The signed and framed Big Issue covers designed by Ben Eine, mounted on the wall alongside his latest series of prints, said it all: Celebrate.
And last night at the Jealous Gallery in Shoreditch, London, that is exactly what we did. It was the opening night of a pop-up exhibition of Eine’s art, but more than that, it was a night to celebrate 200,000,000 sales of the Big Issue. Two hundred million magazines sold. Quite an achievement.
Among those celebrating this milestone was our recent cover star Julia Bradbury and her partner Gerard Cunningham. Bradbury would end the night a proud owner of an Eine print, having caught up with Big Issue co-founder John Bird and Jatinder Budwal, who mentored her on the streets during the making of Famous, Rich and Homeless and so impressed John Bird that he became one of the first baristas working full time for social enterprise coffee cart company, Change Please.
There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
Sky news anchor Kay Burley also headed off into the night with a framed Eine print under her arm, while TV and radio host Colin Murray and rising star of the art world Charming Baker were also in attendance.
Our work must begin again. We must do something about the crisis in this country
After Big Issue editor Paul McNamee made a speech celebrating 200million sales and highlighting just what that means to the thousands of vendors that the Big Issue has given a hand up since 1991, John Bird took to his feet to inject some urgency into proceedings with a blistering rallying cry.
Bird looked back to 1991, when he co-founded the Big Issue, recalling how John Major’s government was shamed into tackling the rising problem of homelessness in the early 1990s. And he had some hard words for David Cameron and co. “Do the present government have the same sense of shame? I don’t think they do,” he said.
— The Big Issue (@BigIssue) April 8, 2016
With homelessness again rising alarmingly, and a particularly worrying number of young people in insecure housing or on the streets, Bird said: “Our work must begin again. We must do something about the crisis in this country. We have to grasp the political nettle.”
A night of celebration, then, but with the acknowledgement that, after 200million sales across the UK, the work of The Big Issue goes on – and is as vital as ever…