INSP Awards: Presenting the 2019 Nominees for Best Vendor Contribution

We’re continuing to announce the nominees for the Editorial categories of the 2019 INSP Awards, and next up is the Top 10 for Best Vendor Contribution.

This award recognises the top contribution to a street paper by current or former street paper vendors. It can be a written piece, photography or art, as long as it has been published in the street paper.

Our top ten, featured below, will now go forward to our editorial shortlisting panel, who will choose the five finalists. These will be announced in early June, and the winner will be revealed at the Global Street Paper Summit in Hannover, Germany.

The Nominees:

1. Alberta Street News, Canada

The Secret Hours
By Angelique Branston

Alberta Street News said: Angelique Branston has been selling Alberta Street News since 2008 at the local farmers’ market. As a single parent, she needed to top up her income from Supports for Independence, then from a disability pension. Angelique is a First Nations woman who has been directly affected by the residential school legacy. Her grandmother was a student in one of the schools from age five to age 16. She became an alcoholic, and her son, Angelique’s father, was part of the welfare sweep when Indigenous children from the reserves were placed in Caucasian foster homes. He grew up with abuse and discrimination and became very abusive to his own children in every way – physically, mentally, emotionally and sexually. Angelique married a man at 18 who turned out to be much like her father. She divorced him. She suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from the violence she was exposed to, as well as severe depression, arthritis and Bell’s palsy. As part of her journey of healing, Angelique contributes stories and poetry to Alberta Street News. She also enjoys singing at a local inner-city mission.

2. Big Issue North, UK

‘When I get to the Pearly Gates, I want a pitch outside’
By Andy

Big Issue North said: This interview took place at the Marie Curie Hospice in Liverpool in October 2017. Andy asked that is was published after his death. He passed away in March [2018] and his funeral is being held in Liverpool this week [April 2018, the week this article was published].

3. L’Itinéraire, Canada

Our vendors interview Justin Trudeau
By Mostapha Lotfi, Jean-Claude Nault and Isabelle Raymond

L’Itinéraire said: Vendor writing in L’Itinéraire led to an historic event: an exclusive interview with three of our vendors and the Prime Minister of Canada. The article is an illustration of the hard work they accomplished, from the research to the interview itself, considering that Mostapha Lotfi, Isabelle Raymond and Jean-Claude Nault – who became vendors in 2015 – have only been writing for the last three years. During the interview, the vendors’ composure and professionalism were impressive. They had been up since 4am to take the first train out to Ottawa. All were well-prepared. They had studied the topics they chose to question the PM about. Although Justin Trudeau was affable and put everyone at ease, there was no complacency on either side. The vendors behaved and worked like true journalists, respecting the codes and procedures of the trade. They didn’t spare the Prime Minister and asked some difficult questions. They were thorough in their writing and were involved in the editing process, making this an extremely rich learning experience for them. The feature was widely publicised, and the vendors gave interviews to the Montréal media like true professionals.

4. Mi Valedor, Mexico

The Awkward Neighbour
By Isaías Pérez

Mi Valedor said: Isaías Pérez came to us in 2018. Working with Mi Valedor has helped him overcome alcoholism and given him self-confidence; previously, he worked in sales but he needed alcohol to socialise. Now, he is saving up and dreams of opening his own taco stand. Isaías became more and more tenacious in our writing and photography workshops, and has already had photos published in past issues. However, this is the first written piece that he has had published. The story writing workshop was presented by César Tejeda, who said: “It is supposed to be me who provides some kind of direction in the story writing workshops, but often, it is the vendors who give me a direction for the class. I listened to their stories, their experiences, their instinct to talk about life through their characters.” Isaías’ story is called “Un Vecino Incómodo” or “The Awkward Neighbour”. It’s a fantasy tale where the characters are animals and the moral of the story is that we should build communities and learn to share. It includes a lot of metaphorical language.

5. Street Sense Media, USA

My stuff, my space, my life
By James Davis

Street Sense Media said: Vendor James Davis has been with Street Sense Media since the paper was founded in 2003. He now has a stable living arrangement and other work but continues to sell our newspaper and serve as an advocate. He is a member of the National Coalition for the Homeless’s speakers bureau and often speaks on Capitol Hill to share his story with national lawmakers and leads tours of the streets of DC for university students. James has been writing poetry for many years. He was included in our 2007 vendor poetry book Street Verses and self-published his own book, Arugula Salad and Other Food For Thought, Part 1, in 2015. James’s skill as a poet and his care as an advocate shine through in this piece, inspired by a woman – and her stuff – who he observed from where he regularly sells his newspapers. He draws particular attention to how the general public reacts to her presence and notes that she is where she is because she had been living (homeless) in a more secluded area where construction is now taking place.

