Opinion

Paul McNamee: Our podcast is a virtual street corner for vendors and readers

The relationship between our vendors and you, their customer, is the bedrock upon which The Big Issue is built. We need your help to keep that going in socially distanced times

Increasingly, the Covid disease is told in naked numbers. Not just the grim daily toll of lives lost, but of financial costs. The bailout figure for Britain looks set to be £123bn. A staggering amount. Or one Jeff Bezos, give or take.

That said, government borrowing is being predicted to be £298bn for the year. That’s a leap of £243bn on the figure before the crisis hit. Even Amazon’s dime would struggle to touch the sides of that.

The numbers rotate and shift, like the stars that used to circle dizzy cartoon characters after a bump on the head. The R number is around 0.7. It needs to be lower. Actually, it is lower in London. Why is that?

The number of people tested a day in Britain is over 100,000. Though not quite. And not always.

People in more deprived areas die of coronavirus at twice the rate of the more well-off.

You can meet only one person, who isn’t part of your household, in a public place. But what if you chat to another household of more than one who you meet by chance?

Over 300,000 people have died globally from the virus, and 1.5 million are thought to have recovered. Some nations, like Russia, may not be totally transparent.

We haven’t been able to get to that last piece, that bedrock bond and relationship. Until now.

The numbers are unsettling. But behind them, this is about people. The heart of all of this is people. The reason we feel it so hard is not necessarily because of shifting figures, but because those tiny things, those joyful simple moments we took so lightly that we shared with other people, are gone.

Which brings me to The Big Issue podcast. It’s called The Big Miss You. Over the last number of weeks, we have been through many changes at The Big Issue. We’ve totally changed the business model. The streets stalked by that virus were not safe. We withdrew. And our vendors lost their means to make a living.

You rallied. You and so many stood up. It makes my heart leap to think of how thousands of you came and took subscriptions to this magazine; how you stepped into shops and bought it; that you moved to our new app and downloaded there. You gave what you had to help. And that help has allowed us to build resilience against the storm. And, most importantly, for us to get money and support to our vendors.

There has been a missing piece. The relationship between our vendors and you, their customer, is the bedrock upon which The Big Issue is built. Over years these friendships grow and nurture, unbreakable bonds gather, memories are created. During the lockdown, our frontline staff have been loneliness-busters, a source of succour against isolation. But we haven’t been able to get to that last piece, that bedrock bond and relationship. Until now.

The Big Miss You Podcast is a way of allowing messages and greetings, kind words and sad ‘I miss you’s, to be exchanged. It’s imperfect, naturally; it can’t replace the thrill of physically catching up with a friend. But in this time of removal from each other, I’m proud that this is here.

I’m also proud that our first Big Issue podcast is one that has our vendors at its core. It’s our virtual street corner, the place where heads and hearts meet.

And it’s emotional. Hot dog, is it emotional!

Go and find it and listen. Go there now.

And if you want to leave a message, whether you are a vendor or one of their friends, please do. We could get you on to the podcast and the ever-growing network will spread further and carry us all.

Voices will be heard.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue   

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