It started with Chris Packham. On March 25 he made a short video and posted it on his Twitter feed. Packham laid out the immediate and critical crisis faced by The Big Issue. In the hours following the vice-grip of lockdown, there was no Big Issue for sale, and so no income for our vendors. And potentially, no Big Issue when lockdown lifted. The long-term financial hole that would result, for men and women at the very edge of society, would have been catastrophic.
Packham’s video was simple, heartfelt and direct. He urged people to take subscriptions. He hadn’t been asked to do it and neither was it scripted. He’s a good man who wanted to help.
#Covid19 is devastating for @BigIssue vendors , who rely on selling the magazine . That's why I'm supporting @BigIssue's campaign . You can support in one of two ways , subscribe for 3 months, or give a one-off payment. Please go to https://t.co/YZdAFBIhdvpic.twitter.com/VyaIDsu4AP
— Chris Packham (@ChrisGPackham) March 25, 2020
And something wonderful happened. People listened. First a trickle, then a growing stream of subscriptions were bought. Following Packham other well-known people started to record similar videos, or send messages to their friends, fans and followers. The steady stream became a flood. Retailers offered their help too and we moved into shops. It’s hard to get into good retail spots, and frequently costly. But processes were accelerated and fees waived.
We created a new digital version. We had a raffle! We built a podcast that allowed readers to speak to their vendors, piercing the calcifying shell of loneliness. And vendors spoke through that podcast to their customers. It was a virtual street corner and the resulting messages are a joy to hear.
People saw that vendors needed help and, like Chris Packham, they stood up and helped. Over more than three months, this grew, sales grew and donations were made. And at every turn we were able to support our vendors. As the weeks progressed we’ve detailed how much support, in cash or shopping vouchers or more practical things like laptops to help with training schemes, we’ve been able to hand out. It’s a huge total sum, now nearing half a million pounds.