We at Big Issue North are big believers in the power of change. Rather, we know the amount of power that it can take to create change.
After all, we see and experience change every day through our vendors. They are inspirational people to work with. Each time they come into one of our offices to buy magazines to sell, they have made a conscious decision to work to better their lives.
That decision is often one that doesn’t get enough credit.
A vendor’s journey to the point of working to sell the magazine is rarely a straightforward one. Many have challenging, difficult backgrounds that include homelessness and severe poverty. Some have mental health struggles, histories of substance abuse, or criminal records. Our latest vendor audit found that 25% of vendors begged before selling the magazine. Two-thirds of vendors do not speak English as a first language. A fifth are disabled, one in ten have been in care and one in five have been in prison.
These experiences are significant and impactful. It can take a lot of work and time to overcome and to make lasting changes, especially if it involves breaking long-term habits or addictive behaviours or dealing with trauma and abuse. It is often work that cannot be done alone.
When we talk about the amount of power it takes to change, we refer not only to the individual will to change, but the communal support and opportunities needed to support those changes.
That’s where Big Issue North is truly focused. Our impact has long gone beyond a magazine. We want to continue to expand the range of support we can offer to our vendors to encompass all facets of life, including housing, access to services, financial guidance, healthcare, and work – areas of challenge that we can all come across, but that are made much more difficult through poverty, inequality, and insecurity.
What our thirty-plus years of experience have also shown us is that barriers to change are not always mammoth. At times, they can seem heartbreakingly, and frustratingly simple for us to help resolve. Our office staff are regularly asked to help vendors with phone calls to doctors, completing job applications, or accessing benefits they are entitled to. Simple life administration becomes exponentially more complicated when you don’t have a fixed address, access to a computer, or any form of ID or can’t speak fluent English.
Requests like these are entirely indicative of the inequality of access to support and social systems that people like our vendors face. Through your support, we want to increase the ways we can help those who need it the most and continue to offer people the chance to make positive life changes.
We’ve gone through a significant change ourselves. From 15 May 2023, Big Issue North vendors reverted to selling the national Big Issue UK weekly magazine as Big Issue North magazine ceased production.
This change will not have an impact on our vendors, who will continue to earn an income through selling a magazine on the streets of the North. They will still be in towns and cities, selling Big Issue UK magazine, keeping the profit they make.
Although we won’t directly be producing a magazine, we will be contributing weekly regional content to Big Issue UK, as well as running our app, Street News.