The Downs Bristol, taking place on August 31- September 1, is joining up with The Big Issue for a second year to ensure that the festival will get under the skin of the issues facing UK society today.
The Big Issue has been chosen to link up with The Downs Bristol for a second time through their shared values ensuring that music, creativity and social gatherings are environments where people can get together to discuss issues and turn ideas into positive action.
‘Festivals for Good’
The ‘Festivals for Good’ initiative includes a dedicated enrichment program starting with Big Issue vendors on site at the event selling collaborative festival programmes and developing into a long-term process to train some of society’s most vulnerable people to learn the skills that could enable them to work at festivals in the future.
This year, two magazine vendors that sold programme on site in 2018, Mike Hall and Josh, will take on dedicated roles on site at the festival, handling accessibility and security.
Mike Hall, 30, sells The Big Issue outside Bristol Temple Meads railway station. Last year he got involved with the festival, selling The Big Issue-curated programme in the run-up to the event as well on the day of the festival. This year, he’s doing the same – except for half of that day he’ll be working for the festival itself, having secured a gig helping improve the accessibility of the event.
‘A really special thing’
“Last year was great. I got to listen to free music all day, how could I complain?” he says. “I’ve been begging all year to go back again, I enjoyed it that much. It’s a really special thing to be a part of and I can’t wait to get to work on the day.”
Fellow vendor Josh, 27, has been selling the magazine in Henleaze for the last 18 months. That includes a stint at last year’s festival and he too will be picking up a shift this time around.
“I really value the support that I’ve had from the community there,” he says. “Last year was a fantastic experience.
“There were quite a few of my regular customers at the festival and it was nice to see them in that different setting.”
Josh will spend half a day working for the festival security before he and Mike both go back to selling The Big Issue. “I’ve come a long way in the last 12 months,” Josh says. “I hope to go even further.”
“We admire the work The Big Issue does so much and I’m so pleased we get to give some of the guys this opportunity,” says Downs co-founder Tom Paine.
Big Issue Editor Paul McNamee said: “It’s tremendous to link up for a second year with the Downs Festival. Again, they hit the mark with the music. What a way to see out the summer.
“And more than that, they put their money where their mouth is. They offer The Big Issue vendors opportunities to earn on site and also to progress in wider careers. Some of our team are working on the production side of the event this year. It’s a righteous festival, a fantastic festival and one that The Big Issue is delighted to remain embedded in.”
Alongside a stellar line-up, led by Ms Lauryn Hill and Grace Jones, The Information: a stage dedicated to discussion, debate and putting the world to rights, will be hosted by Spotify and headlined by Dr Saba Shafi, commercial director of the Advocacy Academy. The speaker line-up will feature Shappi Khorsandi, Solomon OB, Matt Winning and Femi with introductions from Mike Hall, Big Issue vendor.
“It felt right to dedicate an area to social causes plus local, national and international issues that we believe people should learn more about,” says Tom Paine. “It gives the festival purpose.”
In addition, Dr Sabrina Cohen Hatton, who was announced as a Big Issue Ambassador earlier this year, is going to speak on The Main Stage before IDLES play. Sabrina slept rough and sold The Big Issue as a teenager in Wales, now she’s one of the most senior female firefighters in the UK and a prize-winning academic and author.
The Downs is helping the hidden homeless, too – people stuck in B&Bs and on friends’ sofas – by raising cash for charity Caring In Bristol.
Organisers are determined to keep the event’s environmental impact to an absolute minimum. Climate activists Extinction Rebellion will be on site educating crowds on why they should cut their carbon footprint .
The special edition of The Big Issue, complete with festival programme, is available to buy from 26 August for £2.50 across Wales and the South West.
top image: Mike Hall. Courtesy of Francesca Stone.