Street paper reunion in Glasgow City Chambers

By Emma Smith

Guests and delegates, Photo: Danielle Batist

Glasgow welcomed delegates from around the world yesterday evening as the International Network of Street Papers returned to the city for its 16th Annual Conference.

The grand surroundings of the Glasgow City Chambers – built in 1888 in the heart of the city and home to Scotland’s largest local authority – hosted a welcome reception for the event being held in the INSP’s home town for the first time.

More than 80 delegates have travelled from 29 countries to be part of the week’s events and they were welcomed to the City Chambers by city officials who have supported the work of INSP for a number of years.

The evening brought together local business figures, media professionals and charity representatives.

Amid the spectacular marble and wood surrounds of the Banquet Hall, Baillie Phil Green of the Council spoke on behalf of the Lord Provost to welcome the delegates to Glasgow and express his admiration and respect for the work the INSP do around the world.

Now in its 16th year the theme of this year’s conference is ‘The Street Paper Success Story: The Next Chapter’.

Over the next four days workshop leaders, guests from the UK and international media, as well as government and business, will attend the event which is held in the Grand Crowne Plaza overlooking the city’s famous River Clyde.

Not only is Glasgow home to the INSP headquarters but it is also considered the media centre of Scotland and is home to many national newspaper groups, major publishers, BBC Scotland and Scottish Television.

With a busy week ahead, INSP executive director Lisa MacLean kicked off proceedings and said:

Photo: Danielle Batist

“You can always feel the pulse of our network at this event. There is so much energy and enthusiasm at this event and many great ideas are produced for the year ahead. This year, we’ve brought the conference back to the headquarters of INSP and we’re really excited about that”.

The conference will offer training and networking opportunities to the delegates from street papers around the world, they will have the opportunity to get involved in INSP projects and build on ideas for future campaigns.

Kayoko Yakuwa from the Big Issue Japan is travelling around the world visiting different street papers.  After working as the editor for six and a half years she says sometime she feels burnt out but it’s inspiring for her to come here and meet other people who work in street papers and share her goal.

For Kayoko this week is about “Sharing wisdom, encouraging each other and working with the other cities and papers to fight poverty”.

With a combined readership per edition of around 6 million people, this year is also an opportunity to reflect on and celebrate the success of the street papers. So how is it that street papers have been defying the slump in worldwide print sales and circulation has risen?

Koni Koo, Editor-in-Chief for the Big Issue Korea, thinks that people are interested in helping the homeless and that buying a copy of the paper is a good opportunity for people to do this.

She explained: “It’s a very easy way for them to help homeless people.  They can visit them, they can make a relationship with the vendors and they find some meaning in it at the same time”.

Tomas Havlin, Editor in Chief of Novy Prostor in the Czech Republic, thinks that some of the success of street papers is because they are not like other media and offer something different.

He added:  “In my experience we try to offer something which is not otherwise available in Czech Republic, people appreciate this”.

As well as offering training and support for Editors, this year the INSP hosted a photography workshop for street paper vendors which was led by world famous US photographer David Burnett.

Left: Ilse Weiss (Straßenkreuzer),
Centre: Michaela Gründler (Apropos),
Photo: Danielle Batist

The project aimed to help local Big Issue vendors capture their daily lives and explore the challenges faced by the growing number of homeless people.  The work will be displayed as part of the “Eyes of the Street” exhibition at the Mitchell Library in Glasgow.

After a busy week, the conference will be brought to a close on Friday night with the return International Street Paper awards when the winners from the seven award categories will be announced.

Rose Henry, vendor and writer of Victoria Street Newz in Canada, has been shortlisted for “Best Vendor Essay”.

She said: “For me it’s a big honour to be representing the city of Victoria as well as representing the Street Newz, this is our first time here and on a personal level it is a plateau that I never thought I would achieve”.

The International Network for Street Papers has come a long way since the last annual conference was held in Glasgow in 2008. Once again it brings together a diverse and inspiring group of people from all over the world but all representing and working for the same cause and this week looks set to be another success for the INSP.