27 August 2014

INSP Conference Illustrations by Tony Mckay


25 August 2014

‘Life on the bridge: Sharon’s story’ republished

Ireland's Big Issue
Sharon Payne has spent many of her 47 years of life homeless and trying to survive on the streets of London, UK. As well as caring for her sick husband and disabled friend, Payne sells The Big Issue – getting up in the early hours of the morning to put in a hard day’s graft at her London Bridge pitch.

Freelance journalist Danielle Batist followed Sharon on a typical day selling magazines in the British capital, seeking to destroy the stereotypes surrounding homelessness.

This touching story, told both by Danielle and Sharon herself, was republished by Ireland’s Big Issue.

The article can still be downloaded here.

Leben auf der Brücke: Die Geschichte von Sharon neu veröffentlicht

Sharon Payne war viele Jahre ihres 47-jährigen Lebens obdachlos und versuchte auf den Straßen Londons zu überleben. Während sie sich um ihren kranken Ehemann und einen behinderten Freund kümmert, verkauft Payne The Big Issue. Jeden Morgen steht sie früh auf, um ihre Schufterei an ihrem Standort London Bridge zu beginnen.

Die freie Journalisten Danielle Batist verbrachte einen typischen Tag mit Sharon und versuchte Magazine in der britischen Hauptstadt zu verkaufen und die Vorurteile gegenüber Obdachlosigkeit zu zerstören.

Diese berührende Geschichte, sowohl von Danielle und Sharon selber erzählt, wurde vom irländischen Big Issue neu veröffentlicht.

Der Artikel kann hier nach wie vor runtergeladen werden.

22 August 2014

Jill Brown: Barlinnie Prison Blues

By Callum McSorley

“They do like doing Johnny Cash,” laughs Jill Brown, a Glasgow musician and former STV newsreader with an unusual take on what makes a good gig venue, and a good backing band.

Though tonight she’s just finished playing for the international delegates at the INSP’s 18th annual conference, Brown plays the majority of her shows at some of the country’s biggest and most notorious prisons – recruiting musically talented offenders to fill out the band and play covers of their choice. And as you might expect, the Folsom Prison Blues singer is a popular pick.

Standing on the banks of the Clyde, as the sun sets over the Glasgow skyline, the striking singer explains her motivation.

“I decided to play places nobody else wanted to play, where they might not get access to live music. My aim is to try and give them some kind of normality and to restore a sense of dignity, because that gets taken away from you in prison,” she says. “It’s a really brutal environment, a really harsh environment, it’s not a holiday camp like some people seem to imagine that it is.”

For Brown, it is also about rehabilitation. “It gives them a bit of entertainment and perhaps a sense of hope that things are still going on in the outside and they can hopefully be part of that when they come out.”

Admittedly, her mother has a different opinion: “My mum always says I go to Barlinnie to depress the prisoners because my songs are a bit melancholic.”

Brown even plays for protected prisoners, including sex offenders, leading to quite a high turn-over in band members. Tonight it’s just been her and guitarist Andy Craig playing a stripped-down acoustic set, her songs a mixture of soul, folk and blues.

However much she enjoys her work, Brown admits that some of her musical colleagues have found it a tough gig. “I really like it but I’ve gone through quite a few guitarists who won’t play because they find it intimidating,” she says.

Brown’s last gig was at Barlinnie, a notorious prison in the Glasgow suburbs. “It’s not a common environment,” she allows, “and there are quite a lot of rigorous checks you have to go through. I go in and rehearse with the prisoners, which is just basically all guys. I just treat them as people and it’s quite relaxed really.”

On top of her difficulty keeping musicians, Brown also has to work hard encouraging prisoners to open themselves up enough to get involved. “We were quite warmly received,” she says of the Barlinnie concert, “but in prison it’s not the done thing to show any sign of weakness, so they can be quite a difficult audience because they don’t want to show emotion, including any sense of excitement or appreciation, but they usually do change.

“Once I’ve done all my usual chit chat they seem to kind of warm up and if they like the music that’s obviously helpful; if they don’t like it it’s tough.”

