#VendorWeek: a global street paper celebration

From INSP’s base in Scotland to the four corners of the world, street papers are celebrating #VendorWeek from 6-12 February.

There are currently more than 10,000 men and women earning a living by selling street papers, across 35 countries.

Street papers offer hope to some of the most marginalised people in our towns and cities – including those facing homelessness and long-term unemployment.

#VendorWeek is an opportunity for all the members of INSP to speak together, amplifying our global voice to pay tribute to our vendors.

Dozens of papers will take part, across Europe, North America, Latin America, Australia and Africa, with a huge range of promotion – from special editions to guest vendor events, social media campaigns to international vendor interviews… and even the first international exhibition of street paper artwork and vendor stories.


INSP will tell the story of the street paper movement with our brand new exhibition UNCOVERED: still homeless, still an issue, which launches this #VendorWeek at The Lighthouse in Glasgow.

The interactive show features vendor stories and design from 46 street papers: Apropos, Augustin, Big Issue North, BISS, bodo, Denver Voice, Die Jerusalëmmer, = Oslo, Faktum, FiftyFifty, Hecho en Bs. As., Hinz&Kunzt, Hus Forbi, Iso Numero, Kupfermuckn, L’Itineraire, Lice v Lice, Liceulice, Megafon, Megaphon, Megaphone, Mi Valedor, Ocas”, One Step Away, Real Change, Scarp, Shedia, Sorgenfri, The Springs Echo, Straatnieuws , Strassenkreuzer, Street Roots, Street Sense, StreetWise, Surprise, TagesSatz, The Big Issue Australia, The Big Issue Japan, The Big Issue Taiwan, The Big Issue Korea, The Big Issue South Africa, The Big Issue UK, The Contributor, The Curbside Chronicle, Z! and Zeitschrift der Strasse.

Special guests

Selling a street paper is hard work. Since #VendorWeek first launched in 2013, one of the most powerful ways of highlighting their work has been to bring in guest vendors from different walks of life to sell alongside regular vendors. This year, a whole new group of top politicians, business leaders, celebrities, authors and street paper readers will take to the streets to sell their local paper.

The Big Issue Australia has one of the most established guest vendor events in the world. This year, they will have more than 100 senior business leaders and politicians taking part. The Big Issue CEO Steven Persson said he hoped that #VendorWeek would “encourage the public to support their local vendor.”

In nine towns across the north of England, members of the public have signed up to partner a vendor for the day and sell Big Issue North. Fay Selvan, Chief Executive of The Big Life group, (the organisation that publishes Big Issue North) and chair of INSP, said:  “It’s great for Big Issue North to take part in #VendorWeek for the third year running, raising awareness of the challenges facing the people who sell the magazine and hopefully boosting their sales.

“It’s also been amazing to see how many members of the public are keen to give their time to support us – it shows that magazines like Big Issue North are valuable parts of the cultural landscape, but above all highlights the kindness and generosity of our readers. I’d like to thank all of them for their contribution to #VendorWeek, and hope that it will be a rewarding experience.”

Macedonian street paper Lice v Lice has invited young local authors to sell the paper alongside vendors, and asked them to share their experiences on social media.

In Mexico City, Mi Valedor has taken pictures of their vendors posing with signs that explain their personal goals in life – from seeing the dentist to finding a better home. They will then run a big guest seller event in a local park and put the profits towards making the vendors’ dreams a reality.

Canadian paper Megaphone will hold its second annual Big Sell event in Victoria on 7 February and Vancouver on 9 February. This year, community leaders and local business and union leaders will join well-known figures, including musicians and politicians. “These guest vendors will raise public awareness about homelessness and poverty in the city, and about the hard work Megaphone’s vendors do every day on the streets of Vancouver and Victoria, creating positive change in their own lives and in our shared communities,” said Megaphone Executive Director Jessica Hannon.

World Cup hero Beppe Bergomi will lead the guest vendors in Italy, selling Scarp de’ tenis in Milan. The footballer, who won the World Cup in 1982 with the Italian national soccer team, will be joined by famous pundit Bruno Pizzul, as well as the mayor of the city Beppe Sala and Cardinal Angelo Scola.

In Copenhagen, Hus Forbi vendors will be joined each day this week by famous friends. On Tuesday the paper’s own poetry slammer and vendor, Tonny, will sell alongside Danish stand-up comedian Sebastian Dorset. On Wednesday it’s the turn of athlete Sara Slott, silver medal winner in Rio for the hurdles. And on Friday they have Søren Berlev, drummer for Danish band Gasolin who Hus Forbi editor Poul Struve-Nielsen says are “the greatest Danish rock band ever” and “the most significant sound of my teenage years”.

