Big Issue editor Paul McNamee: To all the children and all their helpers, thank you… You’re cover stars

Big Issue asked schoolchildren to design their Christmas 2018 front cover

EVERY year at The Big Issue, we invite children to help design one of our Christmas covers. Every year, we are knocked sideways by the response.

The entries start as a small trickle of envelopes in early November and then, within a few weeks, becomes a glorious paper tsunami. The posties are delighted.

The entries come from across Britain, both from individuals and increasingly from schools – from Aberdeen down to Bodmin and up and around again.

This year we had over 1,100 entries and each of them have been lovingly crafted, with colouring pens and glitter and pencils and bits of felt and boundless, unquenchable imagination and enthusiasm.

Paul McNamee

Increasingly letters arrive from teachers and youth leaders explaining how the creation became a class activity that sparked debate about the realities of Christmas for people who go without.

To chose one is almost impossible. Not just because it feels unfair, but because the ideas on the page are so good. We tried to capture a photo of all them. It took up an entire room. This year, we had some heavyweight help – Anna Bassi, the multi-award winning editor of The Week Junior, and celebrated author Cressida Cowell.

There was a simple brief this year. We asked that entries touched on the theme of Welcome, wherever that took them.

And it brought us right to the door of nine-year-old Lucy Norris from Ware in Hertfordshire. It’s only a door, to begin with. There’s no doubt whatever about that. But the more you look the more you’re drawn in. It’s a brightly coloured, simple opening to everything.

It’s a bright door that offers relief – where the homeless are welcome; where the homeless become homed.

It’s an idea that makes the heart sing.

“How tricky, because of course they’re all wonderful!” said Cressida Cowell. “I love the big pink door because it’s bright and festive and the Homeless with the Less crossed out is a lovely neat graphic illustration of an idea.”

This year we’ve covered a lot of tough stories in The Big Issue – the nature of punitive rollout of Universal Credit and the rise in homelessness has meant the landscape out there demands it.

To have these covers come flooding in provides a fillip for the hardest of hacks.

To every single person who entered, to parents, grandparents, teachers, carers, aunts uncles and anybody else who spent time sticking and helping and stuffing envelopes and sending emails, we at The Big Issue thank you and we salute you.

You are part of what we do and why we do it.

You are helping The Big Issue vendors out on the street make a living and help them lift themselves up as they work their way out of their perilous situation. You help make Christmas.