A hobby can help

When our vendors are able to enjoy a hobby, it is a reflection of how hard they have worked to support themselves to a healthier, happier place.

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We are a nation of hobbyists. A survey by Stannah revealed UK adults enjoy an average of three hobbies per week, dedicating more than eight hours to them. Reading, walking, and gardening are listed among the most popular pastimes.  

For most of us, our hobbies provide an opportunity to have fun and enrich our lives in ways our day-to-day responsibilities can’t (or don’t). They are often a way to indulge a passion, realise an ambition, or spend time with other people doing something we like to do. Our vendors are no exception.

“I love to sing!” says Alexandru, a vendor working in Southport. “I am still singing to my family. I sing all of the time when I am at home. It was always my dream to be a singer.” 

Colin, who sells Big Issue in Manchester’s City Centre, also loves singing. He has a history with karaoke, having won a competition in Birmingham many years ago. “I won £250 and a crate of beer. I could have been an entertainer in another life!” 

Research shows that the advantages of having a hobby stretch to helping our health and wellbeing. Sports or exercise are good for physical health. More artistic and cerebral hobbies (such as reading or board game puzzles) are reported to prevent dementia later in life.  

Lewis, who sells the magazine in Preston, suffers from memory problems.  He has struggled to retain mainstream work and keep regular appointments. In 2021, a customer gave him a journal to help him record his life and remember the things that had happened to him. 

Lewis started writing. His journal now runs to 100,000 words, detailing his work selling the magazine and descriptions of his life at home in Preston. He notes observations about people in his local community. Lewis dreams of publishing it and turning it into a book. “It started as something just for myself,” he explains, “but as I was reading it back, I thought it was poignant… I enjoyed writing it sometimes, but it was hard work, especially typing it up. 

“I can’t afford to take time off work from selling the magazine to sit and write, so it was just a case of doing 20 minutes a night when I had the energy.” 

Like many people who struggle financially, indulging time in a non-paying hobby can be perceived as less than constructive. Yet the benefits that come from spending time and enjoying a hobby cannot be underestimated. Engaging in creative activities, such as writing or music, has been shown to increase positive moods and boost mental wellbeing. Similarly, hobbies can provide much-needed prompts for someone’s self-esteem and motivation. By making time to do something we enjoy for ourselves, we enhance our self-value and self-worth.  

A hobby can even change the course of someone’s life. Lisa Wrightsman went from struggling with addiction to becoming managing director of the Sacramento chapter of Street Soccer USA. At this year’s tournament in her home city, she will be joined by referee Adil Leite, who built his career on an early life marked by loss, time in care, homelessness, and struggles to fit in with Norwegian society after moving from Ethiopia. You can read more about their inspiring stories on our Street News app. 

The benefits of having a hobby are in line with the work we do at Big Issue North. They support our vendors to improve their lives. We know first-hand how encouraging someone to feel better about themselves can make an impact. In our most recent vendor audit, 57% of vendors said that selling the magazine directly improved their confidence and motivation. It provides a structure to their day, offers social interaction, and gives them something positive to do. 

When our vendors can enjoy a hobby, it is truly a reflection of how hard they have worked to support themselves to a healthier, happier place. Every time you stop to buy a magazine or donate to Big Issue North Trust, you are helping vendors to keep on that track.  

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