Fortunately Brown is used to standing up for herself. As she told the INSP audience early before introducing her song, ‘There’s A Right Hook Coming And A Little Bit More’, “I’m the only female in my amateur boxing club – so don’t mess with me!”

In addition to prisons, Brown also plays in homeless shelters and rehab centres for drug addicts and alcoholics. It means the crowds aren’t always what you might expect.

“People don’t really adhere to the conventions of being an audience – they talk through things, they scream through things, they shout through things, they decide they’re going to go to the toilet in the middle of the gig,” Brown says. “It’s quite off-putting but really it’s quite good to get used to that, because you’re not going to always captivate people’s attention. No one’s going to love you all the time.”

Brown is very particular about the kind of shows she plays and agreed to perform for the street paper delegates when she heard about the amazing work they do around the world, helping the homeless lift themselves out of poverty. In fact, she’s so committed that she made it along despite a nasty sore throat – several times demurely turning her head to one side during the show for a rasping cough.
This powerful sense of right and wrong seems to run through the rest of her life too. For her other job, she runs a PR and crisis management consultancy. Extremely unusually for the business, she refuses to take on anyone who doesn’t make a positive contribution to society.

A sore throat is no obstacle when you’re as motivated as this to do good for your fellow man, then. “I’ve got a strong sense of social justice,” she says, seriously, “and so everything I do is about making a difference in people’s lives.”

Photo: Kirstie Gorman

18 August 2014

"We are a movement built upon love"

Tim Harris, director of Real Change in Seattle, addressed the INSP’s 20th Anniversary dinner at Crowne Plaza, Glasgow on 15 August. This is a transcript of his moving speech. Real Change will host next year’s INSP Conference in Seattle.

Like John Bird and several others, I’m up here because I’ve been doing this work a long time, and have seen and learned a lot.

I began in the late 80s, inspired by Mitch Snyder and the Community for Creative Non-Violence, and their refusal to accept homelessness as being remotely normal or OK. My first arrest was in Washington DC in 1985, where I got to spend three days in DC Central Cell Block supporting his hunger strike that lasted 51 days.

Snyder lost 57lbs during that fast, and when asked by a reporter if he was afraid to die, he said, “No. It’s painful, but I have a greater fear of allowing people to languish like animals, and sometimes I’m afraid I’m not doing enough.”

We can all relate to that. Homelessness, at its core, is about the dehumanization of those whose hard lives can often be predicted from birth. The outsiders we are taught to fear and despise. Who, at best, are seen as invisible, and often come to doubt their own value as human beings.

When I started Spare Change in Boston, back in 1992, it was as an answer to a few basic questions: how do we organize a movement that includes those hardest hit by growing inequality? How do we help people meet their own basic human needs? How do we reach across class and race together to build a better world?

Others were asking similar questions. The early 90s was a period of inspiration and invention. Papers like Journal l’Itinerare in Montreal, StreetWise in Chicago, and The Big Issue in London were the first wave of the modern street paper movement.

When we started these papers, we often didn’t see what others were doing. We all took this idea, pioneered in 1989 by Street News in New York, and then, we made it up as we went along.

And we found that we weren’t alone; that we were part of a movement. The Big Issue created the International Network of Street Papers in 1994, and the North American Street Newspaper Association was founded in 1997 by StreetWise, the National Coalition for the Homeless, and Real Change. And now, we are all part of the same movement.

We have not always agreed with each other. At the founding NASNA conference, for example, about a quarter of the delegates walked out of the by-laws plenary after losing a vote on consensus verses majority rule.

But we’ve since learned that our diversity is our strength, and that what we have in common trumps our differences.

Each of our vendors is a hub of human relationships. Each newspaper is a stone thrown on pond, and creates ripples that have effect. And these ripples accumulate, to form a vast movement for human dignity and economic justice.

And our roots are deeper than many of us realize.

