Vending For Herself

Joanna established The Allan Ripley Foundation in her late father’s memory. As a chosen beneficiary, Joanna was invited to spend time at our Leeds office. Here is a stark account of her experience:

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Saturday, June 3rd 2017

“Never have I felt more grateful than at 5.30 this morning when my alarm went off. I arose from a great night’s sleep in a comfy warm bed, showered in hot water, brushed my teeth with an electric toothbrush, put on freshly laundered clothes, drank a cup of tea and watched a bit of the news on BBC iPlayer on my phone. This could be said of any morning I suppose. It sounds like a standard routine. Except everything that I did this morning I thought about, as I did it, as today, I am visiting Big Issue North where others did not have the same start to the day as me.

After launching ‘The Allan Ripley Foundation’ six weeks ago in memory of my wonderful Dad I decided that instead of just fundraising to reach the £5,000 target for the Big Issue North, I wanted to, if possible, see how the vendors work and listen to what they find great about working at the magazine and what challenges they face on the streets of Leeds and surrounding areas.

The team of people at their offices made this possible for me today and at 8.15am the place was buzzing with vendors coming in and out to purchase the magazines for their day ahead. At £1.25 a copy, some individuals came in for 10, 20 or even 30. Then one young gentleman bought 60 copies! He was obviously anticipating great sales in York. The minimum cost of a magazine for you or I to buy is £2.50, though of course everyone can give more. Each vendor is registered as self-employed and has a code of conduct to adhere to with sanctions given for misconduct. For example; begging is prohibited for vendors and could mean an indefinite suspension from selling the magazine. Although the vendors mentioned that on some days begging would mean a higher income in Leeds City Centre, it doesn’t come with all the benefits of working and in particular the support networks at Big Issue North.

Joanna Office Visit Leeds Dean Stacey

Joanna speaks with Leeds Support Workers, Stacey & Dean, about the money she’s raising can be put to use.

One of the big pieces of learning for me today is that I feel we must challenge negative perceptions and prejudices about homeless people and the vendors. One complaint that was made to the office was regarding the fact that one of the vendors had new shoes and how on earth could they afford new shoes? The simple answer is that if the vendor sells 20 magazines today they will have legally earnt £50. Each vendor has a unique number which allows the Big Issue North to set sales targets, manage what they have bought, sold or sold back to the office. The office also supports vendors to register as self employed and complete the relevant paperwork, access benefits/work credits they are entitled to as well as all other legal aspects of their work and living situation, be that in a hostel, or as a rough sleeper. Therefore, my personal response to the complaint about the shoes is as follows. I earn a salary and pay my taxes and national insurance contributions. My contribution to the business I work in is appraised and my salary is based on my input and then I get a portion of that when all the legal contributions have been taken out. I can then choose how I spend my money so if I need new shoes I may well buy myself a pair of new shoes. Of course, things are sometimes not as they seem, I may not have bought them at all, I may have been given them as a gift!

Big Issue North challenges inappropriate behaviour from their sellers where necessary but at the same time pledges respect, sensitivity and a commitment to general well-being and progress in return. My eyes were truly opened today to the many ‘stages’ of homelessness and vendor’s journeys. There is no black and white. I met vendors who have been selling for many years and have struggled with mental health, substance abuse and criminal records. However, slowly by selling Big Issue North and the support mechanisms put in place to address any personal and health issues means that lives are slowly rebuilt to various levels, even though some more deep-seated issues will stay. Being a vendor is portrayed to me, by the vendors themselves, as a positive experience, there are opportunities, there are computers to use for job searches, doctors, dentists, clinics, a hot drink, lists of where to get food locally, someone to make you an appointment at the hospital, or apply for your birth certificate, all without judgement.

If you have had a negative experience with a vendor you can call their offices in Leeds and talk it through with one of the team there. They will listen. Another member of the public had witnessed two vendors shouting at each other. There are bruised apples in any cart. You will always find that grouchy waitress, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you will stop eating in the restaurant. So please, take the time to engage with your Big Issue North vendors, they are like you and me, they are building a life.

Also, please, I beg of you (even though I could be sanctioned for that!) visit my Dad’s JustGiving page and donate whatever you can. I know that the Big Issue North will be happy to provide the passports, clothes and back to work help in memory of my father. A fair man. A Yorkshireman. A very kind man who thought the magazine was great. Hand Up – Not Hand Out! Dignity and respect. My father would have been truly proud of the amazing people that I met today.”

Inspired by Joanna?

If you would like to know more about Joanna’s fundraising quest in memory of her father, please keep up to date with The Allan Ripley Foundation.

If you have been inspired by Joanna’s account and would also like to raise funds for Big Issue North, please visit our fundraising page, or email us at



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Interact: Responses to Vending For Herself

  • John
    17 Jan 2018 10:44

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