The Big Issue Magazine

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The Big Issue Magazine

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Review of "The Big Issue Magazine"

published 22/11/2006 | Secre
Member since : 23/04/2003
Reviews : 572
Members who trust : 240
About me :
Journalling more for myself than anything else now, so I don't expect reads or rates!
Pro Extra money for those who need it most and not alot for you to give
Cons Advertising, the whole debate around unemployment - see below
very helpful
Quality of journalism
Quality of features
Value for money
Quantity of advertising

"What is the Big Issue?"

The basic idea of the Big Issue is to support homeless people and allow them to help themselves in small ways - such as selling a magazine. Many people - particularly if you live in a city -will have seen people standing on street corners selling the Big Issue...and many of those will have looked in the other direction and kept walking. I hope in this to give an explanation of Big Issue, the Big Issue magazine, and the possible reasons why it may not be such a good idea as well as why it is a good idea.

The Foundation:
The Big Issue Foundation was founded in November 1995, it is now an International movement whichoffers support to those on the streets by allowing them to take some control over their own lives and tries to help homeless people help themselves. It was set up as the charitable side of Big Issue, to strengthen and develop support services for Big Issue Vendors.
To enable those who are homeless to make a legal living and to learn ro help themselves.
Provide people who wouldn't usually have a voice in the media with one.
Provide a magazine of high quality to readers which will grip attention with issue which affect them but are overlooked by the national media.
Provide an alternative to conventional charity.
Basically it aims to allow those on the streets to gain the dignity of independance, self esteem and the ability to help themselves.

The magazine:
The aim of the magazine is to give a helping hand up to those in need rather than a simple hand out.
The magazine itself is at the heart of the Big Issue campaign, priced at £1.40 until today when it has become £1.50 it's not all that expensive to buy - a darn site less than the usual magazine you will find in shops and has better articles than some of them!The vendor buys the magazine for 60p and sells it on for £1.50 leaving them 90p for there own purposes which is well over 50%.
The inspiration for the magazine originally came from the USA where it was noted that people on the street were selling a magazine called 'Street News' by Gordon Roddick of The Body Shop on a visit to New York. With the assistance of The Body Shop International, Roddick and A. John Bird launched The Big Issue in September 1991, initially as a monthly publication in London.

The set up:
Basically it is set up as a main interview, articles, current news affairs, and entertainment section including snapshot, film, gigs, books, art & theatrem a Last words section including street Lights, Letters, Crossword and King for a Day and Advertising.
Writing quality
Now, when I first bought the magazine I was expecting jumbled together writing - an excuse for money rather than a proper magazine as such. The writing quality received however very much suprised me. It's well written with an obvious amount of thought gone into it, professional writers and in general an engaging and interesting style incorporating humour to make it easier to read. Whoever wrote it knows their job.

Again, I was expecting at best low stream celebrities, at worst people from the streets telling their life woes - which may be what some people want to read but not the best subject for a Monday morning. And again, I was suprised. If we take this weeks interview as an example you have Noel Gallagher from Oasis talking about how Oasis have become one of the biggest bands in the world even with walk outs, drug psychoses, critical maulings and not to mention a legendary fraternal rivalry. And this isn't a one off - they've had Kate Moss, David Beckham, and Arnold Schwarzenegger as a few examples. These aren't mundane, boring interviews, they are actually quite capturing and often entertaining. The editors know that whatever the plight of certain people on the street is this doesn't sell copies, and so they go for a mix between serious and humourous, but keeping the topic fairly light.

You really are going to think that I am naturally cynical...well actually I am but that's not the point in question...but yes, as you have probably guessed I was once again expecting uninteresting topics, badly written, coddled together as if done by a child and completly irrelevant to the everyday world. And again - I'll give you 3 guesses - I was wrong - Suprise, suprise. They focus very strongly on the weeks events and concerns and the journalist who writes them often writes a very thought provoking piece. They tend to have 3 of these articles - 1 based on a film star etc - this weeks is Ben Affleck and his come back to Hollywood, one on a currect political or social concern - How the messages from mainstream Muslims get swamped by dramatic headlines and one other. All tend to give you food for thought and all keep you interested while reading.

You may be wondering why I keep giving my original preconceptions on what it would be like - basically, I thought I was going to be paying for a some paper I could put in the dog basket. There is however a reason - I don't always have a method to my madness but on this occassion I do - by showing my own preconceptions, steotypes and biases I am hoping to alert people to their own, and say that although on occassions we are right - on others it may be better to give it a chance first.

There are 3 sections to the news: Homelessness - which explains itself really - there is an article on some secton of homelessness. Society - which can often be interesting and quite horryfying - 'Nine Year Olds Going To A&E With Drink Injuries', bringing up some of the nastier parts to our society that we often don't think about. And News in Brief which is 6 short pieces on interesting parts of the weeks goings on. There isn't an amazing amount of space dedicated to the news and if there was I think it would be rather boring!

This section is based around new snapshots, films, music, gigs, art, books, theatre and TV. The basis of this is the same for each you get a detailed article on one new of each and then a list of other new titles and a star rating. Personally this tends to be the section that I skip over although I do spare a glance at the book section. It's not that it's badly's more that I couldn't care less!

And finally - Street Lights
Now this was the section that confused me most at first 'What the hell is Street Lights?' I think was my first thought. Then I bothered to read the information! Street Lights is the voice of the street, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think it is the only media area that homeless people can truly get their thoughts heard. This is quite possibly the best bit in the whole magazine - and the rest of it is pretty good. The letters and poetry often show a keen intelligence and strong opinion...but a voice that is normalkly lost to the wind. The poetry is by a long way not the best I've ever read...but it has a real power to it which is captivating. You get a sudoku (which I am addicted to) and a crossword included as well.

My only bugbear is the advertising - and by God is there a lot of it - I can understand that this is the only way they can produce the mag at such a low price, but it is highly annoying to flick the page expecting the rest of an article and find 2 pages of adverts in the middle of it. I dislike having advertising shunted at me so obviously.

The Vendors.
My experience with the vendors has been wholly positive, I regularly see them giving directions, or pointing someone in the right way. My only problem is that I don't know how to say no, so even if I have got a Big Issue already I'll still give some cash, but this is a fault with me not them!!! It's their job to ask, and I always feel so sorry for them when people walk straight past with eyes strictly ahead as if they don't exist. £1.40 isn't a lot of money, and the magazine is well worth it...

It is obvious from this that I am quite firmly supporting the Big Issue, but I don't feel it would be fair if I didn't note some of the arguments aginst:
- My soical workers comment was - 'The Big Issue is not the magazine but they don't get off their backsides and get a job.' Basically his thought lines work along the lines of you can get simple manual labour jobs easily with no references - and as in a case I know - a criminal record and a recent release from prison. He doesn't see why he should pay for them to stand on street corners...equally he hates buskers...but again I am going off at a tangent.
- The company would be far better training them and trying to get them into a simple but reliable job instead of just giving them magazines to sell.
- It's the same people there day after day, year after year - it's obvious that they are just liking the free money aspect. They should have been able to save enough by now to get a decent (albeit cheap) set of clothes and get a manual labour job.

I don't necessarily agree, but I can see the logic behind the points...and I'll leave it up to you to decide what you feel.
Thanks for reading,

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Comments on this review

  • danielclark691 published 27/03/2017
    Very interesting
  • jb0077 published 22/06/2016
    An E from me, awesome.
  • wazza115 published 24/11/2015
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Product Information : The Big Issue Magazine

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Listed on Ciao since: 12/06/2006