It was the day I’d looked forward to for so long! Ever since the team in Birmingham kindly offered me the chance to open the Big Issue’s first ever night walk I’d been getting more and more excited about taking part in what, for me and everyone else, would be a great moment in Birmingham’s history. After all, I remarked to Emma my partner ''London gets its own night walk surely Birmingham deserves on'' admittedly she gave me the “whatever you say dear” gaze. The truth however is much more stark than my enthusiasm might imply, it not only ought to have one ……it has to have one.
The Big Issue has been a part of my life for 5 years and thanks to being a vendor, it has turned my life around and I have improved. Sadly in the past 5 years things have taken a drastic turn for others. I see more people on Birmingham’s streets now than I ever have and the spectrum and background of the average homeless person has changed due to the country’s economic downfall. It has also forced average working fathers, mothers and people who not so long ago had what I would call a very comfortable existence now being thrusted into poverty and debt. The fact is it’s not just Birmingham or London, it is sadly everywhere and that’s where The Big Issue again rode in through opinion making and awareness raising, by gallantly providing a Night Walk to help raise awareness exclusively through The Big Brum Walk!
I finally arrived at Brindley Place at the start and finish of the walk and instantly was greeted by the warm smiles and enthusiasm that I’ve come to expect from the staff and vendors who were taking part. We were ready …….it was happening and the Big Issue meant business! The first thing I noticed was the stage and the nice big issue jackets. The Big Issue had provided for each walker drinks and snacks just in case anyone got peckish and I thought to myself “a lot of care and thought had gone into this.”
I spoke to Stephen Robertson and Steve Canham and had a laugh and a joke about the weather and before I knew it there was near on 100 red jackets hovering about which an amazing achievement is considering it was the first event here!
Stephen jumped on the stage and started the evening and we sang Happy Birthday to the Big Issue and then I jumped on and gave a small speech about my feelings and why everyone there had had an impact on me, the truth is I was so grateful and in awe at these red jacketed saints that had given up their Friday to do some good in the world. Usually I could chat for an hour but I had the distinct lump at the back of my throat which secretly told me just how much it mattered to me. After there was a Zumba warm up which had everyone giggling and joining in which gave me yet another sign of the spirit of the evening. I then cut the ribbon and began my journey!
We were walking and I was in the fastest group and very quickly my trainers felt more and more like a sunken canoe. First stop after a walk through the city centre was SIFA, an integral part of Birmingham’s care for the homeless. Here, a band was playing and we were greeted with hot drinks and snacks, I just managed to change my socks and we were off again. This time I walked with Emma and John a nice guy who had bought a mag off me a few days previous and we talked about how happy everyone was despite the weather and he asked me about life on the streets to which I replied “its much like this but without the breaks and warm drinks” which seeing as now both our shoes were no longer sunken canoes but rather sunken battleships made the reality a little more visible for him.
Next stop was Edgbaston cricket ground for …… he he my favourite decorative item - GLOWSTICKS!!!!
At this point my feet were no longer battleships but rather they had simply become one with the ocean but a nice girl called Helen egged me on to the finish line and conquest for myself and the Big Issue.
I had done it crossed the finishing line and with it I felt a great sense of achievement. My experience of the night was incredible and I’m proud to have taken part in such an awesome event.
My final thought is that I just can’t wait to join in again next year
Thank you Big Issue.