#VendorWeek 2018: Hus Forbi gets cooking

There are many ways in which street papers are choosing to celebrate #VendorWeek 2018.

Some are putting on big sell events to encourage celebrities, business leaders, and politicians to experience what it’s like to work as a street paper vendor for the day; others are organising for vendors in disparate parts of the INSP network to chat to each other over FaceTime and Skype.

Droves of street papers have taken to social media to shout about how wonderful their vendors are. And, out on the streets themselves, vendors are still working away, selling brand new, special #VendorWeek editions of your local street paper.

But, in Denmark, street paper Hus Forbi is doing something a little bit different.

Always one to stand out from the crowd, they have organised for five of their lucky readers to be wined and dined for an evening, each day during #VendorWeek, by a Hus Forbi vendor and the magazine’s editor Poul Struve Nielsen.

Credit: Mette Kramer Kristensen

In what is a truly alternative way to celebrate #VendorWeek, Danish vendors are having their culinary skills put to the test by rustling up recipes taken from Hus Forbi’s 2018 calendar, which doubles as a cookbook made up of Hus Forbi vendors’ favourite meals.

The recipients of this delicious treat were selected via a competition question, the answer to which could only be found in the calendar they purchased from their local vendor.

Before putting their chef’s hats on, editor Poul and day one’s vendor, Kim Olsen, accompanied by photographer Mette Kramer Kristensen, headed to the supermarket to gather the ingredients for that night’s dish: spicy Moroccan chicken.

Credit: Mette Kramer Kristensen

Making sure to have everything they needed, the gang of cooks arrived in the city of Kolding, at the house of the first winning reader, Jeanette Baun Rasmussen.

Having a homeless street paper vendor come into your house to cook you dinner isn’t exactly an everyday experience, but Jeanette is welcoming and takes it in her stride.

“It’s not new to me to meet a homeless person,” she says. “I often meet another Hus Forbi vendor downtown, and he is really good company.”

As it turns out, vendor Kim, swapping his stack of papers tonight for salt, pepper, pots and pans, isn’t an unfamiliar face around these parts of Denmark. In fact, Kim is famous in Kolding after publishing a book, Kim the Vagabond, in collaboration with author Hanne Fevre, about his experiences of homelessness.

After exchanging pleasantries and getting to know one another a little, Poul and Kim moved into Jeanette’s kitchen to start cooking.

Credit: Mette Kramer Kristensen

Street paper vendors often come from a disadvantaged situation, with many of them experiencing poverty and homelessness. Jeanette, who was a skilled salesperson in her younger years, and worked for a long time in the postal service, sympathises with Kim, and other vendors like him. After becoming ill, and battling with stress and depression for a long time, she now gets by with the help of social security money.

In her current situation, she feels punished by the system, and is unable to find a job. She also has three sons, the oldest of which lives with physical and mental health problems. She says she’s grateful for the visit from Hus Forbi. “I was really happy to hear I won the competition. I could do with indulging in a big feast.”

Once dinner is served, everyone sits down to enjoy the freshly made food. They take the opportunity to talk about their lives and what it’s like being a street paper vendor, while Jeannette explains why she enjoys reading Hus Forbi. Most importantly, everyone feels full and satisfied from the meal.

Credit: Mette Kramer Kristensen

Kim, who has been selling Hus Forbi for four years, explains that, even before becoming a vendor, he never really had somewhere permanent to rest his head. “I have lived on the road for many years, and used to be a travelling craftsman. Even when I worked and earned good money, I didn’t have a place for myself.

“I lived in rooms, in hostels, and where other craftsmen otherwise slept when they were out. When I was a soldier, I just lived in the barracks.”

Credit: Mette Kramer Kristensen

After the dinner is over, the attendees say their goodbyes and part ways.

Gathering for a meal like this, one cooked by a vendor and editor, is a quirky and unusual #VendorWeek idea. It doesn’t grant a big sales boost, or raise awareness, like a selling event. It doesn’t bring vendors together from across oceans, making clear how tight knit the street paper community is, like a vendor interview.

But, it does present a familiar, comfortable setting for everyone integral to the street paper transaction – the editor who creates the paper, the vendor who sells it, and the reader who buys it – to sit down and talk, as equals, about why street papers are so important, and to see and hear from those that it benefits most. It allows the reader an opportunity to take a step towards actually understanding who the street paper vendor is as a human being, rather than perceiving them as just another person on the streets. Ultimately, that is what #VendorWeek is all about.

You can read more about what’s going on during #VendorWeek 2018 here.