Many vulnerable people, including Big Issue sellers, faced a year like no other in 2020. Lockdowns snatched away what is often our vendors only source of income, sometimes overnight, leaving little to no time to find support elsewhere. Others already put at a disadvantage in society found limited opportunities to improve their lives reduced further.
We have stepped into fill that void in any way we can, giving our sellers support payments, resources and someone to talk through the problems. But readers and innovators have also gone above and beyond to make sure people less well-off don’t lose out.
As we go into another lockdown this help is needed like never before. Here’s who is making a difference in these testing times.
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69-71. Laurie, Hamish and Fergus
The absence of Big Issue vendors from the streets during the first lockdown didn’t go unnoticed by big-hearted boys Laurie Lyon, 10, Hamish Lyon, eight, and Fergus Gordon, seven, in Perthshire, who held their own mini sleep-out to raise cash for vendors.
They said they got an insight into how difficult life must be for rough sleepers and the experience inspired Laurie to do even more. He fasted for 26 hours, raising hundreds of pounds.
He says: “It makes me happy to know I’ve done something to help other people. It’s important for people to have a safe home and I’m really glad I can support Big Issue vendors.”
72. Jacob Hill-Gowing
Before lockdown in March, Jacob Hill-Gowing had no experience of cycling on the road, and the exercise bike in his flat was used as a clothes horse. But on March 22 that changed in a big way as the 28-year-old got on his bike for The Big Issue Foundation, embarking on ‘Le Tour De Flat’.
For the next 41 days, he pedalled an astonishing 3,500 km (2,200 miles) – the full distance of the Tour De France, finishing his solo race 15 days ahead of schedule and smashing his £5,000 fundraising goal (he’s currently on £16,881 from more than 500 generous supporters).
Jacob was inspired to get seriously saddle sore by Big Issue vendor Stevie, who sells the magazine outside the building where he works for an ad agency in East London.
“I’ve been quite friendly with Stevie for the past three years,” Jacob tells us. “I always have a chat with him when I go to lunch and he always catches me out when I’m late for work and lets me know about it.
“His livelihood is around interacting with people and seeing people every day so I can imagine that this self-isolation has been hard for him not only financially but from a social perspective too.”
Jacob livestreamed the entire Tour De Flat, and for the final stage – including a surprise sprint finish – he was joined by another lockdown legend, BBC sports commentator Rob Walker and other special guests.
With his incredible solo breakaway triumph, Jacob has cemented his position in the Yellow Jersey when it comes to fundraising.
73. Simon Keeling
Former BBC and GMTV weatherman Simon Keeling used pilots’ need to keep up their meteorology knowledge during lockdown to raise nearly £2,000 for Big Issue vendors.
The self-confessed anorak is provided training for aviators, sailors, farmers and TV weather presenters through his WeatherSchool, established 20 years ago and classroom-based until Covid-19 swept the UK.
Switching to online courses, Keeling offered free webinars for pilots with an encouraged donation to his fundraiser.
He said: “Homelessness could happen to almost any of us at any time. I’m aware of how quickly situations may turn around, and I am grateful for the life that I have. With the money we raise I hope the TBIF can help as many as possible, keeping them on their feet until life returns to normal.”
74/75. Andy and Carol Leslie
Andy and Carol Leslie were set to travel from their home in West Sussex to North East Scotland for a school reunion dinner in April.
When that event was cancelled, they got on their bikes for The Big Issue. Over 24 days, they cycled the equivalent distance to Stonehaven and back – a whopping 1,128 miles – raising money for The Big Issue Foundation.
Andy says: “While vendors were unable to sell the magazine, as well as taking out a subscription, we were keen to do something else as it is clear that our most vulnerable fellow citizens need support more than ever.”
More than 1,000 people with severe mental health issues, addictions or learning disabilities have been helped into employment by the Mental Health and Employment Partnership, backed by The Big Issue’s social investment arm Big Issue Invest.
That’s 1,000 lives changed, long-term, for the better by this social purpose company, set up in 2015 by Big Issue Invest. MHEP offers tailored packages including rapid job searches and continued mental health support, and the results have been phenomenal, with many individuals able to work for the first time in areas like construction and gardening. Schemes like this gave hope, as well as opportunity, to people through a challenging year.