"Big Issue North vendors are an integral part of the Liverpool cityscape. Whilst most are known well by their smiles, little was known about their stories and backgrounds."
By Anna Manetta-Stark
Inspired by Humans of New York, newly established Instagram page, Humans of Liverpool has taken off in recent months. The account highlights residents of the area, capturing their stories and creating a digital sense of unity through common ground in a time of great division.
Thanks to its founder, Adam Thompson, often overlooked Big Issue North vendors feature prominently on the page.
We caught up with Adam to find out more about how Humans of Liverpool came to life, why he supports Big Issue North and what he thinks about the incredible city he features:
How long have you lived in Liverpool for?
I lived in Kenny when I was younger but I have lived in the surrounding area my whole life.
What does being from Liverpool mean to you?
It fills me with immense pride. It’s a badge to wear with honour. I don’t think there’s another city like it. The sense of community has always amazed me and made me feel part of something bigger than myself.
What inspired you to create the page, ‘Humans of Liverpool’?
I have always enjoyed people watching and particularly being spectator to the well known, iconic characters that you see everyday whilst walking through the city. I was basically just very nosy and wanted to know more about these public figures and it built from there.
What has the response been?
The response has been incredible. I could never have imagined it would have such a warm and positive reaction, not only with the followers that the page has amassed in such a short space of time, but also the huge number of insightful, meaningful comments that we regularly receive, all of which help to shape how I go forward with the page and the vision for the future.
Are you happy with the response?
I couldn’t be happier and more humbled by the response. I still have to regularly pinch myself that it has been met with such positivity and humility.
How do you approach the people who feature on the page?
I walk up to them and ask if they would mind if I took their portrait. If they’re sat down I’ll kneel or crouch to make sure I’m not at all intimidating. Then once they agree I chat to them whilst I take their photograph, asking them a few starter questions and then hopefully going into a relaxed, open conversation from there. I always make sure I don’t approach anyone that looks like they’re in a rush, I would never want to make anyone miss a train or be late for a meeting.
On your page, there’s a great variety of people, some of whom are experiencing homelessness. Why is it important for you to offer space on the Humans of Liverpool platform to highlight these stories?
I think it is so important to give people that are homeless a voice, as they are not usually afforded the opportunity to have their say and tell their stories. Giving them this platform not only ensures that they know that people care about where they’ve come from and their struggles, but it also humanises them to the public and allows people to see them as just people. Like everyone else, they have passions, problems and goals. Hopefully this will work in some way to break the stigma towards homelessness.
What are your thoughts on homelessness in Liverpool?
I believe that it is a very complex issue that many people are working hard to fix. There is no one size fits all approach and it is clear that people need to want help in order to take full advantage of the aid available. I think that Big Issue North is such an important social enterprise, as it allows the homeless to have their own agency and turn their lives around themselves. The more they want to change, the more they can.
How do you think people experiencing homelessness can receive the support they need?
There are many services in the Liverpool area working hard to end homelessness and offer help to those effected. The Whitechapel Centre, Blackburne House and Big Issue North are all places that they can receive support. More of course can always be done, and I hope to continue to tell people’s stories in order to gain support and help them.
Why did you choose to approach Big Issue North for the Humans of Liverpool collaboration?
Big Issue North Vendors are an integral part of the Liverpool cityscape. They form a recognisable part of the high street in the city centre and whilst most are known well by their smiles and idiosyncratic mannerisms and greetings, little was known (at least to me) about their stories and backgrounds. This was something that I certainly wanted to find out about, and I hoped that others would feel the same.
Why is Big Issue North important to the city of Liverpool?
Not only does it give Scousers that have fallen on hard times a hand to get back on their feet and rebuild their lives, it also acts as a constant reminder of the issue of homelessness, spreading the message that not only is it still a huge problem, but that those involved are actively trying to escape it, therefore breaking the often held stereotype that the homeless of the city are all happy to just sit idly and beg for change whilst working people struggle everyday.
Download and subscribe to the Street News app today, for unlimited access to stories that raise the voices of marginalised communities around the world. Subscription is just £4.99 a month, and all income from subscriptions goes to Big Issue North Trust and helps vendors in the North of England to make positive changes to their lives.