From Glasgow to the world

Celebrating street papers
 and people who sell them

It's a concept which has helped 300,000 people across the world out of homelessness and poverty, and it’s done from a base in Scotland.

So it’s entirely appropriate that Glasgow’s Lighthouse is the home of the world’s first ever international street paper exhibition.

Arranged by the International Network of Street Papers (INSP), Uncovered: still homeless, still an issue showcases the proud history of international street papers.

The exhibition was launched last week as part of #VendorWeek, INSP’s worldwide celebration of the 10,000 men and women currently creating better lives through selling these papers.

Brought to life by Glasgow ideas agency Equator, the exhibition includes simple yet evocative installations to highlight the unpleasant realities vendors often face. For example, by wearing a virtual reality headset, viewers can join Paul, a Big Issue seller in London, allowing for an immersive experience into the life of a vendor.

Another installation draws attention to the invisibility experienced by vendors, who are all too frequently ignored by the public. Using facial recognition technology to detect when somebody is approaching, images of Glasgow vendors Carmen or Cailin will look away when viewers stand nearby.

Sleekly combining style and social consciousness, the exhibition also features iconic covers of street papers from across the globe, as well as short quotes from vendors expressing how selling papers has transformed their lives for the better.

Addressing the launch, Maree Aldam, chief executive of INSP, said: "Since the first street paper launched in 1989, our movement has lifted almost 300,000 vendors across the world out of poverty. This exhibition showcases our vendors – telling their stories, and hearing from them about the life changing impact of street papers. The exhibition also showcases the high quality design, passion and hard work involved in the production of street papers.

While The Big Issue is well known throughout the UK, many people are unaware that there are 110 papers in 35 countries that use the same model to offer 'a hand-up, not a hand out' to people facing homelessness and social exclusion.

We hope that the exhibition gives Glaswegians a sense of the scale and impact of street papers and pride that Glasgow is at the heart of the movement."

Chief creative officer and co-founder of Equator, James Jefferson, added: “The heart of the street paper network is in Glasgow but its reach is truly global – bringing dignity and hope to people all over the world. As a global business, also headquartered in Glasgow, we’re immensely proud to be able to play a part in their story.

Equator is all about ideas that make a difference. Usually we’re solving problems for businesses but it’s amazing when you can create something that directly makes people’s lives better. With this exhibition, we hope to achieve that by bringing to life the creativity, stories and people behind this remarkable movement.

Guests at last week’s launch also enjoyed a rousing speech from Angela Constance, Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Securities and and Equalities.

She praised the work of papers like The Big Issue in fighting poverty and leading the way in the UK’s social enterprise movement. “#VendorWeek is a great time to go social and a reminder why it is important that you buy your Big Issue.”

Uncovered: still homeless, still an issue will run until April 9 at the Lighthouse.

The above article by Floraidh Clement first published on in Feb, 2017.