The Big Issue Foundation
30 St James Parade
T 01225 337050
Sam Grief, former Area Service Broker, explains how the small team in Bath works with an average of 30 vendors across the city.
Bath is a small, thriving hub of activity, with pitches for our vendors next to some of the most beautiful tourist attractions in the city. Our vendors are a well recognised feature of the city, and customers and residents get to know them well as the centre spans such a small area. Our vendors are always ready to exchange a smile, joke or even a poem with the general public, whether making a sale or not.
As we see a large number of tourists and visitors on a daily basis, we provide our vendors with training to encourage them to interact with the public, and to be respectful of other street traders. It can be quite daunting for a vendor to be approached by countless tourists asking for directions to the train station or one of our many attractions. But, as they are picked out because they are often seen as experts on the city streets, we make sure they are well prepared.
We’re lucky enough to get support from some great partners here in Bath, and we have been working with The City of Bath College to give our vendors access to courses in Customer Service and Sales training. Five of our vendors have now completed the NVQ, and we plan to support more vendors in taking part in courses like these in the near future.
The Bath office is one of the smallest in the UK, and this allows us to do a lot of one-to-one work with each vendor to give them the individual help and support they need – especially in relation to their goals and aspirations for the future. We run our ‘vendor of the week’ and ‘vendor of the month’ schemes, to reward those who have taken steps towards their goals and gone out of their way to help others. Everyone who is recognized as vendor of the month receives a certificate presented by a local stakeholder at a small ceremony at our office. It seems like a small thing but it’s an important way for vendors to feel acknowledged in our community. In the last year certificates have been presented by the Chairman of Bath & North East Somerset Council; Councillor Rob Appleyard, Our local MP; Don Foster, The Mayor of Bath; Councillor Andrew Furse, the Bath Business Improvement District and the Avon and Somerset Constabulary.
Working with the local community is also important to us, and our vendors understand they must promote the organisations’ values and uphold our reputation. We work closely with local agencies that help our vendors on a range of issues; to collectively assist them with their move away from homelessness, these include:
- the Julian House night shelter and day centre
- the Genesis Trust, an organisation which runs nine projects across the city that benefits the vulnerable and homeless
- the DHI (Developing Health & Independence), which supports the homeless and those with drug and alcohol dependencies
- REACH, a consortium of local organizations who provide housing advice and support
Here is what some of our vendors say about selling The Big Issue, and living in Bath:
“I’ve been selling The Big Issue for a long time, in a lot of places, but Bath is the best - the people are very friendly here and you can make good money! I like all of the lovely libraries too, but I’ve now read most of the books that interest me. Selling the Issue means that I can buy myself things that I need, I’ve just bought some new boots, and I am saving up for a new rucksack and sleeping bag. I like the independence that selling the Issue gives me, it means that I don’t need to go to the job centre every day, or ask for help from other charities or the church.”
“I love working outside in Bath and meeting lots of new people. When I am not selling The Big Issue, I like to do lots of cooking at home, or go for long walks with my dog Boycie. Sometimes I also meet up with other people from pitch; we are all very friendly with each other. Thanks to being able to sell the Issue, I’m now able to manage my money well as I get it on a daily basis, and I am saving for the first time ever. Going out to work every day is so much better for my self-esteem than sitting at home watching the TV all day.”
“The public in Bath are generally really nice, and much more amenable to Big Issue sellers than anywhere else I’ve worked. Selling is a reason to get up in the morning, instead of lazing around all day, or staying on the campsite which I live on. In my free time, I go wood collecting with the other vendors who live on the same site, as we have regular campfires, and I also like to go on long walks by the canal.”
“Chatting with people, having a laugh, and being outdoors every day makes selling The Big Issue in Bath something I enjoy doing. It suits me because I can sell at the times I choose, I’m self-employed, and it makes me feel independent. I’m now managing my finances well, and I can enjoy going to gigs and socialising with friends when I am not working.”
Our ultimate goal is to help all of our vendors make positive changes in their lives so they no longer need us. One of the main ways we do this is to seek support from local organisations, who can share their time and resources to inspire our vendors. We recently ran our annual Aspirations Week, where sessions ranged from art, music and bike maintenance workshops, to training to be a tour guide! This year’s events also saw HSBC and staff from the Council engage the vendors in a workshop on ‘Being Your Own Boss’. It’s sessions like these that truly inspire the vendors, and give them the confidence to move forwards with their lives.
Our work is totally reliant upon the generous support of our donors. To make a donation towards our work, please click here.
If you are interested in supporting our work in this office or any of our other offices by volunteering please click here