street selling


street selling
   There are a number of current examples of street selling, some of which may be traced to the entrepreneurial ethos of Thatcher’s Britain. While the market was taken out on to the street and on to the pavements and beyond (a phenomena celebrated in the feted BBC television series Only Fools and Horses) at the same time the economic and social policies that were pursued created a large swathe of people who might broadly be deemed to constitute part of an economic underclass. Such economic and social policies led to an increase in the emergence of street begging and homelessness on the part of the dispossessed and disenfranchised. While begging on the streets had always been a feature of city life and in particular the daily life of London (which has always attracted itinerant groups seeking work) the ‘problem’ became so great in the late 1980s that John Bird launched a publishing venture, The Big Issue, in 1991 to give homeless people the opportunity to make a fresh start. The Big Issue is a magazine sold directly on the street by badged vendors who are generally homeless or vulnerably accommodated; they buy the magazine for 40p and sell it on for £1. In addition The Big Issue ‘campaigns on behalf of homeless people and highlights the major social issues of the day. It allows homeless people to voice their views and opinions’. Busking in many ways is a cultural art form, and there is a long history of buskers in major city centres; the move towards pedestrianized areas within cities and towns has provided further opportunities for street entertainers to ply their trade. For example, the paved area within Covent Garden attracts a variety of street entertainers and the wider area features numerous buskers and other performers. Buskers may fall foul of both the civil and criminal law, although local authorities may operate a scheme of licensing. One problem area is the London Underground, which for obvious reasons actively discourages buskers from performing within stations; the attraction of a huge amount of passing trade inevitably draws performers.
   See also: homelessness; poverty
   GUY OSBORN
   STEVE GREENFIELD

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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