A strong voice for people in poverty: Gothenburg’s Faktum celebrates 15 years

Award-winning Swedish street paper Faktum turns 15 this month. To celebrate, they’re publishing a special bumper edition of the magazine, and are holding a big party for vendors, staff, readers and supporters.

Faktum is produced in Gothenburg and is sold in eight cities across southern Sweden. They sell 34,000 copies every month and work with about 1,000 vendors each year.

We spoke to Faktum editor Sarah Britz to find out what the anniversary means to her – and to Faktum’s vendors.

How is Faktum celebrating its 15th birthday?

We are celebrating with a special issue of the magazine: 92 pages of the old and new stories from Faktum’s early days until now. We are once again highlighting our prize-winning investigative pieces as well as interviewing editors and vendors. The magazine is filled with pictures; short, engaging stories; and, of course, pieces about homelessness and social alienation. It’s a mix of what Faktum has accomplished in the last 15 years.

Faktum's 15th birthday edition

We will also celebrate with a party in Gothenburg [on Wednesday, 28 September]. Everyone is welcome – vendors, contributors, readers and sponsors alike – to an evening filled with people from now and then, food, musical acts and dance.

How different is the magazine now, compared to when it started? 

Today our magazine is a more professional journalistic product. We sell more copies and not only in Gothenburg. The vendors buy their magazines in eight cities in south Sweden and we have offices in three instead of one. In the beginning we talked only about the homeless and their situation, but now the image is wider: it’s about poverty, migration, antiziganism [racism directed at the Romani people], social alienation, segregation – new and challenging themes in Swedish society as well as in the rest of the world.

Why is your work still important?

The work is still of huge importance, and that makes me sad. The poor, including our vendors, is a weak group in the community. They don’t have any strong advocates in the public debate – a mission that grows in importance as the politicians refuse to see the complexity of these issues. Our aim is to be the strongest voice in the public debate for the people who live in social alienation and poverty.

Faktum vendor Csaba was one of the stars of the paper's 2016 calendar, which looked at what vendors do after work. Photo: Håkan Ludwigson

What have been the biggest lessons that Faktum has learned over the last decade and a half?

I think we have learned that society is changing and we have to adapt as fast as we can without losing respect for the vendors’ situations and needs. We don’t supply them with food, housing or clothes. We offer them a job. For us it is important to identify what you can do, why and how. Stick to the plan but make sure to evaluate along the way.

Nobody can do everything alone, so to create the best result we make sure that we work together with other organisations. And of course keep control of the finances. It’s the biggest responsibility you have toward the vendors. To make sure that we will be here for them in the future as well.

How do your vendors feel about the anniversary?

The magazine has only been on the streets for one day – but the vendors are proud!

Yesterday one vendor, Peter Ahlborg, was interviewed in a radio show as well as in the morning paper. I wrote a debate article in the same paper, Göteborgs-Posten, ‘Homelessness is increasing – but who cares?’ and our CEO Åse Henell also spoke in a news radio show. Tomorrow the evening paper Kvällsposten/GT will print an article regarding our 15-year anniversary.

Faktum encourages readers to "come celebrate with us"

What does the anniversary mean to you personally?

For me personally the anniversary, as I said before, is a sad milestone. But it also fills me with anger and a desire to push for more change. It is so important to fight poverty! The world is changing fast and we have to appreciate that and be prepared for the challenges ahead.

What are Faktum’s plans for the future?

The biggest challenge now is to support our vendors. In any way that we can. Selling the magazine in the streets is hard work; you compete with beggars, charity-foundations and people selling various other things. They are also dealing with the prejudice from the people in the streets. They comment on what our vendors wear, how they look and what ethnic group they belong to. In the nearest future we have a marketing campaign that we developed together with our advertising agency, Forsman & Bodenfors that addresses the prejudice surrounding our vendors.