Opinion

Big Issue vendors are back - and it's all thanks to you

You kept us here, all the way through every day and every week of the Covid crisis. This isn’t the first time I’ve said thank you. But it isn’t a message that diminishes, says Paul McNamee

big issue vendors

Here we are again. Again. December feels very far away. March 2020 is a vibration in time.

I’ve got to the Creedence Clearwater Revival listening period of lockdown. No idea how that happened. Maybe it’s a hair thing.

This week is significant for our vendors in England and Wales. They’re back out. And boy have they been ready (our Scottish comrades will join them in a fortnight, we hope).

Hundreds of our righteous crew will be on their pitches, PPE’d to the max, ready to work, ready to meet, ready to be in the world all over again.

They are why we are here.

You and thousands like you who gave us a hand up when we had to put our hand out

Each week away from their potential to earn has been a long, long week. The mental toll has been heavier still.

When we went into the first lockdown we believed it’d be for three months. All efforts to stay upright were targeted around that.

But then rolling restrictions hit like ever bigger cold waves and we knew we were going to need a bigger boat.

One of the questions I’ve been asked most frequently over the last year was whether The Big Issue was coping OK. And each time I repeat The Tale. It bears repeating, particularly as we welcome so many readers back. It makes me both proud and, always, emotional.

The Big Issue turned the whole thing around. In a heartbeat, staring down the barrel, potentially at the end, The Big Issue took flight.

First as a subscription edition, then into shops (that change is of such radical significance it still almost knocks me over to think about it), then as a digital edition, then the podcast, then a new QR version sold in independent newsagents.

That barely covers the scale of what was done.

There was a massive fundraising effort. There were new ambassadors recruited.

The change in our online presence and output has been of a fundamental order – and much more is to come. Quietly, other parts of The Big Issue, like Big Issue Invest, were out helping other businesses and organisations as they fought to keep afloat.

The significant part of the story is that though we faced the end of The Big Issue we have managed to bring in enough money to hand out over £1 MILLION to vendors, as cash, or supermarket vouchers, or whatever else they may have needed.

I keep reminding people of this because it’s a hell of a thing to have done.

I also remind them that it wasn’t The Big Issue’s money. It was yours. You and thousands like you who gave us a hand up when we had to put our hand out.

You kept us here, all the way through every day and every week of the Covid crisis.

This isn’t the first time I’ve said thank you. But it isn’t a message that diminishes.

None of us really know what will come next. But we’re ready.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

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