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Opinion

It’s National Vendor Week, and time to remember that we’re all connected

For National Vendor Week, we asked our vendors to talk about their favourite cultural touchstones, and the results were a revelation

How much does what you like inform who you are? How much have the things you like shifted you as you shift with them? We all carry significant cultural moments that transport. They can be hugely personal or wildly in communion with others.

The theme tune to Lovejoy, and the past comforts that evokes; the bit in Radiohead’s Let Down when the tone changes and the thing swoops and that which was dark is flooded with light and everything is suddenly, immeasurably, better; an image of Eric Cantona, leonine, collar up, chest out towards the Stretford End; a line in a poem that for reasons you can’t explain, or don’t want to, fires you up; John Coltrane!  

When you start thinking about it, many will come. And with them the internal dialogues take flight and when others hear them, they feel they know you better. Everyone contains multitudes. One of the great parts of being in life is sharing these things and understanding that which bonds. 

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Frequently our vendors are seen as an amorphous mass, not individuals, people who are on the edge, who have been through it and who have suffered and are in need of tea and sympathy. There is a lot of truth in that, naturally.

But just as every one of their routes to sell The Big Issue is different in small and big ways, so every one of the things they like and feel is different in big and small ways.

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And there is no better way to understand these subatomic vibrations that supply the emotional charges, the charges everybody feels, that flash out and connect, than to ask our people for theirs. 

And so it is, this week, we invited our vendors to share their significant cultural moments that bring happiness. What a reveal! From the music of Captain Beefheart and the Beastie Boys, from calypso and singing in choirs; from crocheting to jigsawing; from Minder and Matisse, to Banksy and Iain Banks, the Bible to Steaua Bucharest.

It is a collection that defies rationality and celebrates the chaos of individual joys. All that we see is never all that there is. 

And in this National Vendor Week, our time to celebrate and pay tribute to the men and women for whom Big Issue ultimately exists, for their route out of poverty, their means of reconnecting with society, their highs and lows, let us all see that beyond the tabard every single person is thinking all the thoughts all the time and in this there is nothing that separates us. 

We are all vulnerable to delight. 

Paul McNamee is editor of the Big IssueRead more of his columns here. Follow him on Twitter

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