6. Street Sense Media, USA

To Give or Not To Give
By Various Street Sense Media Vendors

Street Sense Media said: This package of essays was collected in response to an email received from a reader who asked for guidance on whether or not to donate money directly to people who panhandle. We shared the question with the vendors who participate in our writers group. The collection of responses selected for publication was so strong that we advertised it in the cover design for our 20 March 2019 edition, the first time something from our opinion section has been featured on the cover. Eight vendors contributed essays to the package: Wanda Alexander, Reginald Black, Andre Brinson, Ibn Hipps, Jeffery McNeil, Jackie Turner, Sheila White, and Angie Whitehurst. Ibn also contributed an illustration that contrasted someone frowning and selling a street paper under a rain cloud with a tall apartment building or office building under a smiling sun. Each vendor who contributed has been working with Street Sense Media for at least two years. And the range of answers provided to this question showed its inherent complexity. Seeing this issue on the cover of the paper made customers curious and prompted discussion among our broader vendor corps.

7. The Big Issue Australia, Australia

The Happiness Project
By Various The Big Issue Australia Vendors

The Big Issue Australia said: Our vendors are the heart of The Big Issue Australia. We celebrate their lives and stories in every edition. But to celebrate #VendorWeek, we handed over the edition to our vendor VIPs. In a very special photo essay, 11 vendors from around the country took to the streets with disposable cameras to document the things, people and places that make them happiest. We called it “The Happiness Project”. It was months in the making. We sent out cameras to vendors in early November, along with an image brief: take photos of your happy place, whatever that may be. They experimented with photo framing and shooting on film. The results published in late January were detailed, moving and nuanced, and challenged the notions of what a happy place can look like. It also challenged our vendors in a positive way. “It was good because it made me actually think about what made me happy,” says Melbourne vendor Daryl, who captured the people and streets who had become home to him. “The fact is no matter how hard life is, your happy place is whatever you make of it, and that’s what I wanted to show,” says Rachel from Sydney.

8. The Big Issue, UK

Harry & Meghan: A Different View
By Jo Adamson

The Big Issue (UK) said: Jo Adamson sold The Big Issue in Scotland for 10 years, after losing her eyesight in a car crash. One of the magazine’s best-loved vendors; she’s a great ambassador. Having moved on from selling after she moved into her own flat, Jo is now a prolific artist under the name ‘Jo Sunshine Art’. Her work has featured in exhibitions in Glasgow, and she has an online Etsy shop – all despite having no sight in her left eye, describing her right eye vision as “a constant misty blur”. She uses pastels and works very close to the paper, to create large-scale, vibrant, vividly coloured, exuberant works. She remains involved with the magazine as a contributor and an inspiration to current vendors, and we asked her to design a cover to mark the Royal Wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle in May 2018. Hers was one of three regionalised covers which we invited homeless, formerly homeless or vulnerably housed individuals to create. She captured the summery sense of joy and participation that the Royal Wedding generated, the couple in the foreground and the Castle backdrop. Dreamy and psychedelic, it perfectly showed off Jo’s style and her bright, energetic personality.

9. The Big Issue, UK

Listen to my Voice
By Ann Warke

The Big Issue (UK) said: Ann Warke’s experience illustrates one key cause of Britain’s spiralling poverty: put on controversial and much-criticised Universal Credit benefit, introduced by the UK government against advice of social justice experts and recently acknowledged by the government itself as contributing directly to a spike in numbers of people turning to food banks, she quickly got into debt and was on the street, sleeping rough. She turned to The Big Issue to earn money to eat, her story indicative of the escalating poverty crisis. Her contribution to this edition of The Big Issue (UK) is a video – she spoke with outstanding eloquence, clarity and simplicity about her experience, how she has tackled it and her hopes for the future. Her video – which was accessed by readers holding their mobile phone over the cover – was a ground-breaking initiative for The Big Issue (UK), and her contribution was invaluable. It generated a huge response from readers who for the first time were able to not just read but also see and hear for themselves a vendor telling their story in their own words.

10. The Contributor, USA

Ode to Odd
By Jennifer Alexander

The Contributor said: Jennifer Alexander is a long-time vendor of The Contributor, and her poem “Ode to Odd” demonstrates incredible writing skill. While Jennifer also writes longer, more news-focused pieces for The Contributor as well as creating pieces of original art, her poetry always sticks out. It’s smart, inventive, witty and very thought-provoking. This piece of poetry from Jennifer is outstanding. Like most good poetry, it demands to be read over and over again. It explores family and our perceptions of self – what it means to be odd and how one’s past might lend itself to a difficult present. It’s always hard to know whether Jennifer’s poetry is at all autobiographical, but regardless of that, it is relatable. Jennifer knows how to write in a way that at least one piece could apply to any reader – even deploying the use of “you” to put the reader into the piece of writing. Everyone has felt odd or out-of-place at one point or another. “Ode to Odd” tells us that’s OK.


Take a look at the nominees we’ve already announced in the Editorial categories for the INSP Awards 2019, and use the hashtag #INSPAwards on social media to congratulate our nominees!