The future’s Electric

Most sales of Big Issue North are directly through vendors but there are other ways to buy the magazine too, in places where there is no permanent seller. You will still help people change their lives, writes Laura Rogers

In the past few weeks, Big Issue North has made a return to Blackpool. The magazine is now on sale at two locations in the heart of the town: the Old Electric and Upside Down Coffee Shop.

Big Issue North hopes that the partnership with both signals the start of them building a real presence in Blackpool. Since the end of nationwide lockdowns, when their vendors were able to return to the streets to sell, they have not had any vendor permanently based in the town.

The Old Electric, originally a cinema before becoming a nightclub in recent years, became home to the Electric Sunshine Project (TESP) in 2020, following support from the Reaching Communities lottery fund. The space includes a theatre hall, meeting room, office spaces, sound studio and multi-purpose workshop areas, all of which can be used by the community.
The Electric Sunshine Project offers creative experiences, workshops, events, projects and shows that aim to reduce barriers for children, families and adults to connect with their own creativity.

Community development worker Becky Doran-Brown says: “TESP aims to provide transformative creative experiences that can help to improve lives of Blackpool residents. Not only is being creative valuable to supporting individual wellbeing and socialisation, but we want to empower people to be contributors to the town’s economy through our new hub of creative opportunities.”

The project’s ambitions are similar to Big Issue North’s: empowering people to change their lives for the better. Doran-Brown was the one to recognise the synergy between the TESP’s visions and the purposes of Big Issue North.

“I’ve got a background working with homeless people and people who are vulnerably housed. My mother used to run New Life in Blackpool – a community church outreach project which supported people in need with food, daily essentials, clothes, haircuts, that sort of thing. The project ended due to her ill health, but I am working on getting it back up and running again.

“Blackpool is a town that has got people struggling. There are areas stricken with poverty. Housing is a real concern for a lot of people. The opportunity for people to earn an income selling Big Issue North is one we really welcome. We can now provide the public with an effortless way to support Big Issue North directly by popping into the Old Electric and buying a magazine from reception.”

Each week, around 350 people sell Big Issue North, visiting its regional offices to buy the magazine for £1.50 before selling it on the streets for £3.

Vendors sell on agreed pitches in city centres and out-of-town areas across the North West, Yorkshire and Humber. The magazine also works with shopkeepers, city centre management teams and local agencies to agree pitch locations that vendors can sell on.

Big Issue North is always on the lookout for new pitches and new partnerships to support vendors to earn an income and to improve their lives. But the magazine is also on sale in supermarkets and outlets such as the Old Electric and Upside Down Coffee Shop. In these cases, the revenue is used by Big Issue North to provide additional support to vendors.

Anyone who wants to sell the Big Issue North can do so. Anyone who needs income can pop into the Old Electric and speak to Becky, email her on [email protected] or call 01253 834175. People sell Big Issue North for a wide variety of reasons, and if you want to work with them, they want to work with you.

Big Issue North is on sale from the Old Electric’s reception and café. The Old Electric is open 10-4 Monday to Friday and a full schedule can be found on www.theoldelectric.co.uk.

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    Antonia Charlesworth Stack is a journalist and editor from Blackpool. She was deputy editor of Big Issue North magazine and is editor of Blackpool Social Club. Antonia is also the founder of Reclaim Blackpool, a women's safety campaign that began life as an article she wrote for Blackpool Social Club. She's a contributing author to the Lancashire Stories anthology with her story about a Blackpool performer, The Call of The Sea. The book is available for free in libraries across the county.

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