“What is a street paper?” – in the words of those who sell them

Martin sells Nový Prostor in Prague, Czech Republic
“The street paper means a lot to me. I had an accident, I was hit by a car, then I was in coma and I deal with lifelong consequences. I feel dizzy and can’t do hard work, so I’m glad that I can sell Nový Prostor. If it didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have money to live.”

Everyone who is a part of the global street paper network knows what a street paper is – that extends to the staff that put each publication together and those who buy them. But the people who truly know what a street paper is – what it means – are those who sell them. Here, a collection of street paper vendors tell us, in their own words, what a street paper is, personally to them.

Those familiar with street papers – people who buy them, people who read them, people who make them, people who support them – know what a street paper is: an enterprising solution to poverty, a sustainable income provider to those unable to find a job, an empowerment tool for those who are vulnerable or marginalised, on the fringes of society.

But it is the people who sell these magazines and newspapers – on the streets, outside shops, in train stations, at busy intersections – who know what a street paper truly means, what it represents.

The International Network of Street Papers asked these people – variously called sellers, salespeople, vendors, ‘Spokespersons for Culture’, camelots, Verkäufer*innen – what a street paper is to them, personally. Responses were varied and came from a vast geographical span, highlighting the diversity of people and ways of thinking amongst this network.

Mark Irvine, 70, sells Megaphone in Vancouver, Canada. He also takes photos for the street paper’s annual ‘Hope in Shadows’ calendar.
“Street papers – especially Megaphone – foster curiosity in what’s going on in your own backyard. The focus is on local happenings, achievements and developments in the neighbourhood. Selling Megaphone has given me a different perspective. It has also made me a more outgoing person. It’s the interaction with customers, most of whom I don’t even know by name, even the regular ones, that make selling the magazine all worthwhile. They are really helping me come out of a hard period. It has been a bright light in a dark time. It’s become about more than just making money, it’s a chance to connect with the community.”

Mark Irvine, 70, sells Megaphone in Vancouver, Canada. Courtesy of Megaphone

Enkete Mungbaba, 68, is from Congo and used to be a philosophy professor. Now he sells Iso Numero in Helsinki, Finland
“For me the magazine means sivistys [a Finnish word meaning “self-cultivation” or “gaining wisdom” on a personal level]. That goes for myself. It is very important that I read Finnish every day and learn more of the language. Since I sell the magazine, I have to understand what the headlines and stories mean. I want everyone to read it.”

Enkete Mungbaba sells Iso Numero. Credit Janne Hukka

Compiled by Tony Inglis, courtesy of the International Network of Street Papers

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