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Big Issue vendors stand on the streets working towards a better future. And you stand with them

In reaction to the Manchester attack, there was confusion, anger and sorrow. How do we move beyond impotent fury? The people of the great city of Manchester led the way. They came together. They chose togetherness, to react as one and to do what they could, to look ahead.

In that spirit, here (with more than a nod to the celebratory iconography of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper album, which has marked half a century since its release) we share stories of how communities unite to be stronger because they are together. This is not a rose-tinted Pollyanna view of an unjust and cruel world but because you tell us frequently how The Big Issue vendors are part of your communities, how they can frequently be the glue and the hub of so many places. Alongside some of the iconic faces who feature on the cover, and have given exclusive interviews and warm support to The Big Issue, buyers and readers of the magazine have enormous impact on the lives of our sellers. They stand on the streets working towards a better future. And you stand with them.

Last month we were sent a photograph by Kerry Hughes Wright (above). She told us about her vendor, Peter, who sells the magazine at Blackfriars Bridge in London.

“Over the last two years I’ve got to know Peter quite well and always look forward to catching up with him on a Friday. One day, as we were chatting, another customer of Peter’s stopped. Peter introduced me to Barry who had brought Peter a cup of coffee. Within a few minutes another of Peter’s regular customers also stopped to chat and then a lady who Peter has introduced me to previously also stopped to say hello.”

She added: “For him to be on first-name terms with many of his regular customers and for people to look forward to seeing him and chatting  I think is tremendous and testament to Peter’s positive spirit and attitude.”

Peter is not alone. Every day we hear from readers, telling us about their local vendor. If a seller is not on their usual pitch at an expected time, we receive concerned messages. We get emails from former vendors telling us about how they have moved on in life and how selling The Big Issue and receiving support from customers was an important stepping stone on their journey.

Here are a few recent messages: 

I buy your magazine from our local seller John, in Earlsdon, Coventry. He is well liked and a bit of a celebrity in the area due to his friendly and polite nature and helpfulness.

Siobhan Shilton

Hats off to the The Big Issue seller in Yarm High Street, Stockton-on-Tees. He had a smile for everyone today.

Lydia French

Last week two vendors, John Gregg and Rose Fu, were presented with ‘Local Gem’ awards by Muswellife, an online forum for residents of Muswell Hill, north London. The Local Gems salute “people who go above and beyond every day and may not get any recognition”.

Rose said: “We are grateful that we have been welcomed into the community. Selling The Big Issue is just part of what we do when we are on our pitches – we are local tourist guides, social workers and help people with their shopping. The best part of the job for me is being able to look after dogs while their owners shop.”

Each week we profile one of the men or women getting a hand up, not a handout and the reaction is always great. Likewise for vendor Kevin, who last week laid out his own poignant tribute to the victims of the Manchester bombing at his pitch in Winchester. Kevin placed 22 floral tributes on the pavement surrounded by the words ‘God bless’. His gesture was not lost on passers-by, who shared his message across social media.

winchester

The support you give vendors, even if it is something as simple as saying hello and buying a magazine, can be life-changing. Last week Laura Bloomfield got in touch. She sold the magazine in Edinburgh in the 1990s after becoming homeless at the age of 17.

“My life at that time was chaotic and I ended up leaving Edinburgh and moving to Norwich. I overcame my drug addiction and by the time I was 19 I had taken a job in a factory.

“I was very clear that I wanted to work with the homeless. By the time I was 20 I had got myself to a place where I was able to do this emotionally and mentally and I took a support worker job in a direct access hostel. Now at the age of 37 I am the operations and services manager of a charity in Norfolk, aiming services at the most disadvantaged – and those that would otherwise fall through the gaps in services.

“I own my home, have a beautiful daughter and a husband who loves and cares for me – I broke the cycle! Over the last 18 years I have never forgotten standing on that corner in Edinburgh or collecting my magazines, or some of the relationships and friendship I made as a result.

“The Big Issue is still very important to me now and I always buy from vendors and stop to connect. I understand that single acts of kindness build resilience more than anything else – and that cup of coffee handed over with no strings can make a huge difference to someone’s life. I have a lot to be thankful for.”

Within communities across Britain, there is hope.

Join The Ride Out Recession Alliance

The Ride Out Recession Alliance (RORA) will develop and implement practical steps and solutions to prevent families losing their homes, and help people remain in employment.

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Vendor martin Hawes

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