Our roots are in the economic disruption of industrialization, and the dislocations this created, and go back to papers like The War Cry, founded by the Salvation Army in London in 1879; to Hobo News, founded in 1915 in Cincinnati and sold by the International Workers of the World across the country; to the Catholic Worker, founded in 1933 by Peter Maurin and Dorothy Day in New York.

All of these papers gave voice to the voiceless, and were sold on the street as a survival strategy by the economically marginalized.

My airplane book on this trip has been a biography of Peter Maurin, the philosopher-saint behind the Catholic Worker movement. This has been a better match as a conference read than I imagined.

In 1933, the Catholic Worker published their first issue of 2,500 copies for $57. I’m sure that many of us can relate to this as well. A year later, they had a nationwide circulation of 35,000. Five years later, it was 165,000, and international.

This is a growth curve we can all envy. And here’s the thing. I can assure you that it was not owed to the brilliance of their business plan. They couldn’t have been less interested in that. The Catholic Worker was a prophetic voice that spoke to the enormous gap between what is and what should be, and ran on pure passion.

They stood up for human dignity, and were about the reinvention of human relationships. They saw the emptiness of consumer society, and worked toward a world where everyone could find dignity in work, and in caring relationship to others.

This sort of vision and audacity is a part of our history that we need to own.

We don’t need to be saints like Maurin, committed to lives of celibacy and poverty, and living like medieval mendicant monks. But we do need to speak to the tragic gap, the difference between what is and what should be.

We need to be practical prophets, who live at the center of our passion for a better world, but can also write a business plan. Who can build inclusive organizations that improve and endure, but never, ever, become boring.

We end this conference, our Twenty Year celebration of the INSP, knowing that are all in this together, learning from each other, healing a broken world, one vendor and one newspaper at a time.
We are a movement built upon love, and that is an amazing and awe inspiring thing. We should never forget this.

‘Scottish independence - the most important referendum in British history’ republished

Article 25 (USA)
On 18 September, the people of Scotland will cast their votes in the most important referendum ever to be held in Britain and answer the question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” If Scotland votes to leave the UK it would be a truly seismic political moment, a decision that will reverberate across the world and end one of the most successful political unions in modern history. After more than 300 years of partnership with England after signing the Treaty of Union in 1707, Scotland would become the world’s newest sovereign state.

In a special two-part report for INSP, Billy Briggs documented events at grassroots level while Callum McSorley grilled Alistair Darling, Britain’s former Chancellor of the Exchequer and head of the Better Together campaign.

The article was republished by Article 25, based in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA.

It can still be downloaded here.

„Die schottische Unabhängigkeit - eine der wichtigsten Volksabstimmungen in Großbritanniens Geschichte“ erscheint in den USA

Am 18. September werden die Schotten ihre Stimme in einem der wichtigsten Referenden abgeben, die in Großbritannien jemals abgehalten wurden. Die Frage wird lauten: „Soll Schottland unabhängig sein?“ Sollte sich Schottland dafür entscheiden, das Vereinigte Königreich zu verlassen, wäre das ein wirklich wegweisender politischer Moment. Die Entscheidung würde auf der ganzen Welt Beachtung finden und eines der erfolgreichsten politischen Bündnisse der modernen Geschichte beenden. Nach einer mehr als 300 Jahre dauernden Partnerschaft mit England würde Schottland zum jüngsten souveränen Staat der Welt werden.

In einer exklusiven zweiteiligen Reportage für INSP dokumentiert Billy Briggs basisdemokratische Organisationen, während Callum McSorley Alistair Darling grillt, Großbritanniens ehemaligen Finanzminister und Leiter der Kampagne „Better Together“.

Der Artikel ist im Straßenmagazin „Article 25“ aus Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, erschienen.

Hier können Sie ihn immer noch herunterladen.

15 August 2014

"We can tackle homelessness together"

By Callum McSorley

INSP’s 18th annual conference came to a close in Glasgow today, with delegates winding down and looking forward to the night’s celebration of INSP’s 20th anniversary and some traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing.

Over the three days of the conference, delegates shared ideas and experiences and faced challenges together. For many, this was the most valuable aspect of the week.

