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Food banks, Kill the Bill and Doctor Who: The Big Issue’s most-read stories of 2021

2021 was quite the year. Check out the most popular stories on The Big Issue website from the last 12 months.

2021 was a big year for The Big Issue, with a new-look magazine, new website and growing news team to help shine a light on the causes of poverty and homelessness, as well as its solutions.

It brought record numbers of people to The Big Issue website for the mix of news on the biggest social issues affecting modern Britain, culture stories from some of the biggest names and need-to-know releases, insightful opinion and advice for getting the most out of life.

Readers can still subscribe to get a print and digital copy of the magazine and link their subscription directly to their local vendor through our online map, ensuring they get 50 per cent of the net proceeds. 

These are the most-read stories on BigIssue.com in 2021.

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10. How many people are homeless in the UK? And what can you do about it?

homelessness

Finland has virtually eradicated homelessness, so why can’t the UK? The Everyone In scheme during the pandemic proved that where there’s a will there’s a way.

Understanding the scale of the problem is the first step in solving it, so we keep this article up to date with the latest figures on homelessness and what you can do to help people in need. It was one of our most-read stories of 2021.

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9. Roger Taylor: ‘I just wish I’d got to say goodbye to Freddie’

Queen drummer Roger Taylor. Image: Xavier Vila
Queen drummer Roger Taylor. Image: Xavier Vila

The Big Issue’s Letter To My Younger Self series makes a point of interviewing interesting people, asking them to look back on their life and give advice to themselves at 16.

This wide-ranging interview with Roger Taylor covered his career as the drummer for Queen, a weekend with David Bowie, Live Aid and more. But it was his comments about the late, great Freddie Mercury which struck a chord.

“I was literally on my way to see him, less than half a mile away, when they rang me in my car and told me he had gone,” he told Jane Graham.

“I just stopped the car on Kensington High Street, in a kind of shock. Because even when you know somebody is going to die, it’s still such a shock when they actually do. 

Check out the rest of this year’s best interviews from the series here.

8. The COP26 menu is ‘like serving cigarettes at a lung cancer conference’

A cheeseburger at COP26 has a carbon footprint of 3.4 kg, double the UK average for a single meal. File picture from Pexels

For two weeks in November, attentions turned to Glasgow for the UN’s COP26 climate conference. It was billed as make or break, a last chance for the planet to agree on how to turn the tide on climate change and protect our world for future generations.

Eagle-eyed Big Issue reporter was on the scene and couldn’t help but notice something out of place in the official conference canteen. The menu had studiously detailed the carbon footprint of each of its items, but many were far above the level necessary to reduce emissions.

“It’s like serving cigarettes at a lung cancer conference. As long as such illogical decisions are being made, the climate emergency will never be resolved,” said one critic.

7. Universal credit: What is it and why does the £20 cut matter? 

Universal credit, The Conservative government’s overhaul of the social support system has been a constant source of criticism and 2021 brought many of the conversations to a head.

Claimants doubled over the pandemic as the economic impact affected millions, causing Chancellor Rishi Sunak increased payments by £20 per week in March 2020, only to take it away again in September 2021.

Campaigners insisted he not go through with what was, in effect, a £1,000 a year cut to the incomes of some of the most vulnerable people in the country, and The Big Issue’s Hannah Westwater tracked the debate and its impact throughout the year in this regularly updated explainer article.

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6. What are the Kill the Bill protests?

kill the bill protests
Protesters on the Kill the Bill march in London, April 3. Paul Easton/Flickr

The government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is designed to introduce new police powers and rules around crime and justice across England and Wales. It has been strongly opposed. Critics say it threatens to put severe limitations on protests, expand stop and search powers, and put more people at risk of homelessness.

Thousands joined Kill The Bill protests across the country as the legislation went through parliament, with even former prime minister Theresa May voicing her concerns, telling Home Secretary Priti Patel to consider the “fine line between popular and being populist” because “our freedoms depend on it”.

This regularly updated explainer made sure to keep track of the protests and debate.

5. William Shatner: Humanity won’t survive to reach a Star Trek future

‘When I die, I want my atoms to nourish a tree’ Photo: © Glenn Hunt / Newspix / Headpress / eyevine

What kind of 90 year old goes around riding horses and petting sharks? William Shatner does, of course.

His conversation with Steven MacKenzie covered the light and dark, about staying busier than most people well into his later years and the threat of global warming.

“I’ve seen maps of what the ocean is going to do to Bangladesh,” he said. “There’s 60 million people in Bangladesh? It’s going to be underwater! Where are those people going to go? India already has too many people. Pakistan, are you kidding me?”

4. James Bowen reveals statue of Street Cat Bob in London: ‘It’s his legacy’

Former Big Issue vendor James Bowen found Bob, a ginger tom injured and abandoned, in 2007. He took care of the young cat – who in turn gave him a reason to get up each morning. The story of how they became inseparable, busking and selling The Big Issue on the streets of London, quickly became a bestseller.

James was heartbroken when Bob died in 2020, along with millions of fans worldwide, so a statue in Islington Green, where the pair would busk and eat lunch, is a fitting tribute to one of London’s most famous felines.

3. Viral photo of freezing soup kitchen queue branded a ‘national failure’

Glasgow soup kitchen queue
Kindness Homeless Street Team say more than 200 people queued up in sub-zero temperatures for food. Credit: Kindness Homeless Street Team

Food bank use has soared during the pandemic, with national network the Trussell Trust reporting they were giving out more than 2,000 parcels a day across the UK in November.

Kindness Homeless Street Team has been running a soup kitchen in Glasgow’s George Square since 2019, this photo of hundreds of people queuing in the snow caught the country’s attention in February.

“The problem is that if we don’t do it then who is going to? It’s about stepping up to the mantle and making sure that these people are supported and services are provided for them,” said Andy Lockhard, a volunteer with Kindness Homeless.

2. 8 Hollywood A-listers Brian Cox trashes Logan Roy-style in his new book

Brian Cox Succession
Logan Roy is top of the table in Succession. Photo: LANDMARK MEDIA / Alamy Stock Photo

As megalomaniac media mogul Logan Roy in smash hit series Succession, actor Brian Cox rarely shies away from making his feelings known. Turns out Cox isn’t too far removed from the character in real life either.

He looks back at his career in new autobiography Putting the Rabbit in the Hat, a book our Steven MacKenzie researched ahead of their November interview.

He found some quotes of solid gold as Cox shared his opinions on co-stars across the years. Steven Seagal?

“Steven Seagal is as ludicrous in real life as he appears on screen. He radiates a studied serenity, as though he’s on a higher plane to the rest of us, and while he’s certainly on a different plane, no doubt about that, it’s probably not a higher one.”

There’s more, much more, in the second most-read story on The Big Issue website in 2021.

1. Christopher Eccleston: ‘I’m currently sleeping in the Tardis’

Arts Interview 1463
After 15 years Christopher Eccleston returns to Doctor Who in four new audio adventures. Words: Adrian Lobb Image: Tony Whitmore

Christopher Eccleston’s work as a Big Issue Ambassador has always kept him close, so when he recorded a new four-part series of a Doctor Who audio adventure, our Adrian Lobb was among the first to know.

He left his first stint as the Doctor amid acrimony but is still there for his fans.

“I like to make [them] happy,” says Eccleston. “I have my passions as you know – reggae, rocksteady, ska, soul music – there’s certain things that excite me. So I completely understand that in people. And I’m happy if they’re happy.”

The interview was the most-read story on The Big Issue site in 2021.

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