We're making an Issue out of street papers

RICHARD Muir has done a lot with his life.

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Richard Muir of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is a guest vendor this week
Richard Muir of Glasgow Chamber of Commerce is a guest vendor this week

He once worked as marketing director at Radio Clyde and Radio Forth.

He has studied at university, worked in marketing and as a project manager, and is now second-in-command at one of the world's oldest chambers of commerce, in Glasgow.

One thing he has never done is to stand on a busy street corner and try to interest passers-by in The Big Issue.

Richard, 47, is one of the business figures, celebrities and politicians who will be taking part in The Big Sell-off later this week.

It's the work of the Glasgow-based charity INSP, the International Network of Street Papers, and The Big Issue. INSP, which marks its 20th birthday this year, supports more than 120 street papers in 40 countries, spanning two dozen languages and a combined readership of six million per edition.

The Big Sell-off is part of INSP's annual International Street Paper Vendor Week, which started yesterday.

It aims to enhance the profile of both INSP and The Big Issue north of the border, raise awareness of vendors who sell street papers in Glasgow and across the world.

The guest vendors will also raise funds for INSP and The Big Issue through their own JustGiving pages.

This Thursday, Richard will be stationed outside a baker's shop on George Square for an hour, dressed in his Big Issue bib and with copies of the magazine under his arm.

Earlier this week, he had a dry run. Trying to get passers-by to purchase the magazine proved slightly more difficult than he had expected.

Still, it was a useful experience for him.

"I'm doing this because I wanted to support INSP's network and to draw attention to the difficulties that some homeless or unemployed people face, not just in Glasgow but throughout Scotland.

"It's a worthwhile charity and I think it's brilliant that INSP is based in Glasgow.

"This is quite a tough time of the year for people to be selling The Big Issue out on the streets."

As yet another sales attempt failed, Richard acknowledged: "It's probably quite a hard thing to do, but people are often in a rush, and if the weather is not great, that makes it harder.

"There is also a lot more competition these days for people's goodwill - there are so many good causes around, and there are lots of easy ways in which you can donate money.

"But I'm looking forward to selling the magazine for an hour next lunchtime."

Richard, whose Just Giving page can be found at http://www.justgiving.com/Richard-Muir1, will be shadowed on Thursday by an experienced Big Issue vendor, Danny.

Also taking part that day will be Tim Blott, managing director of The Herald and Times Group.

His Big Issue 'pitch' in 48 hours' time will be outside Pret a Manger in Sauchiehall Street.

"I wanted to support The Big Issue and the INSP, which is based in our offices here," he said.

"We've supported the organisation in a number of ways and I thought the Big Sell-off was a really good idea.

"I'm pleased that a number of other managing directors have decided to take part as well.

"I hope it generates lots of publicity and money for what is an excellent cause."

Tim hopes to raise £500 through his own fund raising efforts.

"It is quite a thought selling The Big Issue on Thursday if it is not something I have any experience of," he said.

"However, I will be meeting our own newspaper street vendors on Thursday morning to talk about what they do, and how they go about it.

"They will be giving me support and advice while I am standing there, so I won't be doing it entirely alone. They, after all, are the experts when it comes to selling on street corners.

"I hope to be pro-active on the day. All I can say at the moment is that I might have some promotional or entertainment assistance during my hour. I will be trying to get people to buy copies of the magazine though I maybe won't be dragging them off the street."

Tim's Just Giving page can be found at http://www.justgiving.com/Tim-Blott

The event will benefit such Big Issue vendors as William Reid, 43.

He was born in Glasgow and grew up in England, and returned here in 1988.

William has been selling the magazine for several years and he has come to appreciate the camaraderie not just with vendors but with his regular customers.

"It can be funny," he says of his job, "the things you see and the conversations you have. You see things that make you laugh."

From his pitch in Glassford Street, across from the casino, he'll see people come running out of the casino to catch their bus - he marvels that no-one has actually run over by a bus yet.

"I've got quite a number of regular customers and they keep you going," adds William. "You can be having a bad day and you can can be there for a while but they will make you smile.

"You end up having a good conversation with them. You find out who's going away on holiday, who's sick, who's going into hospital- it really is interesting.

"It doesn't matter what background you're from - there are no airs and graces, they treat you as one of their own, and that is what keeps you going."

l To support The Big Sell-off and your favourite guest vendor, go to www.street-papers.org/the-big-sell-off

Charity

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