“When I’m working in Japan I sometimes feel like we’re struggling with the issue of homelessness by ourselves, but when I come here it feels like a global issue and we can tackle homelessness together,” said Kayoko Yakuwa, editor of the Big Issue Japan (pictured).

For Kayoko, the solidarity between street papers is a great boost, and was impressed by the hard graft of Greek street paper, Shedia, one of INSP’s newer members who formed to help the many people struggling in Greece following an economic collapse.

“It is a great networking place and we can encourage each other and share experiences. It encouraged me a lot, I feel delighted to be here,” she said.

Eric Guyader, founder and director of Aurora da Rua in Brazil agreed. “It’s very important for the international scene to meet and talk– the contents are important but even without the contents it’s good to speak about all the street papers, the difficulties and to share,” he said.

“To me it absolutely crucial to come to the conference because I do not have that kind of support in my city,” said Lana Shaw, founder and senior editor of Speak Up (USA).

“Here I find people doing what I’m doing, all over the world, and the issues are a little bit different but it’s good to talk. It’s wonderful to be able to bounce off ideas and engage with solutions and hear what the challenges are."

Lana and Kayoko were both inspired by INSP’s Big Sell Off in the UK, for which celebrities and business leaders sell The Big Issue for a day to raise awareness and money for charity, and were keen to try the idea out in their own cities.

Another idea that impressed many this week was The Big Issue South Africa’s Smart Bib – modelled by Trudy Vlok (pictured left) – which lets vendors accept cashless payments and doubled sales of the paper when it was launched recently.

“I was completely blown away by Big Issue South Africa’s smart bib concept and how they’re using that. That’s one of the most brilliant things I’ve seen for a long time,” founding director of Real Change (USA) Tim Harris said.

Next year, the 19th annual conference will be held in Real Change’s home base of Seattle, Washington.

“There is a lot of experience within the street paper movement, we’re all the experts and we can learn from each other, and I think that’s the main idea we will be carrying into the Seattle conference,” Tim said.

How can we challenge a poverty of expectation?

By David Meiklejohn

Chief Executive of Turning Point Scotland Martin Cawley today described the problems surrounding homeless people in Glasgow as "a poverty of expectation" at the final day of the 2014 INSP Conference.

"The city of Glasgow has some quite complex issues within its boundaries, and with those issues comes complex problems. With these, people lose their sense of expectation, and it becomes a way of life.

"People can feel helpless, there can be a poverty of expectation."

Cawley offered hope from the ‘Housing First’ model, which can work to end the cycle of this self-fulfilling prophecy.

Housing First Glasgow provides mainstream social housing and 24 hour support to individuals who are homeless, aged 18 or over and involved in drug misuse.

"A home gives us a sense of identity, and a sense of hope that life can be better, that life can be better tomorrow than it was today," said Cawley.

The programme resulted in 85% of the homeless people helped managing to sustain their tenancies.

Rates for similar programmes internationally are consistently high in Europe and North America.

Joined by a panel of street paper distributors, Cawley’s message of inclusion chimed with Editor-in-Chief of Greek magazine Shedia Chris Alefantis contention that that a sense of belonging is just as important as pay for their vendors in Athens.

“They all focus on self-esteem and how this process helps them to be visible, to fit in,” he said.

Meanwhile, Karin Lohr, Managing Director of German paper Biss said their vendors were primarily interested in the income from selling the paper.

"I would say the vast majority of our employed vendors sell the paper for the money. Earning a living is the most important issue," she said.

With the stigma against homeless people a real issue in society, it was discussed how magazines and vendors could work together to create a better image of homeless people.

Cawley said that online networking could be used to counter the negative attitudes towards homeless people.

"I think we all have a responsibility to use social media more to challenge the stigma. I think if we can do that, we can influence a new generation,” he said.

INSP conference's first public event calls for end to world poverty

 By Callum McSorley

The INSP conference hosted its first ever public event on Thursday evening at the Mitchell Theatre in Glasgow [sponsored by Kibble], with an impassioned call to use social business to end poverty.

