Labour MP Jess Phillips has taken to the streets to get a taste of life as a Big Issue vendor.
The Birmingham Yardley politician joined Big Issue vendor Michael Hadley, 25, on his pitch on Piccadilly Arcade in the second city on April 26 to experience the challenges of selling the magazine first-hand. Phillips admitted that she “felt invisible” after spending an hour on the pitch, selling two copies of the magazine.
“It was a good experience and the sun was shining throughout,” said Phillips, who was first elected to the Birmingham Yardley constituency in 2013. “I managed to sell two magazines – the first person I sold to had no idea who I was but I think the second one knew that I was an MP.
“Michael was very nice and he gave me a few tips on how to sell, which was very helpful.”
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Phillips, who featured in The Big Issue’s Letter To My Younger Self section in February, admitted that the eye-opening experience has changed her perspective on the challenges involved in selling the magazine.
“After the experience, I’ll always buy The Big Issue. I know a lot of people walk past vendors – I have done it in the past – and I will make sure, as a politician, that I will do all I can for people on the streets,” said Phillips.
Been out this afternoon with Big issue vendors in Birmingham, I was a vendor for an hour. pic.twitter.com/xlX5NdvHx1
— Jess Phillips (@jessphillips) April 26, 2018
“I found it to be a fascinating experience to see how people ignore you and how you can feel invisible. I felt a lot of people were looking away from me.
“Selling the magazine first-hand showed me the challenges that people face and the level of independence that they get when they are doing something gainful with their life like this.”
Big Issue West Midlands team leader Jon Hyde said: “It was a pleasure to have Jess sell the magazine as she really engaged with the vendor and got stuck in to the whole process without any pretension.
“I’d like to thank her for taking time out of her busy work and family life to sell the magazine and it was certainly interesting that Jess felt invisible while wearing the tabard, I hope it was an enlightening experience for her.”