This Easter holiday I took a much needed break from it all, hopped on a plane, and flew to Stavanger in Norway. My highlight of the weekend? Getting to visit Asfalt: the local street paper and INSP member.
Formed in 2009, the street paper aims to help people with a history of drug abuse get back on their feet and rid of their addiction. The paper is well known in the area, and I am told by a local man that vendors employ clever selling techniques to sell more papers. “Guess what is wrong with me and you get a free paper,” cries a vendor from his regular pitch. He wears different coloured shoes, yet not many people notice.
I meet with Hanne Høyland in a café near the Asfalt office. Hanne works as a journalist for the street paper. Most shops and restaurants in Stavanger are closed for the Easter holiday so we head to the well-known Fargegaten, a colourful street adorned with graffiti and quirky cafes.
After talking for almost an hour, it is clear just how passionate Hanne was about her work and the vendors that sell Asfalt. We talked about the layout and content of the paper: the paper focuses on a different theme for every issue. Recent examples include Entrepenørskap [‘entrepreneurs’] and Pårørende [‘next of kin’].
A recent price increase for the paper – changing from 50kr to 100kr [approx £8.50/ €10.80] – has divided opinion with Asfalt readers. Hanne tells me they’re still working to win their customers round, though the price increase brought them into line with the rest of Norway’s street papers. Meanwhile, the steep drop in Norwegian oil prices has affected jobs in the local area and we chat about how this may increase the number of people selling the paper.
The conversation could last many more hours, but Hanne suggests we head to the street paper office. Their building is just around the corner from Fargegaten, and overlooks picturesque cobbled streets were some of the vendors sell the street paper. Front covers of previous issues plaster the wall in their communal area, where the team meet to plan each issue. I grab the latest paper: it’s the entrepreneurs edition and has a Norwegian cabin on the cover.
Leaving the office, I’m inspired by what I saw… and full of ideas to share with the network. I urge everyone to seek out a local street paper vendor when they travel (you can find their locations here). Who better to give you the view from the streets?