I have been writing for The Big Issue magazine since 2012, when I moved north from London to Glasgow, with a Benedict Cumberbatch interview in my knapsack. A few weeks later, I had my first cover story and it was the start of a beautiful friendship.
Most of my work as Television Editor involves interviewing actors, writers and directors from the worlds of TV and film. As a magazine, we campaign on literacy and saving libraries, the future of the NHS, and fighting poverty and the causes of homelessness. We also investigate and document the housing crisis, chart routes out of poverty and bring together expert voices from the worlds of politics and activism. My work usually involves adding a bit of showbiz to this winning mix – albeit in features often laced with politics and/or activism.
One of the key tools in an actor’s armoury is the ability to feel empathy and understanding. They have to walk in other people’s shoes every day. Perhaps this is why so many are so keen to talk to us and support The Big Issue and our vendors. They instinctively understand our mission.
And we never lose sight of that mission. The Big Issue offers its vendors, who are or have been homeless or in insecure housing, a hand-up, not a hand-out. Over the past five years, I’ve met and interviewed many vendors from across the country – Aberdeen to Bournemouth, Nottingham to Glasgow, Durham to Cardiff. There are as many stories and routes into homelessness as there are vendors, but some commons threads emerge.
One is that selling The Big Issue offers structure, independence and purpose.
Another is that The Big Issue Foundation helps in a huge range of ways. Their work includes helping clients get to housing meetings or job interviews, open bank accounts or get passports, access health care, reconnect with estranged family members or friends, acquire skills to get back into employment, access training and education, make the move from the street to hostel, hostel to temporary accommodation and then on to something more permanent – before helping out with the essentials to set up home. It is tough work, helping people who are often excluded from mainstream society and disadvantaged in multiple ways.