“For the last 37 years all we’ve done is manage poverty, we haven’t actually dented it,” said Steven Persson, CEO of The Big Issue Australia.

Speaking to a room full of street paper staff, charity leaders and social entrepreneurs, Persson called upon them to step up and tackle worldwide poverty.

“It’s time for us, as organisations, to stop looking for leadership and actually come up with the solutions ourselves. For too long we’ve turned to governments.

"Homeless and marginalised people have been way too patient for change and I think we’ve got to use every vehicle for change,” he said.

Head of Oxfam Scotland, Jamie Livingstone warned that poverty levels in this country are following a worrying trend.

“In Scotland we’re seeing poverty levels increase. We had 70,000 people in Scotland use food banks last year,” he said.

UK Big Issue founder John Bird was quick to disagreed that things are getting worse and looked back to his own experiences of being homeless during childhood as an example.

“When I was a boy there was nobody there to protect us other than the Catholic Church, there were no charities and no shelters,” he argued. “Don’t try and kid yourself that it’s as bad as it was, we have moved on and we need to build on that.”

The panel also featured leading social innovators Lauren Currie, co-founder and director of Snook and Susan Aktemel, founder and director of Homes for Good, a social letting agent for people on low incomes. Both testified to the positive results of social innovation.

“I know I could go out and make far more money in the private sector but I’m choosing not to, and there are more and more of us in the country who are choosing not to,” said Aktemel.

The reward for this way of doing business is not just money, she argued. “There are two pay packets, you get the financial one and you get the social one. Today I had two pieces of mail in the mailbox, one was an invoice from a surveyor for a property and the other one was a thank you card from a tenant that made us all cry when we read it.”

Currie, whose agency Snook uses design methods to solve social problems, agreed, “Creative people in Scotland are told they need to go to London. We wanted to stay in Scotland and use design to do good.”

Event sponsor:

“Let me tell you a little secret: print is not dead.”

By David Meiklejohn and Callum McSorley

Flipping Pages Media founder and digital publishing consultant Peter Houston started day two at the INSP Conference 2014 by confronting the big technological question: how do we go digital and keep our vendors at the centre of the transaction?

Though alternative digital publishing methods are on the horizon, Houston said we should not dismiss the value of print.

“People have been using forks for thousands of years. Now some idiot tried to invent a spork, but we're all still using forks!” he argued.

“Let me tell you a little secret: print is not dead.”

For Houston, it is not about going digital – it is about street papers going multiplatform.

Social media can be used now to boost magazine sales, he said. “Social media is the heartbeat between editions. It always gives people a reason to think about you, to think about the vendors so they stop and buy the magazine.”

Some street papers have already been able to do this successfully. Z! Amsterdam recruits vendors to use Twitter, where they can speak directly to readers and share their stories and jokes.

“It’s a new way of giving our vendors a voice. It really works on Twitter, it’s great and it’s very hard to get that in the paper. It’s an easy way to get your vendors to talk about what they find interesting and a great way to get vendors into your operation,” said director and editor, Hans van Dalfsen.

The Big Issue UK has also been successful in setting up a series of gigs around the country with busker-turned-megastar, Passenger, all organised through social media – raising awareness of street papers and homelessness with a younger audience they hadn’t reached previously.

As vendors rely on customer interaction – selling the physical magazine on the street – many papers are wondering how to adapt and survive in the digital world.

Paul McNamee, editor of The Big Issue UK warned that to avoid tackling the tricky subject would be “sticking our heads in the sand”.

Meanwhile Alan Attwood of The Big Issue Australia compared street papers to vinyl records.

“I’ve started to have this naïve, perhaps deluded, idea that one of the reasons sales of a lot of street papers are holding firm is that, perhaps, there is a real advantage these days to being a real, old fashioned print publication,” he said.

“It’s a bit like LP records, they were meant to be gone but now they’re back and cooler than ever. So I actually wonder if to remain as a predominantly print publication may actually be a clever survival strategy.”


14 August 2014

“How many of us have actually tried selling for a day?”

