Celebs take to the streets to back the Big Issue

Kingsley cropped

Pic credits: INSP.ngo / Euan Ramsay

TFN joined some well-known faces in Glasgow to find out how they got on selling the famous magazine to the public as part of an international celebration of street papers

Graham Martin's photo

5th February 2016 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Famous faces from the worlds of music, media, sport and business – as well as a seven-foot angry sun - joined an international celebration of street papers and their vendors.

In cities across the UK celebrities – including Belle and Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch, actress Maxine Peake, Guardian columnist Owen Jones and David Shrigley-designed Partick Thistle mascot Kingsley – sold The Big Issue for an hour to experience what it’s like to be a street paper vendor, and to show their support for these hard-working men and women.

Many of the guest vendors were sponsored and the event has so far raised more than £10,000 for the International Network of Street Papers’ (INSP) work supporting and developing 112 street papers in 35 countries.

The event gained attention from TV, newspapers, radio and websites all over the UK. And it was a hit on social media too, with thousands of people sharing their thoughts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

On Twitter, the #VendorWeek hashtag trended in London to coincide with the selling event there on Monday. On Wednesday INSP was trending in Glasgow.

Many guest vendors reflected on how challenging they found the experience.

Partick Thistle mascot Kingsley sold The Big Issue for an hour in Glasgow city centre. He said: “It was eye-opening that, even as a seven-foot sun, just how invisible you become to people when you are selling The Big Issue.”

Belle and Sebastian singer Stuart Murdoch, also sold The Big Issue in Glasgow. He said: “I enjoyed it. It feels good to be part of something that’s going on worldwide, though I don’t think I’ve ever been more ignored in my life – and me and my band are used to being ignored!

“I think ever since 2008, since the crash, there’s been a trickle-down effect and the homelessness situation has got worse. The phrase that comes to my head is there but for the grace of god go I.”

Herald and Times editor-in-chief Magnus Llewellin (below) sold The Big Issue, just a stone’s throw from his office in Glasgow.

He said: “It’s been great to be out and about meeting people and realising how much they love The Big Issue. I think I sold 12, which I think is quite a good record. It’s fantastic to know that I’ve been part of a worldwide effort for such a good cause. It’s lovely to know that there are people around the world doing something similar.”

In Glasgow, the celebrity vendors were shown the ropes by Robert Brownbridge, who has been selling the Big Issue in Glasgow for three and a half years, after selling it in Manchester for 15 years.

He said: “Events like this get the message across that these papers are a lifeline to many. Also, we want to get the message across to the public that we’re not begging – this is our job. One of the things we get a lot of people shouting “get a job” – but this is our job, it’s much harder than it looks, as people are finding out today, and we’re proud of what we do.”

Edinburgh Rugby star Nasi Manu has just moved to Edinburgh and had a steep learning curve about The Big Issue when he was selling the street paper.

He said: “This event is so important in promoting the work of INSP and The Big Issue. These are people who are trying to do something with their lives – get a job and support themselves. I will never walk past a Big Issue seller without buying one again.”

Maxine Peake sold Big Issue North in Manchester. She said: “It was really hard. People ignoring you and blanking you is quite a difficult thing. It was quite soul destroying in some ways.”

UK Buzzfeed editor Luke Lewis sold The Big Issue for an hour in Covent Garden in London. He said: “It’s given me an enormous amount of respect for people who do this day-in, day-out. It’s tough.”

As the guest vendor events were going on in the UK, similar events were also happening in Australia, Switzerland, Greece, USA, Mexico, Serbia, Macedonia and Canada. Many other street papers are also celebrating #VendorWeek with parties for their vendors, media events and social media campaigns.

INSP chief executive Maree Aldam also sold The Big Issue in Glasgow for an hour. She said: “#VendorWeek 2016 has raised awareness of street papers as an innovative solution to homelessness and poverty. The wave of media and social media coverage around the world this week has shone a light on the 11,000 vendors that are out on the streets of 35 different countries, earning a modest income by selling great magazines. 

“We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who participated online and on the streets this week – particularly all the guest vendors who sold street papers alongside real vendors, from Mexico to Serbia, from Greece to the USA.

“The event has also helped to raise funds to support INSP’s work providing resources, training, information and support to our network of street papers.”

You can donate to INSP here.