue Vendor

An independent bookshop is using Twitter to buy books for homeless people

Big Green Bookshop have followed up their novel #buyastrangerabook initiative with #buyShelterabook this Christmas

Twitter is not known for being the merriest place on Earth at the moment, even at the so-called ‘most wonderful time of the year’, but an independent bookshop owner is changing that while helping homeless people access books.

Simon Key of the Big Green Bookshop in Wood Green has already highlighted the power of social media with their popular #buyastrangerabook initiative which asked Twitter users to pay forward for a book to be given to a stranger.

Now, Simon has unveiled a new version of the social media project with #buyShelterabook, this time asking customers to pledge to buy a book for homelessness charity Shelter.

Eschewing the ‘every Wednesday’ format of the first campaign, the Shelter project launched on Monday and has already sparked more than £2,000 in book sales while Big Green Bookshop will throw in an additional £250.

Simon insists he has been stunned by the response already with three days still to run before the project wraps up on Saturday.


There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.

“What is so great about the people that I have been lucky enough to meet on Twitter is that they really do get what I’m doing and they really do care,” said Simon, who has also set up the Independent Bookshop Alliance this year. “It’s a big relief sometimes because Twitter can be such an angry place. It’s nice to do something positive and show that positive things can happen on Twitter.

“I never know how something is going to be received before I do it so I’m always staggered by the generosity of people. The response has been amazing.”

Rising homelessness and foodbank figures were behind Simon’s decision to choose Shelter. Just today the homelessness charity released stark figures estimating that more than 130,000 children will be without a stable home this Christmas.

And with more than 800 libraries closing their doors since 2010, both the access to books that they bring and the ability to boost the literacy skills that are critical to escaping poverty are no longer readily available for society’s most vulnerable people.

“Homelessness is becoming more and more of an issue in the UK,” said Simon. “You can see the rising use of foodbanks and the impact on mental health that, in my personal opinion, has come from austerity in the last few years. I think in this country the people who are affected are the ones who are living in tougher conditions than the ones who can afford to cough up a little bit more.

“We have done a couple of things with Shelter this year and they do a great job so it was a no-brainer really – it just seemed like the right thing to do and the right time.”

A Shelter spokesperson said: “We are very grateful to the Big Green Bookshop for their support. With over 130,000 children finding themselves without a home this Christmas, we need as much support as we get to turn this crisis around.”