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Opinion

For The Big Issue, 2020 has been a year of goodwill like no other

If the year has proved anything it’s that hope endures

The most remarkable thing is that we’re still here.

When the shutters were brought down in March, the future of The Big Issue was immediately uncertain. For almost 30 years we had been a street magazine. While other titles became less reliant on paper sales, we remained proudly of paper, and of the street. We were successful in providing a means for the most marginalised to work their way back from poverty and from the edge.

But how do you do that if there is no street? How do you help, and how do you stay around so that when you are needed later you are ready?

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With pace, focus and remarkable steel. The change that everybody at The Big Issue delivered still astounds me and fills me with pride. We changed utterly. We moved, in a heartbeat, to become a subscription-based publisher. We went into shops. We built an app and sorted out things digitally. We launched a podcast that allowed our vendors to speak to their customers and their customers to them. We had a remarkable raffle with money-can’t-buy prizes.

We were up, we were out, and you had our back. I knew then we’d get through it. Thank you

And we became, for a time, a handout rather than a hand up organisation. This is anathema to our DNA. But there was no choice. We had to. We supported our vendors with nearly £700,000 in cash, or vouchers, or whatever they needed.

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As we moved back to the streets, as our vendors moved back, we helped them with whatever PPE was needed. We helped, and continue to help, vendors be able to accept cashless payments. And the digital development, that is an essential part of our future, is not slowing.

None of this could have happened without you, our readers. This is not a trite platitude. Without you taking out subscriptions, or going to the shops or passing messages on social media and donating or encouraging others to do all these things, we’d be gone. The moment so many of you received your first subscription copies and proudly shared the covers on social media remains one of the most emotional moments in this whole period. We were up, we were out, and you had our back. I knew then we’d get through it. Thank you.

And thanks to everybody within The Big Issue. Frequently we, correctly, shine a light on those outside who help at the most important moments. But after this most difficult of years I want to thank the people within. The frontline staff, the backroom support staff, the overseers and the editorial and production and freelance and advertising teams. So many people who didn’t pause, they just knuckled down. We have produced an additional copy of the magazine this Christmas so that our vendors have a better chance of selling more. Nobody baulked.

We’re not out of the woods, of course. Across Britain, there has been a darkening again as restrictions tighten ahead of Christmas. It can feel grim.

But if the year has proved anything, if The Big Issue continuing to pulse, and to help, proves anything, it’s that hope endures and the good will out. This does not mean hardship has gone. But there are good people all around who want to do the right thing. These people will not fade. We all know them and while we all feel a little uneven at Christmas, we should make a point of thanking them. Because they’ve all helped us. Merry Christmas. Here’s to all that lies ahead.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue 

@PauldMcNamee

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