By Callum McSorley

“How many of us have actually tried selling for a day?” asked Richard van Rijn, head of distribution at Straatnieuws in the Netherlands (pictured).

Richard’s challenge came on Wednesday at the INSP conference in Glasgow, as part of a Street Paper Exchange which allowed members to share problems and new ideas.

Richard’s street paper has a tradition that he believes could help not street paper staff to put themselves in the vendors’ shoes – every new start, from volunteers and interns on up, has to spend a full day on the streets selling papers,

Richard himself went through this rite of passage recently.

“It’s damn hard, and I’m a communicative person, especially in Dutch,” he said.

“I like to make fun, tell jokes, and sing and dance but if you’re standing there on a cold, rainy day and people are ignoring you, even the biggest optimist will get depressed in a matter of hours.”

Along with the new intake of interns, Richard spent six hours trying to sell papers in the city – and didn’t make a single euro.

“One guy sold one paper and another one got a euro or two euros tip, and that gave a really interesting perspective on how it is to be on the street.  Before they had that experience they were like, ‘oh, yeah, well it’s not really that hard to be on your legs for seven or eight hours’, but once they experienced it, it became clear that it’s a very, very hard job.”

Des Sharples of The Big Issue UK agreed that the experience could be valuable – pointing to similar projects in Britain and Australia where celebrities, business leaders, city councillors and even police are given a vendor jacket and sent out to a pitch in town.

“For people who work on councils and people within the police, it’s good for them to know because these are some of the guys that might hassle your vendors or just not understand what it is that they’re going through,” he said. “If you can get them to have a little bit of empathy with your vendors because they’ve been out and done it themselves, it’s pretty good.”

INSP and The Big Issue recently staged The Big Sell Off, a variation of this idea that saw celebrities sell The Big Issue to raise money for charity.

Also speaking at the Street Paper Exchange, Alan Attwood, editor of The Big Issue Australia, voiced his own idea of how to change public perceptions of homeless vendors, by going straight to the top of the Australian government.

He proposed starting a project called 'Dear Prime Minister', in which The Big Issue Australia’s vendors would write letters to Prime Minister Tony Abbott, using their own words and experiences to break stereotypes and influence public opinion from the top down.

These kinds of activities can also benefit the street paper itself. “I think the only way to survive as a publication is to be unique and what makes us unique is the vendors,” he said. “It makes us different, it makes us special.”

13 August 2014

Street papers combat Victorian attitudes of the "undeserving poor"

By David Meiklejohn

The INSP conference in Glasgow today warned that this generation is at risk of reverting to a Victorian idea of the “undeserving poor” – but said that street papers provide an answer.

“This generation might have something in common with the Victorian generation, we are creating an idea of undeserving poor,” argued Jim Mullan, CEO of The Big Issue UK.

“Social enterprise combats that attitude, that is where our mission is and this is where we are most powerful.”

These powerful words emerged in a debate about how street papers around the world balance their social mission with economic stability.

Featuring Mullan, Ole Sku from Hus Forbi in Denmark, Steven Persson of The Big Issue Australia and Paulo Gallo of Swiss paper Surprise, and chaired by Fay Selvan of The Big Issue in the North, the panel debate examined how INSP members make decisions over what funding to accept.

“It does matter [where we get finance from],” Mullan added. “If there is no margin there is no mission, but there has to be a mission. 

“It is very important we stand together as a group, it is perfectly possible to meet the needs of homeless people with without exploitation, and without having someone in a dark room making a lot of money.”

INSP Secretary and The Big Issue Australia representative Steven Persson [pictured] argued that due to the number of benefits being handed out by the government, it was important for potential customers to recognise the magazine is not being reliant on taxpayers’ money. He added that the product “has to be in the marketplace as receiving no government funding.”

This sentiment was echoed by other panelists, with Ole Sku of Danish paper Hus Forbi saying: “It is very important for us not to be dependent [on government funding]. Both politically and economically, we like to be independent.”

Tim Harris, founder of Seattle-based Real Change, also spoke of how funding would have to meet certain criteria before being accepted.

