Today up to 2,000 Big Issue vendors across England, Scotland and Wales returned eagerly to their pitches to sell the magazine for the first time since lockdown.
The Big Issue Group (TBIG) has taken measures including the provision of extensive PPE, contactless card payment equipment and the introduction of stringent health and safety procedures in all distribution offices to ensure vendors’ and customers safety remains paramount.
The Big Issue, which offers homeless and vulnerably housed people across the UK a means by which to earn a legitimate income, took the decision to safeguard its network of vendors and the public by asking that they stop selling on streets across the whole of the UK with immediate effect on 20th March for the foreseeable future.
Following announcements by the government regarding the easing of restrictions, the organisation confirmed that magazine vendors will be back out selling the magazine for the first time in 15 weeks since lockdown.
Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue said: “It fills us with pride and joy to announce that Big Issue vendors are back out selling as of today. We want to thank everyone who has supported us and vendors over the past 15 weeks. It’s a simple fact that we couldn’t have got through such a perilous time without the overwhelming generosity everyone has shown us.
“Please look out for your local vendor from today and buy a copy of the magazine. You may have to look twice, as they are coming back with a slightly new look. After carrying out a rigorous health & safety review, we have put in place a range of measures designed to ensure vendors are able to sell safely. As a result, you will see that vendors now have visors, latex gloves, face masks, anti-bacterial gel, bags to carry the magazines safely and will be carrying contactless readers where possible.
“We would encourage anyone who wants to support us who doesn’t have a local vendor or can’t buy from a local vendor to support The Big Issue’s mission to help people in poverty improve their lives, by buying a subscription to the magazine. We’ve have missed you all and we are so pleased to be back.”
Jim Pelham, who usually sells in the magazine outside Cross Key’s Shopping Centre, Salisbury, said: “I have missed the people for sure. The social interaction that I actually thrive on, the basic day to day camaraderie. I miss them. Going back to sell the magazine will help. Going out to work, especially something where you essentially have got to think about it like a businessman, completely changes your view on things.”
Earl John Charlton, who sells the magazine at Newcastle Central Station, said: “I am most looking forward to running down the road at six o’clock in the morning to get to the office! I’m going to be like Forrest Gump and you’re not going to stop me. I’ll be cycling in to the office to buy my magazine and it’ll take me down the Tyne – I’ve been shielding so all I’ve seen is my back wall for months. The fresh air, the cycle and getting back to work is what I’m most looking forward to.”
Pamela Clark, who sells at Blackington Road Co-op or WHSmith on George Street in Brighton, said: “I’ve missed the conversation with my public. So many people have asked me when we’re coming back. I am so happy to be going back, you wouldn’t believe it. I got all tingly when I was told! I can’t wait to see everybody. It’ll be so good to tell everybody we’re back with a vengeance! I can’t wait.”
Lee Welham, who usually sells at the Round Church, Cambridge, said: “Now it’s about loneliness for me. I’ve still got an inner circle of friends but after all these weeks it has been very, very tough for me. Just being on my own in a house all myself has been difficult. The Big Issue has given me plenty of support and kept me going and kept me fed but I can’t wait to go back now. I walked into town and saw 15 or so customers and now I can’t wait to see them on my pitch, it’s going to be exciting.”