As England enters a second lockdown set to last at least until early December, our vendors face a dire predicament: they are now not permitted to sell Big Issue North. The 350 people who sell Big Issue North are self-employed, buying magazines from our offices for £1.50 before selling them on the streets of the north for £3. This means that they are not eligible for furlough, and as they cannot work from home, homeless and vulnerably housed people across the north of England now find themselves without a source of desperately needed income.
The lead-up to Christmas is usually vendors’ most lucrative time of year, with calendars to sell, more people out and about doing their Christmas shopping and the Christmas spirit breeding feelings of generosity. This year, however, without any way to work and with winter drawing in, it is set to be their most difficult. We will do everything we can to support them through this incredibly difficult time, but we need help.
During the first lockdown, we paid out £500 each day to support vendors’ cost of living, from rent and bills for those in their own accommodation, to essential shopping and transport. This time, we expect to pay out even more, as we experienced an influx of new vendors when the first lockdown was lifted, and the bitter cold will lead to an increased need for help with bills. We were overwhelmed with the support we received from March to June and know that many will be keen to come to our vendors’ aid once again.
There are three things that members of the public can do today that will make an enormous difference.
Firstly, you can make a donation to our hardship fund, providing everything vendors need to survive the weeks ahead, by texting HARDSHIP to 70970 to give £5, going to easydonate.org/HARDSHIP, or scanning the QR code.
Secondly, you can continue to buy the magazine, either in Sainsbury’s (including Sainsbury’s online shop), Co-Op, McColl’s or Booths, or online at issuu.com/bigissuenorth. Half the cost of each magazine will go directly to our hardship fund. If you don’t want to have to shop each week, you can also subscribe to Big Issue North, either by purchasing a three, six or twelve month subscription package at shop.bigissuenorth.com/category/subscriptions, or by taking out a weekly direct debit at https://pay.gocardless.com/AL0003E9T4AAG1.
Finally, you can do some of your Christmas shopping on our online shop, shop.bigissuenorth.com. We have a wide range of products in store, from back issues and our new quarterly subscription magazine, The New Issue, to music merchandise, to handmade jewellery and homeware made from recycled copies of Big Issue North. You can also buy our 2021 calendar, featuring recipes for twelve of our vendors’ favourite dishes, transformed by The Creameries chef and Eat Well MCR founder Mary-Ellen McTague and beautifully photographed by Rebecca Lupton, for just £5. Or, for just £10, you can buy our Christmas 2020 bundle, including a calendar, a Big Issue North tote bag featuring quotes from poet Ian McMillan, and five pun-tastic Christmas cards.
If you have a knack for knitting, we are also currently looking for volunteers to knit warm hats, scarves, gloves and socks for our vendors for when they are able to return to work. Anything you can provide can be sent to Big Issue North, 463 Stretford Road, Manchester, M16 9AB, and will be very gratefully received.
You can also support us by buying a mask from www.etsy.com/uk/shop/MancMadeltd, who are donating £1 from every sale to our hardship fund.
Our vendors have never faced a challenge like this one, and support is greatly appreciated. Thank you.