“For me it comes back to the mission alignment,” he said. “All of our decisions about funding run through that filter, if the money is in line with our mission then we would take it. But for example, we would not take money from Walmart.”

"In the last year, our vendors earned £25 million"

By David Meiklejohn

"Welcome to three days of working together," said INSP Chairman Serge Lareault as social entrepreneurs from international street papers arrived in Glasgow on Wednesday to celebrate 20 years of the INSP at the 2014 conference.

With 123 papers in 41 countries around the world, the network continues to go from strength to strength, helping 20,000 vendors a year as they work their way out of poverty.

"We are impractical practitioners," argued Big Issue UK founder John Bird, after announcing that he has recently become the “UK’s best serious comedian” with his own stand-up show. "Lots of people tell capitalism off but they don’t give you something to do. We do something – we start street papers, and run them over the years.

"It’s been a great ride over the last 20 years," he added, concluding the welcome from The Big Issue, as hosts of this year's conference. "One of the reasons I love the INSP is because we can all share and work together."

Introducing the latest figures gathered from the group, INSP Chief Executive Maree Aldam said that the network currently has a readership of 6 million people per edition.

While there are challenges ahead, as for the whole of print media, she acknowledged, but the number of people helped by INSP street papers remains striking.

"In the last year, our vendors earned £25 million," she said. "This week we will look at the issues we all face and share our ideas."

Thus fired up, the process of exchange began immediately with an animated session of speed networking [pictured].

Glasgow City welcomes the INSP conference

By Callum McSorley

Among the grand surrounds of Glasgow’s City Chambers, the INSP's global gathering was officially welcomed by the City Council on Tuesday evening

Long proud of INSP’s link to the city, Glasgow’s Lord Provost is a passionate supporter of INSP and the street paper movement.

With Scotland’s biggest city still buzzing from the successful Commonwealth Games last month, his representative, Baillie Jonathan Findlay said he was proud to again welcome international visitors to the city.

“INSP was founded here in 1994 to enable those involved in publishing and distributing street papers to come to together and support each other and forge an ambitious and uncertain experiment,” he said.

“Now 20 years and 120 street papers later, it is an organised and unified movement of social entrepreneurs who have managed to show the world that there are more innovative ways to tackle homelessness and poverty.”

Expressing his gratitude to the City of Glasgow, recently appointed CEO of The Big Issue UK, Jim Mullan modestly looked forward to the coming week.

“I suspect you guys have lots of things to teach me about what I should be doing and what I should be considering in my current role,” he said. “To see you all here and to have the opportunity to hear about the great work being done all over the world is truly a privilege.”

Delegates were already excited to get to work discussing the place of street papers in the digital age, a central theme of this year’s conference.

Thomas Anthun Neilsen of Megafon [Norway, pictured] said: “It’s a changing world, we’re going from print media to digital media and that transaction is very important. We can take print media and turn it into digital media but we’re not going to lose the fact that we’re actually working with and for homeless people.

“So how can we make street papers into the digital world but still keeping the core mission which is helping homeless people?”

Thomas, a veteran and self-described “old guy” of INSP conferences, is keen to share his paper’s own ideas of how best to do this with an app on the way that lets readers locate their nearest vendor and buy an online version of the magazine.

“A lot of these people are my friends and meeting them, and getting to know them and learn from their experience, that’s really important. We do have plans and we’re going to share them with friends,” he said.

“The annual conference for me is a highlight of the INSP year,” agreed Trudy Vlok of The Big Issue South Africa. “It is an amazing opportunity to get together with colleagues who operate in a similar space, very often in different political and social climates, and talk through the challenges, to look at solutions and to, honestly, just really show support of the work we’re doing.”

INSP Chair Serge Lareault, closed the reception by looking back at INSP’s history as it celebrates its 20th anniversary, now with 123 street papers in 41 countries around the world, but warned that there is still much to be done.

“I started 20 years ago in Montreal and we still haven’t solved the problem,” he said. “We have more and more homeless people in our countries and the gap between the rich and the poor is higher than ever. But we are part of the solution. 

