“A remarkable achievement”: The Big Issue UK sells 200 millionth magazine

Next week, The Big Issue UK will celebrate 200 million magazines sold across Britain – every one of them putting money in the pocket of someone living in homelessness or poverty.

Almost 25 years since it began, the iconic magazine – a founding member of INSP – has changed the UK’s publishing landscape and the lives of thousands of people.

Like street papers around the world, The Big Issue works as a social business. Each magazine is bought by the vendor for half the cover price of £2.50, and sold on to make a profit.

The Big Issue has sold 200 million copies since it began Photo: Flemming Leitorp

In following the simple mantra ‘A hand up not a hand-out’, the street paper has allowed the poorest in Britain to earn more than £100 million.

“We’re so proud to be able to mark this occasion,” said editor Paul McNamee. “When John Bird established The Big Issue in 1991, he wanted to offer the poorest in society a means to earn their own living, to work their way back up from the bottom, to see a future. John always thinks big, but I don’t think even he would have thought he’d see 200 million sales.”

In an unforgiving climate for print publications, The Big Issue is actually growing. The magazine currently has a circulation of 78,000 per week.

“We’re delighted to be here, to be a print title that is putting on sales as others decline and to remain a vital force for the men and women who want to earn, but have seen normal life close down,” added McNamee.

Maree Aldam, chief executive of INSP, extended her congratulations on behalf of the street paper movement.

“This is a remarkable achievement for The Big Issue and its hard-working vendors,” she said.

“The magazine is one of the oldest street papers in the INSP network and one of more than 100 different publications in 35 countries worldwide. Street papers have been changing lives for more than a quarter of a century and have so far helped nearly 300,000 people between them. The INSP network together now reaches more than 5 million people per edition and earns vendors more than £23 million each year.

“This milestone will be an inspiration to street papers and their vendors around the world.”

The Big Issue will mark the occasion with a special collectors’ edition of the magazine.

National news channel ITV is also planning UK-wide coverage on 7 April, the date on which it is estimated that the 200 millionth magazine will be sold.

Big Issue MD Russell Blackman said: “200 million copies sold is an incredible landmark and testament to all the vendors that have stood out there, in any weather, running their own micro-enterprises with a sense of dignity. The social impact that has been created by these sales is profound.”

For the celebratory edition, The Big Issue has teamed up with prolific street artist Ben Eine – touted as ‘the next Banksy’ – to produce a series of three collectable covers.

Ben Eire creates exclusive Big Issue artwork

Eine has created exclusive artwork in the ‘Celebrate’ theme, using his distinctive lettering style.
“I am honoured to be able to be in a position where I can give something back and The Big Issue is an organisation that I feel passionate about. Any of us can become homeless pretty easily,” said Eine.

Eine’s specially-produced work for The Big Issue will also go on show at Jealous Gallery in Shoreditch, London, from 8-10 April.

The special edition of the magazine is on sale from 4-10 April.