Vince Visits Vendors

Big Issue North opens the doors of it's new Manchester office to Vince Cable and other members of the Liberal Democrat team.

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It’s been a busy week for vendors and staff at Big Issue North. Some are in Germany for the annual International Network of Street Papers conference, and others have been opening the new Manchester office, while welcoming high profile guests.

Today, we opened our doors to the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Vince Cable. He and his team travelled from London to see the life changing impact of our work with vendors across the north of England.

Vince was joined on his visit by Manchester’s Liberal Democrat leader, John Leech. They were accompanied by Member of European Parliament, Jane Brophy MEP and Councillor for Didsbury West, Richard Kilpatrick.

Upon visiting our new Manchester office, the LibDem team took the time to speak with Directors of Big Issue North and it’s over arching body, The Big Life Group before making their way to visit Justin, who sells the magazine in St Ann’s Square.

Justin spoke with them to share his experience of life as a Big Issue North vendor, selling the magazine on the streets of Manchester.

“I first heard about the magazine when I was homeless. This was about six or seven years ago now. It helped me get a job, so I stopped selling it. But sadly the job I was at, the business went bankrupt and so I was unemployed again. It is a vicious circle really. That’s why I came back to selling the magazine. This job has helped me improve my life. Me and my dog Bumper are indoors virtually every night, whereas before I was out on the streets. I really enjoy this job, as it allows me to speak to new people every day, but the most important thing is that my dog really enjoys it as it allows him to get out and meet new people. Customers are always stopping to play with him.”

Speaking of the challenges that come with earning an income on the streets, Justin disclosed, “The most annoying thing about being a vendor would have to be the abuse you get from people. People walking by have hit me and spat on me before just for asking them to buy a magazine. This happens quite often – I’d say about once a week.”

Thanks to donations to Big Issue North Trust, staff have supported vendors 26 times in 2019 to report a crime. If you would like to make a donation to support our work, please visit our JustGiving page.

After meeting with Justin and hearing of his experience of working as a Big Issue North vendor, Manchester’s Liberal Democrat leader, John Leech took some time to share his thoughts with us:

“I think that Big Issue North and street papers around the country and internationally are really important in terms of helping people who are homeless get back on their feet, learn new skills and be able to start looking after their own money when earning some cash and then hopefully getting back into full time employment and off the streets and into accommodation.

We’ve heard at Big Issue North this morning some great news stories about how you work with businesses in town and encouraging partnership working – also getting Big Issue North sellers into businesses and developing a bigger market for the paper. But also, I think that the important thing is the work that’s done, showcases the work that can be done with homeless people and also explains to the wider public, all the challenges that people face on the streets.”

Vince Cable, Leader of the Liberal Democrats also took the time to share his thoughts on the so called ‘Homelessness Tax’ and on the life changing power of street papers:

“I’ve come to Manchester for some political campaigning against the so called homelessness tax and while I was here, I wanted to find out a bit more about Big Issue North and the incredibly valuable work it has done with people who are homeless or on the streets who want to make something of themselves by doing something useful and productive and earning an income, which they’re doing. Big Issue was a great initiative when it was started, and it’s now broadened out and happens in different ways and in different countries and it’s a wonderful enterprise. I’m a great fan of John Bird, who launched the whole of this scheme originally. It’s all part of Big Issue, keeping going and doing such incredibly valuable work with some incredibly vulnerable people.”

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