“I hope this week you will have fun but will also create a new vision to change the world.”

Fresh ideas kick off 2014’s INSP conference

By Callum McSorley

Old hands from The Big Issue UK, The Big Issue Australia and Canada's L’Itinéraire joined the INSP's 18th conference early on Tuesday to share their wisdom with international colleagues, some of whom were joining the gathering for the very first time.

The event included workshops on editorial content, vendor support and fundraising and provided a lively start ahead of the official opening of the conference on Wednesday.

Lana Shaw, of the US street paper Speak Up [pictured], is this year attending her first INSP conference. “I love it, there’s no other place like it. Where else are you going to be surrounded by people from all over the world that are doing what you’re doing? It’s incredible,” she said.

Though there was a lot to take in from the training, Lana said her main lesson was simple – you can have fun with the magazine.

“All the teachers were wonderful but my favourite was the first session taught by Alan [Attwood – The Big Issue Australia]. One of the things he talked about was how we can have fun with our editorial content and there’s a freedom there, we don’t have to abide by all these rules that we put on ourselves, so that was really good for me.”

Maryana Sokha of Prosto Neba, based in the Ukraine, was particularly impressed by some of the unique fundraising ideas that are popping up all over the world.

“I got a lot of new information about interesting ways of fundraising – some new tricks,” she said.

Also leaving the training sessions with a host of fresh ideas to take home was Rosi Rico of Brazilian street paper OCAS.

She was particularly taken with the Vendor for a Day project from Canada, in which business leaders and celebrities sell street papers for a day to raise money and awareness.

“I think that’s a good idea,” she said. “I don’t know if we can manage to do it but we can discuss it.”

The conference is a breeding ground for new ideas, she added. “You can learn something different, something new, you can talk with a lot of people and see what they are doing and what you can manage to do in your own country. It’s all about the experience, talking to people and exchanging ideas and suggestions.”

4 August 2014

‘Ralph Steadman: “Ink was the drug for me…”’ republished

The Big Issue in the North
Welsh cartoonist Ralph Steadman is famous for his scathing depictions of political figures and his collaborations with notorious US journalist, Hunter S. Thompson. His drawings – labelled “evil-minded” and “twisted” – were a key factor in the creation of Thompson’s “Gonzo” style of journalism, a freewheeling blend of fact and fiction that saw the pair caught up in wild adventures fuelled by drugs and booze.

Steadman spoke to Adam Forrest of The Big Issue UK about the upcoming documentary on his life that features life-long fan, Johnny Depp. In addition, Steadman penned an illustration for the magazine’s front cover.

The article was republished in Lice v Lice, based in Skopje, Macedonia, and in the UK’s Big Issue in the North, England.

It can still be downloaded here.

Ralph Steadman: „Tinte war wie eine Droge für mich“ erscheint in Mazedonien und England

Der walisische Cartoonist Ralph Steadman ist bekannt für seine kritischen Abbildungen von Politikern und seine Zusammenarbeit mit dem berühmten US-Journalisten Hunter S. Thompson. Seine Zeichnungen, die von einigen als „böswillig“ und „krank“ bezeichnet wurden, spielten eine entscheidende Rolle bei der Entwicklung von Thompsons journalistischem „Gonzo“-Stil, einer lockeren Mischung aus Fakt und Fiktion. Das Paar wurde bald darin gefangen und erlebte in einem Rausch aus Drogen und Alkohol wilde Abenteuer.

Steadman sprach mit Adam Forrest vom „Big Issue UK“ über die Dokumentation über sein Leben, die bald ins Kino kommt. Daran wirkt auch Steadmans eingefleischter Fan Johnny Depp mit. Dazu lieferte der Cartoonist eine Illustration für das Titelbild des Magazins.

Der Artikel erschien auch in „Lice v Lice“ aus Skopje, Mazedonien, und im „Big Issue in the North“, England.

Hier können Sie ihn herunterladen.


Lice v Lice (Macedonia)
Lice v Lice (Macedonia)

The Big Issue in the North
The Big Issue in the North
The Big Issue in the North