Readers of the magazine responded in their droves to a request from Big Issue North to take part in the Big Sell, which invited people to find out first hand the challenges faced by street paper vendors.
In the biggest Big Sell yet, more than 40 people across the north took to the streets on 5-9 February to do their bit – in Salford, Bolton, Harrogate, Hull, Beverley, Sheffield, Doncaster, Leeds, York, Hebden Bridge, Manchester, West Kirby, Wigan, Ormskirk, Lytham St Annes and Liverpool.
Among the people who took part were Doncaster Council chief executive Jo Miller, Manchester music scene legend Dave Haslam, two archdeacons and local councillors from Salford and Sheffield.
Each guest sold for one hour alongside a regular Big Issue North vendor, and all money raised from magazine sales went straight into the regular vendor’s pocket.
Fay Selvan, chief executive of Big Issue North, said: “It was amazing to see so many people from all walks of life keen to give their time to support vendors, and experience the reality of selling on the streets in all weathers.
“I’m proud that we did the Big Sell for the fourth year running, joining other street papers around the world in raising awareness of the challenges facing the people who sell such magazines and hopefully boosting their sales.”
The Big Sell took place during #VendorWeek, with similar events in Melbourne, Sydney, Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver and Mexico City, who all sold their local street papers to understand more about the challenges faced by vendors.
Greater Manchester Mayor
I’ve been out here by the old Cornerhouse, selling Big Issue North with someone I know quite well, Colin, who’s often standing here.
What will I take away from it? First of all the cold and wet. It brings home how hard it is for people who sell Big Issue North – I’ll certainly think a bit more about that each time I pass them.
It’s hard when people walk past and don’t want to catch your eye. But also there’s the incredible generosity of more people than I thought who came up and bought it. In the end it was a quite positive experience. The Greater Manchester public are dead generous and it’s clear they’ve got a lot of affection for Colin. He’s built a lot of friends over the years and it really brings home to me how valuable Big Issue North can be in giving people a lifeline.
I’ll take back to my job just how tough it is out there at the moment – people are living in very challenging times and people like me need to do more. We need to be on the streets, see the reality, understand how hard it is, and always challenge ourselves to do more than we are doing.
Archdeacon of Manchester
For the last hour I’ve been outside Aldi in Irlam alongside vendor Cornell, the vendor here, so I’ve been trying to support him and highlight the work vendors do. I’ve been really cold. I’ve also been quite sad and disappointed about the lack of sales really. I think people have good hearts and are very cheerful but we’ve not been able to sell any magazines in my hour.
I’ve learnt how incredibly resilient the Big Issue North vendors are to do this and I know they need to, but to do this day after day, and receive the rather poor response that I’ve witnessed in this hour…
I’m a regular customer of vendor Kev’s and I thought it would be really interesting to find out what he does on a daily basis. It’s made me appreciate how hard it is just making eye contact with people and trying to make a sale. I would say try it. It’s £2.50 – you might not like every article in there but I bet you will find at least one that you will really enjoy. It would have been nice to sell in less snow and cold.
Doncaster Council Chief Executive
It’s really hard to get people to look you in the eye, to stop and chat, and to buy Big Issue North, but vendor Will taught me well. I have a new respect. I didn’t understand how hard it would be.
I take away from this just what a brilliant businessman Will is to sell this. He’s got to work out his supplies, he’s got to go and get them, he’s got to get his logistics sorted out, he’s got to work out his sales patter, and to be relentlessly cheerful in the cold when people are just walking by, just never ever giving up.
The first thing I’m going to do when I get back is I’m going to write about my experience for the council staff and just explain what it’s like, and how important it is that we support people who are doing this to try and get back into settled housing, which is what Will wants to do.
DJ and author, Manchester
I’ve been outside Selfridge’s in Exchange Square, Manchester, helping out a vendor called Chris. He’s been selling Big Issue North for 15 years. He’s actually number 006 – one of the originals.
It was raining and it was cold. I did just one hour. I count my blessings every day but when you do something like that you really realise how relentless the task is.
In fact, I think I slightly got in Chris’s way because were just gabbing for a lot of the time and he was talking about the things he had done.
For him being on the straight and narrow was a really important thing. Selling Big Issue North for him was a job and it was a job he enjoyed doing. Like I say he’s been doing it since back in the day.
Although he never came to the Haçienda where I used to DJ he used to be a Mod and we talked about music the whole time.
Right now I’m suffering a little bit with the cold this morning, but now I can go home and I can get warm, my family will look after me and in the morning I’ll feel fine. I was thinking, well, the vendors and the homeless – they haven’t got that.
If they’ve got a bit of illness coming, instead of saying “Oh, I’ll get home, take some Lemsip and I’ll be all right in the morning” they’ve got all weathers, all the challenges. That made me think: “Chris is a great guy. Every time I come into town I’ll come and say hello to him and buy Big Issue North off him.”
Councillor Jayne Dunn,
It’s a job – they have to buy the magazine in advance, like Clive, whose pitch I’ve been looking after. It really does help. It helps to tackle social isolation, it helps them build their self-esteem and confidence. It isn’t enough just to give people some money and a home. In order for people to rebuild their lives we need the wraparound support and they’ve got to be part of society again.
You can read more about what went on during #VendorWeek 2018 here.