I was talking to my local Big Issue vendor for ages today about my artwork. Constantine was really interested to hear about how I make my art and we had a good long chat about all the places I’ve exhibited at and how he used to sell art down in London.
I make an effort to buy the Big Issue every week for several reasons. First of all, it’s a bloody good read and the articles are always well researched and informative. I’ve been buying the magazine since it was launched in the 1990s and often it’s the only periodical that I read. I gave up on newspapers and TV ages ago because I got fed up of the spin and the sensationalism. The Big Issue has always made sure it stays balanced and gives as fair an opinion as it can.
Secondly, I buy the Big Issue because of its philosophy. The magazine is sold by homeless or vulnerably housed people who are helping themselves to get out of their situation. Charity is all very wonderful but it does not always teach vulnerable people how to develop into independent and self-sufficient members of the community. Sometimes education and enterprise are also what’s needed to help people develop their skill set. As a result, every Big Issue vendor is self-employed and is working hard to better themselves and earn money in the same way as the rest of us. Vendors buy the Big Issue from the local office for £1.25 and sell it on for £2.50.
I’m very lucky that I get to work from home and in interesting locations. I get to choose where I work and get to negotiate my fees. It’s only when I’m teaching my photography classes that I am forced to work outdoors. Even then, I can choose to set a class a task indoors if I feel it’s too cold or wet.
Constantine is working outdoors and on his feet all day every day no matter what the weather. He is ignored by busy shoppers and faces all sorts of comments and negative attitudes by people who don’t necessarily understand the positive philosophy behind the Big Issue. I have a huge amount of respect for Constantine and vendors like him. This is why I will always stop for a chat and take time out of my day to make sure my local Big Issue vendors are supported.