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Activism

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw dons a tabard in Big Issue sell-off challenge

He sold the magazine in the city alongside local vendor Will Adams

Labour’s Ben Bradshaw MP has tried his hand at selling The Big Issue in Exeter.

He joined vendor Will Adams outside the city’s Northernhay Gardens for 20 minutes on Friday to experience the challenges that sellers face every day.

Bradshaw was shown the ropes by Will, selling one magazine, before managing to flog another four on his own.

And the MP, who has been in the seat since 1997, insists that he was pleased with his performance in the heat.

“It was hot! Probably the hottest pitch in Exeter today! It was a positive experience and everyone was really friendly,” he said.

“A lot of people recognised me, I’ve been MP here for 21 years. I’m not sure if the recognition was a help or a hindrance.

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“I followed Will’s advice! He was very impressive! He’s polite and thankful for the hand up that The Big Issue has given him.

“A lot of people don’t understand that it’s a self-help scheme, a vendor’s income depends on them and their sales. It’s an impressive and positive model of helping people who are in need, as well as reminding the wider public of the housing crisis and the issue of homelessness.”

Bradshaw is the latest politician to don the iconic red tabard and sell the magazine in the last 12 months after his Labour colleague Jess Phillips and Welsh AMs Bethan Sayed and the late Carl Sargeant.

And, like them, he insisted that the experience had given him a renewed appreciation for the issue of homelessness as well as vendors’ place in the community.

“A lot of people have genuine concerns about homelessness and rough sleeping, if they want to really help they could buy the magazine, and they’ll know where the money is going,” said Bradshaw.

“If they don’t want to buy, they should talk to the vendor. If they have the time, they should stop and ask about their life. You can see how the vendors have a relationship with their regulars, that’s how Will got his place to live, it’s an important relationship and it reinforces support for the vendor.”

As for Will, he enjoyed the chance to educate the MP about the realities of life as a vendor.

“Today has enabled me to bring more light to the Big Issue’s work and how it has changed my life,” he said.

“Sharing my story with Ben is really important to me. More MPs and public figures should understand.

“I would hope that today can help shift the public perceptions and certain stereotypes the general public have of Big Issue vendors. The Big Issue has changed my life and I would still be homeless without it.”

Images: Bridget Batchelor

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