Happy birthday! The Big Issue celebrates 25 years

The Big Issue magazine celebrated 25 years of giving ‘a hand up, not a hand out’ in central London on Wednesday night.

A party was held at the Proud Galleries in Camden. Guests were surrounded by photos and magazine covers that had been taken for the magazine during its 25-year existence, including some (pictured above) by musician turned photographer Bryan Adams.

The evening was hosted by Big Issue editor Paul McNamee who brought a succession of speakers and musicians up to the stage. 

Vendors past and present also took to the microphone to relate their stories and explain the difference that selling the magazine had made to their lives. 
They included former drug addict and dealer Mark Dempster, who is now a Harley Street therapist. He told the audience that just the time it took to sell the magazine meant that he used less and committed less crime.

The Big Issue magazine was started in 1991 by (now Lord) John Bird and Gordon Roddick, founder of the Body Shop. It is now published in nine other countries around the world including Korea and Namibia. The magazine is sold to vendors for £1.25, who then sell it to customers for £2.50. There are currently around 2,000 vendors in the UK and there have been 92,000 of them in total over the last 25 years.

The magazine spawned the Big Issue Foundation, a charity wholly reliant on donations and grants. It provides support services for those coming out of homelessness, such as advice about medical care and financial management, as well as housing. Big Issue Invest is the social investment arm of the brand, providing finance to charities and social investment.

Founder and force of nature John Bird took to the stage for another barnstorming performance following his acceptance of an Ashoka fellowship last year.

He took the opportunity to take to let the audience know that his mission, since he has been installed into the House of Lords was to “establish the reasons why the vast majority of people fall into homelessness… to stop Johnny, who is three years old now, becoming a Big Issue vendor in 20 years' time.”

Bird warmed to his theme, explaining how he did not want to “simply expend all our energy finding ways of making people in poverty comfortable”.

He said: “People on social security are living on rations and you’re an internal refugee and you don’t even live in a democracy if you live in poverty. Poverty and democracy don’t go together because poverty is about a lack of choice  and democracy is about making choices for yourself.”

The 25th birthday edition of the magazine features an interview with the Dalai Lama and a column by prime minister Theresa May.