It has been 15 long weeks of isolation for The Big Issue’s vendors – and that ends today. The Covid-19 lockdown brought an immediate and abrupt end to street sales of the magazine. To protect vendors we had to remove them from the streets from March 20.
Shop sales, subscriptions and donations, readers and friends have helped us support vendors since. We have been able to give out shopping vouchers, help with bills and supply things as diverse as a rowing machine and a Beano subscription to keep sellers healthy both physically and mentally.
The fresh air, the cycle and getting back to work is what I’m most looking forward to
Today they make a triumphant return. It’s not the same as before – we have provided vendors with PPE and implemented a number of health and safety measures to keep them safe – but it is a step towards normality.
Ahead of the resumption of sales, we caught up with vendors from all over the UK to see what they had missed the most from the stint where they couldn’t sell the magazine and what they were most looking forward to about getting back.
You’ll have to buy the magazine from your local vendor to see them all – but here’s what Newcastle Central Station seller Earl John Charlton and Amanda Hill, who sells the magazine outside Waterstone’s and the Hilton in Cardiff as well as in Pontypridd.
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Earl has been shielding due to underlying health conditions and is relishing the chance to get back outside.
He said: “I’ll be running down the road at six o’clock in the morning to get to the office! I’m going to be like Forrest Gump and you’re not going to stop me. I’ll be cycling into the office to buy my magazine and it’ll take me down the Tyne – all I’ve seen is my back wall for months. The fresh air, the cycle and getting back to work is what I’m most looking forward to.”
As for Amanda, The Big Issue has been supporting her throughout lockdown and even bought her a rowing machine after her arthritis in her back limited her ability to walk.
For her, the chance to get out selling the magazine gives her some much-needed interaction having spent the majority focusing on caring for her partner.
“I can’t wait to get back on my feet again and have the chance to speak to people and spend time with my customers. I’ve been missing that big time and how selling the magazine builds up my confidence when I can take the time to speak to people.”