Everyone knows The Big Issue and the importance of its existence for homeless people in London. But recently you might have seen another publication selling on the streets of London. Its name is DOPE Magazine and it is described by some as the “great anarchist problem”. Craig Clark of DOPE editor Dog Section Press tells us more.
We launched DOPE a little over two years ago. It’s a quarterly publication in a newspaper format, which is pretty much a journal of radical art and politics. It presents diverse perspectives, from anarchists like Ruth Kinna and Carne Ross, to more traditional radical voices like Benjamin Zephaniah and Jason Williamson of Sleaford Mods. We try to make it as aesthetic as possible, so it also features a lot of artists, including people like Paul Insect, Stanley Donwood, and Gee Vaucher.
“We have started distributing copies to local homeless people for sale, on an experimental basis”
Our office is located above Freedom Books in Whitechapel, London, where roaming is shocking. We have started distributing copies to local homeless people for sale, on a trial basis. We knew it was possible, as there is a strange quirk of the law (dating back to the English Civil War) that means you don’t need a license to sell a newspaper in a public place. We wanted to distribute our newspaper to as many people as possible and we thought it was a great way to practice mutual aid. We like to say it’s solidarity, not charity.
When we started handing out papers that way, we decided not to put conditions on our sellers, to have them wear bibs or to have accreditation or whatever. But it wasn’t long before sellers actually started asking for something to make them look legitimate. DOPE is therefore now delivered in plastic bags that we have made especially for this purpose. In addition to keeping papers dry, the bags bear the âOfficial Vendorâ inscription on the front and the seller’s rights to sell in a public place. This legal protection also means that people selling DOPE on the streets cannot be displaced or harassed by police or municipal workers, while begging is illegal in most places.
“We have gone from 1,000 printed copies to 10,000”
In London, DOPE is distributed by Refugee Community Kitchen around Camden, Food, not bombs in Tottenham (outside Seven Sisters Station every other Saturday) and by our comrades from Freedom Books in Whitechapel and 56a Infoshop in Elephant and Castle. These areas are where you are most likely to find people selling them, although we know that sometimes sellers travel to collect papers to sell in other locations. Keep an eye out!
We’re also working to get more of it to more places. We have gone from printing 1,000 copies of each issue to 10,000 for this last issue. In addition to four distribution sites in London now, it is also distributed in Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Dundee, Edinburgh, Manchester, Newcastle, Norwich and Southampton. It still looks like a drop in the ocean: as homelessness increases year on year, unfortunately there is much more we can do. We run out of copies of solidarity for our suppliers in each issue, the demand far exceeds the supply. So we are focusing on increasing our circulation as much as possible – both in terms of quantity but also in terms of distribution points around London and the UK.
DOPE is completely independent; we are not linked to any political party or NGO. We do not show any advertising and we do not receive any funding either. We rely on people supporting the project by purchasing a copy of DOPE online or supporting our Patreon (where you can also get a DOPE subscription). We have reached the point of economies of scale where it only costs Â£ 75 to print a thousand more copies, which is around Â£ 3,000 for our street vendors.
We believe it is important to directly support those who need it. Please take a copy if you see someone selling it on the streets around London.