Big Issue launches arguably biggest makeover since its founding

THE weekly news and lifestyle magazine sold by homeless people – The Big Issue – has undergone arguably its biggest makeover since its launch 20 years ago.

The first issue of the new look hits the streets today following a root and branch review by editor, Paul McNamee.

The result is a new look, a different mix and style of editorial – including what he calls “highbrow populism” – and new columnists, including sometimes controversial footballer, Joey Barton.

McNamee told “Readers will see a wholesale change, from cover to cover. We started the process about four or five months ago. We began, by thinking there were a few things we could tighten: this could be better, that could be better. And then we realised: let’s not be namby pamby, let’s instead take a tough, cold critical look at this, as a magazine, as an entity, as a thing that we want to exist.”

The new look has involved designer, Ingrid Shields; illustrator, Andre Carrilho; graphic designer, Noma Bar; and Dave Woods at Dennis Publishing.

“Ingrid and I looked at magazines I like, such as Prospect Magazine, The New Yorker and ShortList. I wanted a magazine that was, in and of itself, art.”

He added: “We are really pushing the magazine as a quality product in its own right. We want it to be journalism worth paying for.”

There are to be fewer features but the two that will be run promise to get deeper into their subjects.

Continues McNamee: “I am pushing this idea – highbrow populism – which marries the heft and analysis of established political and news periodicals with the wit, irreverence and total readability of great weeklies. It must never be boring, always have something to say, but no political bias – they are all to be held to account. In this week’s issue, for example, we have a investigative feature on the psychological impact of rolling news.”

In the middle of last year, a single, an UK-wide magazine replaced five, separate regional editions, at the time setting aside some pages for tailored regional content, for Scotland, Wales, the south-west of England, the rest of England and London.

That model – which had its editorial base in Glasgow and advertising and design in London – continues with this overhaul.

The magazine retails for £2.50. Since its founding, the magazine is about providing homeless people the opportunity to earn money, to help them become less reliant on hand-outs and to avoid having to beg. They purchase the magazine at £1.25 per copy and sell directly on the street.