The way it works
The Big Issue in the North is a business solution to a social problem. It’s a limited company employing staff to produce and distribute a weekly magazine that is sold by homeless people and others who have no means of earning an income in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber.
As well as selling the magazine, most of our vendors are given advice by staff on how to find the services such as skills training or English language courses that can help them achieve their goals and move away from the streets for good.
Vendors buy The Big Issue in the North from one of our regional offices for £1 and then sell it on established pitches in towns and cities for £2. They keep the £1 they make on every magazine.
Selling The Big Issue in the North gives homeless people the opportunity to earn an income. It also gives them motivation and self-esteem.
The Big Issue in the North vendors are making a commitment to earn an income. Sixty-five per cent of vendors have never begged and 97 per cent of those who have committed crime to fund life on the street or a drink or drug habit say they have offended less since they have been selling the magazine.
Support services for vendors such as breakfast clubs and arts projects are managed and delivered by The Big Issue in the North Trust.
Code of conduct
Everyone selling the magazine has to work according to the code of conduct, a set of rules governing how vendors work.
- can only sell on designated pitches
- cannot sell between 8pm and 7am
- must wear their own badge
- can only buy magazines for themselves
- must not use physical or verbal aggression towards members of the public or other vendors
- are not allowed to sell if staff feel they are unfit to do so
- must stand when selling
- must not beg for money using the magazine (asking for spare change or other items is considered to be begging)
- can only charge the cover price for each magazine and must always give the customer the magazine once paid for.
John Bird launched The Big Issue in London in 1991, with funding from Gordon Roddick of The Body Shop. The Big Issue in the North started in December 1992 as a Manchester supplement within the London-based magazine.
From there, The Big Issue in the North grew as an independent publication distributed in the North West and Yorkshire and Humber.
To expand the range of services that we offered to vendors, The Big Issue in the North Trust was established in 1996.
A big fundraising campaign, plus National Lottery money and a regeneration grant from English Partnerships meant we were able to buy premises in Manchester, to which we moved in 1998.
Offices in Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull were also opened, with sub-offices in Preston and Kendal.
In 2002, The Big Issue in the North merged with Diverse Resources to form The Big Life group of social business and charities.