Opinion

Paul McNamee: Stand up, shout loud

Street papers like The Big Issue can make a tangible and measurable difference to the lives of the poorest.

I  spent time at the International Network Of Street Papers conference last week. It’s the annual get together of a global collection of over 100 street papers in 34 countries.

The INSP was established 24 years ago by The Big Issue and the majority of these member titles are modelled to a greater or lesser extent on The Big Issue.

The conference is an opportunity to meet and share ideas. Some of the magazines are doing incredible things.

I look to Mi Valedor, for example, a title started by a determined few right in the heart of the toughest part of Mexico City and I want to stand up and applaud. They are making a difference by doing, by offering those right at the bottom of that huge metropolis an opportunity to rise.

There are any number of similar titles, all facing challenges that are both similar and wildly different.

The best of the people behind these publications are indomitable, determined to wrestle with tough problems and produce a magazine or paper that helps deliver proper change. And money.

It’s not often you get to sit amongst a big group of international journalists and editors and have time to talk. I was interested, given the situation Britain now finds itself in, to discover how others see us, whether Liam Fox’s message of great trading opportunities was connecting the way we’re assured.

The big clanging reality of the poverty of now needs to be faced and fixed. In-work poverty is the next tsunami rolling in.

What is Brexit, asked colleagues from Korea. And Taiwan. And Japan. Well, we know that a lot of people are talking about it here,  but back home nobody’s talking about it. They’re more focused on what is happening with José at Old Trafford and the Klopp revolution at Anfield. And Harry Potter. They’re the parts of the UK they are most fascinated by.

It’s not just that there was no great celebration of the new ties and opportunities – there was no talk about it. They were not alone. The Australians were, understandably, much more focused on the ongoing soap opera of their frontline politics.

The idea of glorious Britannia sailing out and being welcomed across the globe is, from their perspective at least, a fallacy. Unless Britannia can score 20 goals a season and get on Match Of The Day.

It is easy to get locked into the spinning wheel of our own situation. The polarisation caused by the Brexit vote dominates a huge volume of our thoughts.

But the big clanging reality of the poverty of now needs to be faced and fixed. In-work poverty is the next tsunami rolling in.

People grafting for all their worth to bring up their families on minimum wage can’t make it – even to meet household bills.

Earlier this year pressure group End Child Poverty revealed over half the children in some areas of England are living in poverty.

If nothing else the INSP reinforced one core belief. This matters. Street papers like The Big Issue can make a tangible and measurable difference to the lives of the poorest.

And as we’re independent in ownership and identity, we don’t follow any agenda – except to be a voice to speak up for those without a voice, to agitate on their behalf and also to, you know, be entertaining.

You are part of that with us. Together we shall carry on the fight.

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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