22 April 2007

Reality bites

Last week I helped to organise a bit of PR for The Big Issue magazine. The promotions team in Sydney are all volunteers, and I've been going to meetings and helping out on the organisational side, (like circulating notes from meetings, etc) but I've feared I've been one of those lame volunteers who talk a lot about what we all could do - and then doesn't actually do any of the things.

So we're trying to get this program of celebrity vendors together, right, except we have a slight problem in the lack of celebrities. One team member hooked up a dinky-di Aussie actress who used to be on the telly a lot and now does plays. So in a flurry of excitement I was super happy to do a fairly standard bit of promotion, and not be about as useless as tits on a bull on the team. Basically we get the celeb to sell with the vendor for an hour at lunch and at the least gain a bit of visibility on the street for the mag, hopefully a bit of media coverage, and boosted sales for one guy that day who was having a crap week. I also spruiked for our vendor(s) for an hour at lunch wearing a terrible red t-shirt, so I'm feeling pretty righteous about that.

But what I wanted to talk about here was going into The Sydney office on a weekday to do a bit of press stuff. See , normally the meeting are at night and its just us keen-o PR types trying to salve our souls from the banality we deal in during the day (well me, anyway, not everyone on the team does spin for a living, one is in the Australian Federal Police). So during the day the office is where the vendors go to pick up their mags and have a sit down and an instant coffee and read the paper.

It was a bit of stark reminder that these dudes, are, well, . . . homeless.

I know that sounds stupid because, der, that's why I'm volunteering right. Just, I'm not proud to admit, the experience did raise a bit of middle class fear in me. One guy came in to buy one magazine and one on credit and 3 cigarettes. Another guy was scouring the accommodation pages for a cheap one-bedroom place for him and his girlfriend and was ringing up social services to get a delivery of canned food to his place, and another had a big bundle of forms to submit for emergency housing. I became pretty aware of the nice digital camera in my bag, my wallet and phone, and so on - the fear of the 'haves' of one day 'not having'.

So I got a little anxious for a few minutes, but it went away, because everyone in that office is pretty focussed on working for themselves or for the mag. It's their daily reality to get their mags and sell and they couldn't really give a shit about some prissy volunteer who's in once a month or so.

Not surprisingly, the dailies didn't pick up the story, but we may have something in the City Weekly, keep an eye out. Oh and if you haven't done so, buy The Big Issue. I'm sure you all do anyway.

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