Opinion

The days may draw darker but there is a new shot of hope

2020 has shown that in times of need The Big Issue’s friends and supporters, like you, rise and carry us all through, writes editor Paul McNamee

Back in March, a remarkable thing happened. Not that thing. Related to that, but not exactly that.

Out of the first lockdown came our call. We asked that you got behind The Big Issue as we removed vendors from the streets. We called on you to help us to help our vendors as their income dried to zero. And you did.

With no hesitation, so many of you got on board with our push for subscriptions and donated to our vendor support fund. Within just a few weeks we were able to hand money to vendors. More than £600,000 in cash, or shopping vouchers or whatever useful things we could get to them over the lockdown period. It was an incredible thing.

One moment stands out. On a particular Thursday morning the first of the new subscriptions that you took started landing on doormats. Through the day, you began to share images on social media. At first slowly, then in a glorious flood. And there was something incredibly moving seeing those images and brief films. The thought that out of a genuine existential crisis a solution was being found. And that in Britain there was deep and abiding affection for The Big Issue. We’ve known that it existed but having it presented like that just knocked my socks off.

It was only a few weeks ago but the sensation is hardwired now. Goosebumps and emotions rise at the memory.

There was a sense around that similar emotions were triggered when, despite expert guidance on a Covid vaccine urging caution and making it clear that nothing was coming until we were well into spring, up popped Pfizer.

Suddenly, something was on the way, and soon. For a number of people who need it most this could be before Christmas. Not just a chink at the end of a long tunnel, this was suddenly a bright shining floodlight.

While hope doesn’t deliver results, it makes the moment when you’re stuck bearable

Not for the first time, many people urge an abundance of caution. There are hurdles still to overcome. It’ll be a logistical operation unlike anything we’ve ever seen when it begins. And we’ll have to hope that it takes as it did in trials. There remain questions about how some people in society who need it but don’t necessarily have sharp elbows, not least those who are homeless, will be moved along the queue. That, of course, is before anti-vaxxers crawl out with their nonsense.

But it provides hope, and while hope doesn’t deliver results, it makes the moment when you’re stuck bearable.

There is a governmental working group currently planning how to manage Christmas in the UK. Headed by Michael Gove and involving all devolved administrations, they’re meeting to work out joint approaches. Who knows what will come out of it, but at least there is something happening.

I’m aware that people say Christmas starts far too early every year. But I make no apologies for having it on The Big Issue cover now. Why not! Why not bring something that can lift the spirits!

Next week, we move even deeper into it. It’s that point where the number of pages go up and the cover price increases so more money can go into our vendors’ pockets. As another lockdown grips, it feels like this extra boost is more vital than ever.

It will not be an easy run to Christmas this year. But 2020 has shown that in times of need The Big Issue’s friends and supporters, like you, rise and carry us all through.

And then we can get emotional all over again.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue 

@pauldmcnamee   

Big Issue vendors need your help now more than ever. More than 1,000 vendors are out of work because of the second lockdown in England. They can’t sell the magazine and they can’t rely on the income they need.

The Big Issue is helping our vendors with supermarket vouchers and gift payments but we need your help to do that.

Please buy this week’s magazine from the online shop or take out a subscription to make sure we can continue to support our vendors over this difficult period. You can even link your subscription to your local vendor with our new online map.

Thank you all so much for your ongoing support.

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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