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Opinion

Paul McNamee: Time to value the innovators. Now more than ever

“So long as you are there with your ideas and your support and your incredibly deep, deep well of good feeling, there is hope”

Taking a little break from stockpiling to write this. Since Dominic Raab and Theresa May gave us the nod that post-Brexit we’d be best to have a few things in – food, medicines, enough livestock to build a small, totally self-sufficient, off-grid smallholding – I’ve been going crazy for processed peas and tinned ham and Elastoplasts. So, if it all goes no deal and there are 30-mile tailbacks heading into Calais full of rotting food, and the pound has plummeted and it’s a bit, you know, uncertain, all round to mine. Bring your goat.

Last week, in the midst of the heatwave, a plan was launched to keep homeless people warm. It won’t always be this hot. Friends of the late Kevin Headley are fundraising to finance the manufacture of Kevin’s innovative design – the Hottie.

Kevin was a Big Issue vendor in Hackney Wick. He died in May. A popular man, Kevin was always coming up with schemes and wheezes to help the homeless. One of these was his Hottie. It’s a design that makes a hot water bottle into a backpack, by way of a few straps and bits of Velcro, that allows those outside to keep warm when the weather turns.

As a tribute to Kevin, and also as a way to try to come up with an innovative, simple, cheap solution to help those at risk on the streets, his friends are fundraising to make a lot of these and make them available to those who need them.

It’s a fairly primitive device but it illustrates a few wonderful things. Primarily that The Big Issue vendors are resourceful. Having to make your living on the street makes you street smart. Stop and speak to any Big Issue vendor and you’ll come away with all sorts of ideas they have.

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Also, The Big Issue readers, like you, are an incredible bunch of people. In the case of Kevin’s friends in London, The Big Issue wider family is keeping his memory alive by doing something practical to help a lot more people in similar positions. I can’t applaud it enough.

It’s wider than just one example. All last week we received messages about how readers were bringing water and all manner of supplies to help vendors beat the heat. If it wasn’t this, it was questions about what you can do to help vendors in heat. (We carry some tips on the opposite page this week.)

There are some dark clouds gathering. Child poverty is growing shamefully in Britain. Holiday hunger among the poorest children in society, losing out on the vital sustenance of school meals, presents a real danger. There are problems with access to the justice system for those who lack the means to defend themselves. The worries over Brexit are known and legion.

Despite all this, there are Big Issue readers, like you. And so long as you are there with your ideas and your support and your incredibly deep, deep well of good feeling, there is hope.

To the stockpiles, comrades!

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