Aside from the daily snubs and the repeated bouts of condescension thrown by urbanites, one of the biggest tragedies about the public’s perception of the Big Issue is how misunderstood it is.
Did you know, for example, that one of the most offensive things you can say to a vendor is, “here’s the money, but keep the paper”? As honourable as you may think that is, by doing so you are demoting that person from being a street vendor into a beggar, which is the anathema of the company’s founding principles.
Big Issue sellers are working, not begging, as part if a social enterprise, not charity, that has been working to give homeless people a hand up and not a hand out for the past quarter of a century. In that time it has helped thousands of individuals financially, putting £5 million in the pockets of vendors last year alone and releasing them from a dependence on hand-outs.
But it doesn’t stop there. Earning an income is the first step on the journey away from poverty and The Big Issue Foundation exists to link vendors with vital support and services, and it is this vital element that has made it on to the big screen in time to celebrate the magazine’s landmark achievement.
A Street Cat Named Bob
With 500,000 Facebook followers, five million books sold and now a movie to his name, Bob is a street cat who turned the life of James Bowen around when the duo became a street prodigy.
Homeless and a recovering drug addict, Bowen was running low on his luck busking on the streets on London where crowds passed him by until one day he and a stray cat became the best of friends, a relationship that would ultimately guide him out of poverty.
I, Daniel Blake
In what The Observer’s Mark Kermode described as a “battle cry for the dispossessed”, I, Daniel Blake is a film about a life-long joiner who was struck off work following a heart attack only to be told he didn’t have the “points” to qualify for Employment and Support Allowance. Blake is faced with working against the advice of his medical specialists – he risks sudden death from his heart condition – or not working without social security benefits.
Ken Loach’s newest film shows Blake struggle with a red of tape and eventually fall for single-parent Katie, who has to raise her children together face poverty and humiliation caused, says Loach, by a system that is designed, at best, to drive them into the black economy, or, at worst, to crush them completely between its robotic jaws.