INSP’s UNCOVERED street paper cover exhibition launches with a message of “dignity and love”

Street paper vendors were at the heart of a message of dignity and love at the launch of INSP’s street paper cover exhibition UNCOVERED: still homeless, still an issue.

Across two floors of The Lighthouse in Glasgow (Scotland’s centre for design and architecture), the launch was an opportunity to spotlight INSP’s (International Network of Street Papers) #VendorWeek and share the social and creative impact of street papers across the globe over the past three decades.

Attendees at the INSP exhibition launch of UNCOVERED: still homeless, still an issue at the Lighthouse in Glasgow

Opening the launch, INSP’s Chief Executive, Maree Aldam, shared the importance of launching the exhibition during #VendorWeek. “It is something we’ve been very keen to do for some time,” Maree explained. “The exhibition is part of #VendorWeek, also extending beyond it. It tells the story of vendors and celebrates the impact and difference that street papers make on their lives.”

The free exhibition, which runs until April 9, combines the best of global street paper cover design; quotes from vendors of the impact street papers have made on their lives; and excerpts from recent street paper interviews with famous names – including Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama – on poverty and homelessness.

The covers range from The Big Issue UK’s first edition in September 1991 to the front page of The Springs Echo, the world’s newest street paper published early this year in Colorado Springs by Raven Cannon, a former vendor with Seattle street paper Real Change. Raven herself was experiencing homelessness at the time of Spring Echo’s launch.

The exhibition opens with an image of The Big Issue UK's first issue front cover from September 1991.

Through additional interactive elements, visitors can experience life through the eyes of Big Issue vendor Paul in London, via a virtual reality headset; projected vendor quotes from across the world can be viewed on one wall of the gallery; and an interactive installation gives guests the sensation of being ignored on the streets.

The exhibition was formally opened by Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, Angela Constance, who spoke of the potential impact the exhibition can make on public awareness and perception of the street paper movement.

The minister said, “It is a great pleasure to see the variety of street paper covers on display. I know the exhibition celebrates not just the fantastic art work, but also the creativity and professionalism of people behind street papers.”

The founder of 'ideas agency' Equator, James Jefferson, shares a joke with Angela Constance (centre), the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, and INSP's Chief Executive, Maree Aldam.

Highlighting Scotland’s success in the field of social enterprise in recent years, she added, “We have a reputation in Scotland as world leaders and that reputation has been built up by the ambition and ingenuity of social entrepreneurs.

“INSP is the perfect example of why social enterprise should be seen as a global movement. We should be immensely proud that they are based here in Glasgow contributing to Scotland’s status as a world leader in the field of social enterprise.”

The minister made a call to action at the end of her speech, as she said, “As the launch of this exhibition falls during #VendorWeek, it is a great time to go social and support your local vendor by purchasing a copy of a street paper.”

Partnering INSP to create the exhibition was Glasgow-based ‘ideas agency,’ Equator. Founder James Jefferson explained that giving voice to street paper vendors and sparking action through new conversations about homelessness, lay at the heart of the design.

“We thought this exhibition should be about dignity and love,” James said. “It is about shifting the needle a little bit back to the correct side, to a place that when we see someone with a Big Issue tabard and we hear about what INSP is doing, we feel inspired to lean in and take part in what is being said, embracing it, rather than walk away from it.”

The Big Issue UK vendors Carmen and Calin gave their time to be part of the digital installation which gives visitor's of the exhibition a window into what it's like to be ignored as a vendor on the streets.

As manager of The Lighthouse, Ian Elder, spoke of his delight in seeing UNCOVERED come to life, following his invitation to host the exhibition.

“Given that The Lighthouse is part of Scotland’s economic development, it seemed an obvious way to try and amplify that support and help INSP get the message out,” Ian said. “We’re really hoping that this exhibition will do that.”

Showing his support for INSP, he added, “It’s perhaps another of those untold Glasgow stories, and having the exhibition here is a great chance to tell the main story but also to make the point that this is happening in this city. I love what INSP does and I love that it’s based in Glasgow.”

The Big Issue South Africa’s street paper cover highlighting the burden of the African continent's tuberculosis epidemic.

Attending the launch were Kim and John Paton, who shared their thoughts on the street paper covers that caught their eye. Pointing out the winner of the 2016 INSP Awards’ ‘best cover design’ category, John said, “The one that stood out to me was The Big Issue South Africa’s cover about tuberculosis.”

This winning cover aimed to draw attention to Africa’s chronic TB problem with an eye catching image of the continent in the form of a set of lungs. The cover attracted a lot of attention and praise on the night for delivering an important message with subtle creativity.

Looking across the display of covers, John added, “I think all the images are very powerful… and reading the context of each, just reinforces that.”

UNCOVERED: still homeless, still an issue at The Lighthouse is open to the public until April 9.

INSP would like to thank The Scottish Government, Glasgow City Council, Equator, The Lighthouse, Awards for All, Kibble, and of course, the vendors of The Big Issue for making the exhibition possible.