End of an era – closure of Big Issue North


I’m gutted to hear Big Issue North magazine is closing down – I was a freelance contributor to the mag from 2006-21 and have a lot of affection for everyone there.
Its closure is sadly the way things are going in the media industry – in some ways it’s surprising it’s lasted this long: the internet/social media, the decline of cash, then Covid and a cost of living crisis.
I’m really grateful for the opportunities the magazine gave me as a young journalist who was thrown into freelancing when I was made redundant after just 2.5 years experience, when the start-up newspaper I was working for suddenly went into administration. There were no staff opportunities in in the print media up here back then – Media City did not exist – unless I wanted to go back into small local newspapers (I didn’t). All the bigger regionals were making redundancies. I had no connections in London and in any case I was rooted up here. I found it hard to make any headway into freelancing for the nationals and in the end gave up trying.
Big Issue North was a lifeline to me – as one of my fellow newly-redundant colleagues, Kevin, was appointed editor there, the magazine suddenly opened up to me as a place where I could follow my interests. He indulged me as I developed bodies of work on urban regeneration across the North of England, social affairs issues and the newly arrived Roma communities in our towns and cities. They said yes to much of what I pitched. When I discovered photography a few years later, they were the first to publish my images. And when I was trying to figure out how to develop a photographic project with members of the Roma community, I eventually found my first collaborator, Ramona, through the magazine – which she was then selling on the streets of Rochdale.
Even though I’ve moved on from being a journalist – I last worked for Big Issue North in early 2021 – I really feel quite sad about today’s news. So many publications I worked for during my career have closed down. Things change but it’s a real shame the northern content in the Big Issue our vendors will sell from now on will be so hugely diminished, and opportunities for local journalists shrinking even more.


minority report – Manchester’s Roma

I’m not entirely sure why but this has been the slowest moving and probably the most delicate project I’ve ever worked on as a journalist. I’ve been thinking about doing some work on the Romanian Roma who live near my home in Manchester since last summer and but only started trying to make contact with them in December. Since then it’s been a series of false starts, red herrings and frustrations for all kinds of reasons, not least enormous language and cultural barriers and issues of trust. There are problems with community cohesion in the area so there are sensitivities on all sides. I feel like I’m walking a tightrope and am braced for complaints.  Read the full feature here. Part two – the Roma perspective – will run next week.

legal assaults – DEB update

hmmmm. Can’t say I feel that reassured, despite Mr Lammy’s protestations. If you haven’t already, please add your voice to the campaign against the UK government’s Digital Economy Bill. If it goes ahead and becomes law, the Bill could potentially put an end to street photography and eliminate a photographer’s copyright – and hence their ability to make a living off their work.

legal assaults

If you’re a UK photographer or a photography-lover and you haven’t yet got involved in the campaign against the Digital Economy Bill then you really should. If it goes ahead and becomes law, the Bill could potentially put an end to street photography and eliminate a photographer’s copyright – and hence their ability to make a living off their work. It’s well worth a read of the link above and a letter (or visit) to your MP. A week ago I contacted my MP Gerald Kaufman, who incidentally is a former journalist himself and used to chair the rather ferocious Culture, Media and Sport committee. I got a response from him today, promising to pass my concerns on to the  secretary of state.

I’m not one on the whole for badgering my elected member but this is the second time in as many months that I have written to – and heard back from – Kaufman. He has also promised to support efforts to reform the UK libel laws, which have unfortunately turned this country into a libel tourism destination and which threaten to stifle debate on important issues of science. Please sign the libel petition and add your names to both campaigns.