by Yali Banton-Heath
DOPE magazine – popularly dubbed ‘the anarchist Big Issue’ – is a quarterly newspaper published by Dog Section Press. It’s jam-packed with slick art, contemporary culture and radical ideas, and has featured content from the likes of David Graeber, Sleaford Mods, Molly Crabapple, Ruth Kinna and Benjamin Zephaniah (among many many others) – but not only is its content cool as f*#k, so is its growing social impact.
For anyone who could use a little solidarity
Craig Clark is an editor at Dog Section Press and co-founder of DOPE magazine. Speaking to The Norwich Radical, he tells us about how the idea for the publication came to fruition: “The first issue was Spring 2018. We thought we’d ask homeless people around Whitechapel if they wanted to sell it – and it really took off” he says, “Newspapers are one of the few things that you don’t need a license to sell in a public place, so we knew it was possible.”
So this is how it works: Dog Section Press produce DOPE; they then distribute copies to vendors on the street; vendors sell DOPE; vendors keep the cash. This brilliantly simple and direct approach is offering a much needed analgesic to the increasingly harsh situations faced by many living on the breadline.
As Craig explains, DOPE is mainly sold by homeless vendors, but the criteria for being a vendor is far from the likes of any demographically specific or means-tested scheme: “We’ve always said that DOPE is for ‘anyone who could use a little solidarity’ and there’s no questions asked” he explains, “if you need to sell some magazines to make a little extra money, that’s good enough for us.”
“We work with various distributions sites who distribute DOPE to vendors in the local area” he says, “it’s mostly homeless people, whether rough sleepers or otherwise, because we’re distributed by by a lot of people who already work with them in terms of service provision.”
Support Norwich vendors!
In Norwich they’ve linked up with Empathy, Action and Time (EAT), a grassroots group who are already working to provide daily hot meals for homeless people in Norwich.
Speaking with Jan McLachlan, a coordinator at EAT, she tells me how a random conversation with Dog Section Press on Facebook led to them distributing DOPE in Norwich. “Realising there was no distributor here, EAT agreed to do it and we’ve been passing the publication on to the homeless community here to sell since January 2020.”
“Selling DOPE means our homeless community can be more independent and have some much needed cash,” Jan explains, “we have several of the community who are regular sellers and we would urge anyone in the city to support them by buying it.”
She tells me how she thinks Dog Section Press’ ethos fits nicely with EAT’s; both being independent grassroots organisations showing solidarity in the community – “and being seditious!” she adds.
Not only can people show solidarity and support through buying copies from vendors, but also through donating directly to Dog Section Press.
“DOPE is entirely funded by donations and all of the money from donations goes to printing more solidarity copies” Craig explains. “The economies of scale associated with with printing mean that DOPE becomes cheaper to print the more support we get. The first issue we printed 1000 copies, and over the last three years we’ve increased our print-run almost every issue – the next issue we’ll be printing 20,000 copies; that will mean we’ve printed 60,000 copies in 2020, worth around £180,000 to vendors.”
Dog Section Press is a anti-profit publisher, and a worker-owner co-operative, but DOPE stands uniquely and explicitly as a money-making scheme. The difference is, it takes cash from those who can spare it, adds surplus value and generates more cash for those who need it; essentially socialising its profits. “At the moment, donating just £5 a month means a vendor can earn around £150, or £1800 over the year” says Craig.
Since the pandemic creeped into every nook and cranny of the UK’s socio-economic sphere, and despite having to stop production completely during the first lockdown as well as having to scale back the print-run of this autumn’s issue, DOPE has continued to offer a lifeline to those who need it most. “We heard from one vendor in Dundee that selling DOPE was the only way they got through the first lockdown” Craig tells me, “so we’re going to be a bit more flexible this time round.”
it takes cash from those who can spare it, adds surplus value and generates more cash for those who need it; essentially socialising its profits
In order to extend their solidarity, DOPE are now selling face masks on their distro site, where one ‘Solidarity Mask’ bought by the public will means another face mask bought for a vendor.
Tough times require us all to show some solidarity. Donating to Dog Section Press, or picking up a copy of DOPE from one its vendors is a great way to do this (…while also getting a healthy dose of radical inspiration and hope for whatever comes next).
DOPE’s upcoming autumn 2020 issue (DOPE 12) features covers and a centre page spread in collaboration with Massive Attack. You can cop a copy via their site, or even better, seek out a vendor in Norwich.
Featured image via DOPE magazine
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