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The Big Issue

Big Issue, 2005
Editor in Chief John Bird
Categories Entertainment
Frequency Weekly
Circulation 175,000 (as of 2007)[1]
First issue September 1991
Company The Big Issue Foundation
Country United Kingdom
South Africa
Based in London, UK
Language English (UK Edition)
Big Issue salesperson on Stonegate, York

The Big Issue is a street newspaper published in eight countries; it is written by professional journalists and sold by homeless individuals. It was founded by John Bird and Gordon Roddick in September 1991. The Big Issue is one of the UK's leading social businesses and exists to offer homeless people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income, thereby helping them to reintegrate into mainstream society. It is also the world's most widely circulated street newspaper.[4][5]

To become a vendor, one must be homeless or vulnerably housed or marginalised in some way. The Big Issue recognises, however, that for many people, being housed is only the first stage in getting off the streets; therefore, The Big Issue Foundation exists to support vendors in gaining control of their lives by tackling the various issues which lead to homelessness.

The Big Issue has been described as one of the most successful street newspapers worldwide, selling over 300,000 copies a week and listed as the third-favourite newspaper of young British people (age 15 to 24) in 2001.[6]

There are 5 localised editions of the magazine sold throughout the United Kingdom and vendors buy The Big Issue for 75p[7] and sell it for £1.70. The magazine is also produced and sold in Australia, the Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Japan, Namibia, Kenya and Malawi. All vendors receive training, sign a code of conduct[8] and can be identified by badges which include their photo and vendor number.



Inspired by Street News, a newspaper sold by homeless people in New York, The Big Issue was founded in 1991 by John Bird and Gordon Roddick as a response to the increasing numbers of homeless people in London.[9] The magazine was initially published monthly, but in June 1993 The Big Issue went weekly. The venture continued to expand with national editions being established in Scotland [2] and Wales [3], as well as regional editions for Northern England [4] and England's South West Region [5]. Further editions are also produced in seven locations overseas.

In 1995 The Big Issue Foundation was founded to offer additional support and advice to vendors around issues such as housing, health, personal finance and addiction.

Overseas projects

There are seven Big Issue projects by the same name in other nations.


The Big Issue has been the centre of much controversy among publishers of street newspapers, mainly because of its business model.[5][10] Publishers of some other street newspapers, especially in the United States, have criticised it for being overly "commercial" and having a flashy design; according to these critics, street newspapers ought to focus on covering political and social issues that affect the homeless, rather than on emulating mainstream newspapers to generate a profit.[6][11] Publishers of some smaller papers, such as Making Change in Santa Monica, California, said they felt threatened when The Big Issue began to publish in their area.[6][11] Other papers have also criticised The Big Issue for its professional production and limited participation by homeless individuals in writing and producing the newspaper.[5] Others, however, have stated that The Big Issue uses a successful business model to generate a profit to benefit the homeless, and its founder John Bird has said that it is "possible to be both profitable and ethically correct."[6]


  • October 2008 The Big Issue was presented with the Ernst & Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year award.[12] [13]
  • November 2004 John Bird named BBC London Legend.
  • October 2004 Winner of United Nations Habitat Scroll of Honour Award.[14]
  • May 1996 Shortlisted for United Nations ‘Best Practice’ Award.
  • June 1995 John Bird awarded the MBE for ‘services to homeless people’ by Queen Elizabeth II

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ Brook, Stephen (18 April 2008). "Big Issue relaunched as sales rise". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  2. ^ "Introduction & History". Big Issue. Retrieved 2008-10-11. 
  3. ^ Masina, Lameck (13 March 2009). "Malawi Magazine to Help Provide Financial Support to Poor". Voice of America. Retrieved 5 May 2009. 
  4. ^ Heinz, Teresa L. (2004). "Street Newspapers". in David Levinson. Encyclopedia of Homelessness. SAGE Publications. p. 538. ISBN 0761927514.,M1. 
  5. ^ a b c Brown, Ann M. (2002). "Small Papers, Big Issues". Ryerson Review of Journalism. Retrieved 12 February 2009. 
  6. ^ a b c d Boukhari, Sophie (15 May 2001). "The press takes to the street". The UNESCO Courier. UNESCO. 
  7. ^ "How We Work". The Big Issue. Retrieved 16 September 2009. 
  8. ^ "The Big Issue - Code of Conduct" [1]
  9. ^ The Big Issue - Introduction and History
  10. ^ Magnusson, Jan A.. "The transnational street paper movement". Situation Sthlm. Retrieved 12 February 2009. 
  11. ^ a b Howley, Kevin (2005). Community Media (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 71. ISBN 0521792282. Retrieved 2009-02-12. 
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^

External links



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