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Opinion

Paul McNamee: These are tough times. Stay with us

Until things change, stop by with your vendor and buy a magazine. This will help a great deal

The Big Issue, like so many organisations across the world, is trying to adapt to the growing threat of coronavirus. This is a developing situation.

As an organisation, our prime focus and reason for being here is to provide the poorest in society with a means of making a living. In just over a generation, Big Issue vendors have become a hugely recognisable presence on the streets of Britain, and The Big Issue has become an iconic brand. The problems that lie ahead are unique. We are of the streets and we exist on the streets. When the streets are closed and empty, where does The Big Issue go? And where do the homeless, those in chaotic situations, those who rely on The Big Issue to live, go? We have had to move quickly to provide viable solutions so that we can get a magazine out and that the men and women who rely on us can still benefit from The Big Issue. We need to make sure we are here now, and when this thing is over. These are evolving and imperfect solutions. But they are necessary.

To be clear, until advised by government and health officials, we will produce a magazine that will be sold on the streets across Britain. An irony of what has happened is that last week, as uncertainty gripped, The Big Issue enjoyed its best sales week since Christmas.

This is down to the Ben Eine collectible covers and also because, as we have seen before, in times of worry people look out for and support their vendors.

Let me encourage you to do that. Until things change, stop by with your vendor and buy a magazine. This will help a great deal. If you are able to, buy more than one. Perhaps drop it round to a neighbour who is not able to leave the house. Such an act has a double-sided benefit.

If you are unable to get to a Big Issue vendor, or if the time comes and the streets are clear, we have several digital alternatives.

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The first is zinio.com. From here, for the same £2.50 cost of the physical edition, you will be able to purchase a digital edition. This is essentially a page-turned version on your digital device in exactly the same manner as you would see in the physical edition.

Physical copies will also be sold online.

You can buy this week’s, and last week’s, and next week’s at The Big Issue Shop. This is at bigissueshop.com. We are currently working to minimise postal costs from here.

In addition, there is also a variety of subscriptions on offer through The Big Issue site, at bigissue.com/subscribe. We will work to fulfil any mailing as soon as possible.

If you are unable to get to a Big Issue vendor, or if the time comes and the streets are clear, we have several digital alternatives

You will no doubt ask how these purchases will help vendors, particularly in the short term as they struggle with severely diminished income.

We are committed to supporting our vendors throughout this time. That may involve direct financial support from a central pot. It will certainly involve referrals to partner organisations able to help. This, like much around coronavirus, is developing.

We will continue to focus on the solutions. In the coming days we will announce further news online. We will support our vendors. We will work through this. We know you’ll be with us.

Paul McNamee is editor of The Big Issue

Image: Louise-Haywood-Schiefer

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