In Washington D.C., Street Sense vendors will be joined by members of the city council, whilst in Philadelphia One Step Away’s sellers will be joined by influential members of their community, as well as representatives from other media organisations.

Special editions

#VendorWeek is a fantastic reason for street papers to shout about their place in an international movement of 110 street papers – all of whom are fighting homelessness and poverty. As always, this has spurred imaginative features, striking covers and inspiring collaborations.

In partnership with INSP, The Big Issue Australia collaborated with global collagues to bring together a special series of interviews and photos with vendors from Shedia in Greece, Hus Forbi in Copenhagen, StreetWise in Chicago, The Big Issue UK and The Big Issue Taiwan.

The Big Issue Australia also featured an interview with their own vendor Lukas, who says selling The Big Issue on the streets of Melbourne means he can be his own boss. “Drive, independence and tenacity are just some of the things you need to run your own business,” he says.

In Austria, Salzburg street paper Apropos devoted its entire February issue to #VendorWeek. They include a feature on their fellow street papers in Austria (where there are seven INSP members). Chief editor Michaela Gründler also reflects on her experience with Apropos, as she celebrates 18 years with the paper.

In Dallas, Texas, STREETZine gave #VendorWeek pride of place on their front cover for February. Editor Patricia Spradley said: “We want to share and celebrate the worldwide success of street papers with Dallas!”

Other street papers that will feature #VendorWeek stories include: The Big Issue UK, Street Sense, Hinz&Kunzt, One Step Away, The Contributor, The Big Issue South Africa, Toledo Streets, The Curbside Chronicle, FiftyFifty, Strassenkreuzer and Tages Satz.

Vendor interviews

Celebrating the solidarity between street paper vendors, a growing number of papers are bringing together their vendors for cultural exchange interviews over Skype.

Montreal-based paper L’Itinéraire and Portland’s Street Roots brought together their vendors for a #VendorWeek conversation. L’Itinéraire’s James spoke to Street Roots vendor John about the similarities and differences of selling on either side of the border. They also shared their common challenges. James said: “John and I have the same vision of homelessness. We see that people sometimes look at us with an evil eye. When I had a dwelling, I too looked at the homeless with an eye full of prejudices.”

Mark from Melbourne and Ann from Denver also got together online to discuss vendor life. The Big Issue Australia and Denver Voice vendors agreed that selling a street paper has given them back a positive outlook. “Instead of sitting around being negative and destructive and just getting wrecked, it’s given me something positive to do with my day. It’s given me some discipline, self-respect and helped my self-esteem,” said Mark.

One Step Away published a series of interviews between vendors at their own paper, plus Megaphone, Denver Voice, Big Issue North and Street Sense. Speaking to One Step Away vendor D.C. Clouds, Megaphone vendor Peter Thomas said: “The paper is one of the biggest helps I know, because the work that I put into it, the people… get to know me. They stop and talk, and they’ll tell me a story. It’s a great situation when you have people like that who want to come and help you.”

On tour

Swiss paper Surprise is going on tour, having hired a vintage VW bus that will serve as a travelling museum. When it is parked in the main squares of Bern, Basel and Zurich, passers-by can board the bus to find out more about the paper and its vendors. Staff will be on hand too, to distribute cake, soup and coffee to anyone in need of a bite to eat. “Food is always helpful in making a first contact,” explains deputy director Jannice Vierkoetter.

Kralji Ulice, the Slovenian paper whose name means ‘Kings of the Street’, has organised free alternative city tours for members of the public. Entitled Nevid(e)na Lublana (Invisible Ljubljana), the tours are conducted by homeless guides to give visitors a unique perspective on the streets they walk every day. Each day, their route leads to a different vendor. Stay tuned for their #VendorWeek film!

Greek paper Shedia will hold an Open Day for #VendorWeek. Their popular ‘Invisible Paths’ tours, led by homeless vendors, are an amazing insight to the city. Starting at the Shedia offices, this week will see them run two of the tours for free to bring in new customers. “It’s an opportunity for our readers to visit, meet and talk all those involved in the making of the Greek street paper,” says editor in chief Christos Alefantis.

Social campaigning – get involved!

The international nature of #VendorWeek makes it an ideal online campaign. You can follow worldwide street paper action – and join in – using the #VendorWeek hashtag all week.

Street Roots in Portland are harnessing their whole community for their #VendorWeek social media campaign. Community leaders will be tweeting what their vendors mean to them, and highlighting their importance to the community and local businesses.

Meanwhile, INSP will be tweeting vendor stories, and updates from our exhibition installation ahead of its launch on Thursday.

Last year we reached more than 30 million people with the hashtag – you can help us reach even more! Get tweeting to support street papers and their vendors.

Additional reporting by Eleanor Susan Lim.