Editor reflects on 15 years as Ireland’s Big Issue celebrates 200th edition

By Sean Kavanagh, Editor of Ireland’s Big Issue

It really is hard to believe that we have been able to survive and celebrate our 200th edition. It’s been a quite a journey, with many ups and downs, but we’re still here thanks the public who have supported us along the way.

In 2001, I was asked if I would consider resurrecting Ireland’s Big Issue after it stopped publishing due to financial difficulties. Having formally written for the magazine, I was familiar with the ethos behind it. I was also aware of the need for people to have a means to support and help themselves, especially those who had fallen on difficult times.

Had I been aware of the practical and financial difficulties in bringing back the magazine I probably would not have taken on the job. But as they say, ignorance is bliss. I started in November 2001. With the help of the previous editorial staff I managed to get a Christmas edition compiled and printed. That was the easy part.

No matter what I did, I could not secure a premises in Dublin from where we could create and distribute the magazine. Despite having engaged solicitors, estate agents, and eventually finding a place, I struggled to get insurance and consequently the lease could not be secured. It seemed no matter where I looked, nobody would grant me insurance on any premises for Ireland’s Big Issue.

The following day a truck pulled up outside my home with 40,000 magazines that had to be unloaded by hand, and carried into the house. That’s a lot of magazines, trust me. To this day I don’t know how we managed it. The house was packed from top to bottom with them.

Hollywood actor, and street apper fan, Colin Farrell poses with a his cover issue of Ireland's Big Issue in Amsterdam 2015. PHOTO: Laura Smith

Faced with a significant print bill, and many other costs associated with publishing a magazine, I had to do something. My philosophy is take each day and get through it as best you can and life takes care of itself. It’s not about yesterday or tomorrow.

So I drank the tea, got up and rang Declan, a friend and volunteer with Ireland’s Big Issue since the beginning. We loaded some magazines into the car and the two of us made our way into the city. We sought out vendors and sold them copies of the magazine from the boot of the car. Three weeks later I was beginning to despair. But then out of the blue I was offered a premises to sublet with no insurance problems – and so it began.

Over the next 15 years I had the privilege to meet some wonderful people through Ireland’s Big Issue. This includes many vendors who have stayed with us and, sadly, many who have passed away.

Sean Kavanagh (second top left) poses with the Irish Street League and their high profile supporter Colin Farrell at The Homeless World Cup in Amsterdam, 2015. PHOTO: Alex WalkerNone of this would be possible without the continuing help of our staff, volunteers, supporters and, of course, our readers. Without their help and support we would not exist. I know this is true of our fellow street papers around the world.

Being part of INSP’s global network of street papers and having access to the INSP News Service has also helped us immensely. It means we can make each edition of Ireland’s Big Issue more balanced, covering a greater variety of subjects.

Through the articles we share from the INSP News Service, we can show our readers a world they would have little knowledge of, and perhaps provide them with a different perspective of what is really happening across the globe.

Stories from The Contributor (Nashville, USA), The Curbside Chronicle (OKC, USA) and The Big Issue (UK) shared in Ireland’s Big Issue thanks to the INSP News Service.In an age of digital media, many people do not buy magazines. But supporting people who are trying to help themselves, by selling the magazine, is investing in people and helping them make their own way in life by working, not begging. That is why we encourage people to take magazine, not just hand over money.

We’re only on this earth for a comparatively short time, we all breathe the same air, we all face our own personal battles. And from time to time we all need a helping hand.

Your kind support is a vital link that helps provide that. Thank you.

INSP works with over 100 street papers around the world, including Ireland’s Big Issue. You can help us continue to support our incredible network here.