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The Big Issue

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The Big Issue
The Big Issue
Editor-in-chiefPaul McNamee[1]
CategoriesEntertainment and Current Affairs
Circulation57,059 (as of 2022)[2]
First issueSeptember 1991
CompanyThe Big Issue[3]
CountryUnited Kingdom
South Africa
South Korea
Based inLondon, United Kingdom[6]
LanguageEnglish (UK Edition)

The Big Issue is a United Kingdom-based street newspaper founded by John Bird and Gordon Roddick in September 1991 and published in four continents. The Big Issue is one of the UK's leading social businesses and exists to offer homeless people, or individuals at risk of homelessness, the opportunity to earn a legitimate income, thereby helping them to reintegrate into mainstream society. It is the world's most widely circulated street newspaper.[7][8]


Inspired by Street News, a newspaper sold by homeless people in New York City, The Big Issue was founded in 1991 by John Bird and Gordon Roddick (husband of The Body Shop entrepreneur Anita Roddick) as a response to the increasing numbers of homeless people in London.[9][10] The Body Shop provided the equivalent of $50,000 in start-up capital.[11] 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 and Wales, as well as regional editions for Northern England and South West England. 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. Between 2007 and 2011, the circulation of The Big Issue declined from 167,000 to less than 125,000. Competition between vendors also increased at this time. From July 2011, the different regional editions were merged into a single UK-wide magazine.[12] In January 2012, the magazine was relaunched, with an increased focus on campaigning and political journalism. New columnists were added, including the Premier League footballer Joey Barton, Rachel Johnson, Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park[13] and Samira Ahmed. The cover price was also increased.[14][15]

In 2016, The Big Issue celebrated surpassing 200 million magazine sales.[16] In September 2021, the magazine celebrated its 30th birthday. [17]


The magazine is produced by the Big Issue Company Ltd. The company is a self-sustaining business that generates income through magazine sales and advertising revenues. Financially, The Big Issue is a social enterprise. The Big Issue Foundation is the registered charity arm of the organisation. It aims to underpin the company's work by tackling the underlying causes of homelessness.

The Big Issue for sale in Japan, 2017

Overseas projects[edit]

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

  • The Big Issue Australia (from June 1996)[18]
  • The Big Issue France (from October 1993): In France, a non-profit organisation named Big Issue France created with support from John Bird the magazine against exclusion called La Rue.
  • The Big Issue Japan (from November 2003)[19]
  • The Big Issue Kenya (from 2007)[20]
  • The Big Issue Korea (from July 2010)[21]
  • The Big Issue Malawi (from 2009)[22]
  • The Big Issue Namibia[23][24]
  • The Big Issue The Republic of Ireland [25]
  • The Big Issue South Africa (from December 1996)[26]
  • The Big Issue Taiwan (from April 2010)[27]
  • The Big Issue Zambia (from 2007)[28][29]


The Big Issue has been the centre of much controversy among publishers of street newspapers, mainly because of its business model.[8][30] 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 emulating mainstream newspapers to generate a profit.[11][31] 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.[11][31] Other papers have also criticised The Big Issue for its professional production and limited participation by homeless individuals in writing and producing the newspaper.[8] 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".[11]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Paul McNamee". bigissue.com. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  2. ^ "The Big Issue - National (Group)". Audit Bureau of Circulations. 21 February 2023. Retrieved 15 July 2023.
  3. ^ "Contact Us". bigissue.com. Retrieved 12 September 2018.
  4. ^ "Introduction & History". Big Issue. Archived from the original on 24 September 2008. Retrieved 11 October 2008.
  5. ^ Masina, Lameck (13 March 2009). "Malawi Magazine to Help Provide Financial Support to Poor". Voice of America. Retrieved 5 May 2009.[permanent dead link]
  6. ^ "Contact Us". bigissue.com. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  7. ^ Heinz, Teresa L. (2004). "Street Newspapers". In David Levinson (ed.). Encyclopedia of Homelessness. SAGE Publications. p. 538. ISBN 0-7619-2751-4.
  8. ^ a b c Brown, Ann M. (2002). "Small Papers, Big Issues". Ryerson Review of Journalism. Archived from the original on 11 September 2007. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  9. ^ "Introduction". The Big Issue. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2009. and "History". The Big Issue. Archived from the original on 1 March 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2009.
  10. ^ Greenstreet, Rosanna (27 August 1995). "HOW WE MET; JOHN BIRD AND GORDON RODDICK". The Independent. Retrieved 10 June 2016.
  11. ^ a b c d Boukhari, Sophie (15 May 2001). "The press takes to the street". The UNESCO Courier. UNESCO. Archived from the original on 20 February 2008.
  12. ^ "Big issue launches first UK-wide edition". Press Gazette. 8 June 2011. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  13. ^ Shinoda, Mike (18 September 2012). "Mike Shindoa and Music For Relief: 'Let's power the world'". The Big Issue. Archived from the original on 3 January 2016. Retrieved 23 September 2012.
  14. ^ "The Big Issue Magazine: Help the Homeless". The Economist. 7 January 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  15. ^ "Revamped Big Issue hits the streets". BBC News. 16 January 2012. Retrieved 30 January 2012.
  16. ^ "Big Issue celebrates 200 million sales". BBC News. 7 April 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2018.
  17. ^ "The Big Issue marks 30th birthday with a special birthday edition and brand new digital editorial strategy". AllMediaScotland. 20 September 2021. Retrieved 26 September 2021.
  18. ^ About - The Big Issue www.thebigissue.org.au accessed 22 May 2015.
  19. ^ "What is the Big Issue Japan?" www.bigissue.jp accessed 22 May 2015.
  20. ^ The Big Issue Presentation www.bigissue.com Archived 7 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine accessed 22 May 2015.
  21. ^ The Big Issue Korea bigissuekr.tistory.com accessed 22 May 2015
  22. ^ The Big Issue Presentation www.bigissue.com Archived 7 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine accessed 22 May 2015.
  23. ^ The Big Issue Namibia www.bigissuenamibia.org accessed 22 May 2015. Archived 5 February 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Soul Beat Africa "Big Issue - Namibia", 17 August 2004. accessed 22 May 2015.
  25. ^ Ireland's Big Issue www.irelandsbigissue.com accessed 22 May 2015.
  26. ^ Big Issue, South Africa depts.washington.edu accessed 22 May 2015.
  27. ^ THE BIG ISSUE 大誌雜誌 www.bigissue.tw accessed 22 May 2015.
  28. ^ The Big Issue Presentation www.bigissue.com Archived 7 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine accessed 22 May 2015.
  29. ^ The Big Issue Zambia launchingvisions.wordpress.com accessed May 22, 2015.
  30. ^ Magnusson, Jan A. "The transnational street paper movement". Situation Sthlm. Archived from the original on 29 June 2006. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  31. ^ a b Howley, Kevin (2005). Community Media (illustrated ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 71. ISBN 0-521-79228-2. Retrieved 12 February 2009.
  32. ^ ". World Habitat Day 2006 | Previous Scroll Winners". Un-Habitat. 26 March 2013. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 2 October 2013.
  33. ^ "Ernst & Young Entrepreneur 2008 award recipients" (PDF). Ernst & Young. 2 December 2009. p. 2. Archived from the original (PDF) on 24 September 2015. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  34. ^ "Richard Harpin, CEO of Homeserve Plc, is Ernst & Young 'UK Overall Entrepreneur Of The Year 2008'". Ernst & Young. 7 October 2008. Archived from the original on 23 February 2012. Retrieved 21 October 2014.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Regional sites