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2021 calendar success: big payout to photographers and sheltering vendors

Thank you to all the people who have ordered the 2021 MyLondon and MyWorld calendars online!

When Covid-19 caused everything to grind to a halt in March last year we knew we couldn't run any of our regular projects in person: exhibitions, photography training and, of course, the MyLondon Photo Project which involves 100 Fujifilm QuickSnap cameras and 100 photographers who are homeless or have experienced homelessness.

We did however manage to run weekly training sessions with volunteers from The Royal Photographic Society thanks to Julian Rouse.

We decided that we could probably generate some income for the photographers by doing the "best of" MyLondon calendar and a "best of" MyWorld calendar, and some greetings cards. We knew it would be a challenge. We normally sell around 20% of our calendars online - about 800 calendars - on the Kickstarter and from our online shop. But we knew Londoners who normally buy in person would buy if they could find us online and that the people who bought online before were loyal customers.

Last year we did a survey to ask our supporters what they like and this helped us decide to add a MyWorld calendar and the greetings cards. (We have just done a follow-up survey to find out what supporters thought after they received the calendars!)

Cafe Art runs on a shoestring budget so we applied as much of our experience to cutting even more expenses, including replacing our annual Kickstarter campaign with an internal one (saving on fees) and reducing the size of the wall calendar to not only save printing costs but make major savings on international and local postage. We also found Emmerson Printers who gave us a fantastic deal on the printing. Fujifilm UK helped us find them and also partly helped with the printing costs - thanks Fujifilm!

As mentioned, in a normal year we would expect to sell 80% of our calendars face-to-face in markets and in office receptions areas. In 2019 we sold more than 5,500 this way. Homeless vendors earned more than £30,000 for themselves that way last year, selling to the public in Spitalfields Market and in London train stations including Liverpool Street Station, Paddington Station and Ealing Broadway. Individual vendors were able to sell to office workers in many buildings in the City. All of this became impossible when Covid-19 hit.

As you know, we follow the Big Issue street paper method of selling: vendors earn 50% of the calendar price - that's £5.50 per calendar sold. Often they earned a lot more than the minimum hourly wage - but they could also have quiet days too, selling only a few calendars in a whole day. We decided it was only fair to give an option to the online buyers and pay a commission to the vendors who couldn't sell this year and this has earned the main vendor team more than £2,600 between them. (if you still want to order a calendar and give 50% to the vendors the code is CAV2021)

Because of Covid-19 we knew we could only print the 2021 calendars if we pre-sold them. Our budget had been very much affected by Covid-19: we had planned on several summer fundraising campaigns with TfL-Rail last year and all our London office rentals have come to a halt as people work from home.

We successfully applied for the National Lottery Community Fund grant so that Geraldine Crimmins, who was also a past photographer and vendor and co-organiser of the last Art Competition Exhibition (ACE), could run a mentoring and art exhibition project. Geraldine, who is a trained counsellor who has experienced homelessness, has been successful in connecting with many people who are still homeless or have recently been homeless. She connects with people who might not be being helped by other homelessness support services. The grant helps clients retain connections with the wider community via phone or the internet as the grant covers people's phone top ups to ensure that.

Cafe Art decided not to take a penny in administration fees from this grant - spending money saved on helping more people affected by homelessness directly, including buying art packs for more homeless artists.

Geraldine has been fantastic at connecting with many vulnerable artists, not only speaking to them regularly, but helping them with their art by providing art packs. The 2021 online art contest exhibition attracted more than 40 entries and the top 20 winners will be announced next week. Prize money will be paid to the to 40 artists from the grant money. (We will post about this amazing project next week!)

Thanks to the Social Enterprise Support Fund Cafe Art has also been able to continue through this difficult period. Cafe Art has always been a social enterprise - to be precise, we're a Community Interest Company. That doesn't allow us as many opportunities to apply for grant funding as registered charities, so we are very appreciative of the grants.

However it was the Cafe Art supporters who pre-ordered in September, including many who gave extra donations, that enabled us to go ahead an print the calendars and greetings cards. We hit our target then and it helped us succeed.

We very proud to say we have sold enough to pay photographers and vendor commissions which add up to a large percentage of the money raised by the sales of 1,700 calendars and 100 sets of cards. The sheltering vendors would have worked selling in markets and train stations and the option to donate to their fund alone raised almost £2,600 from the online sales. This money, along with £1,750 paid out to the photographers (and £400 earned in a brief period face-to-face by two vendors in early December between lockdowns) meant we have now paid out almost £5,000 to photographers and vendors who have experienced homelessness.

Thank you to everyone who has bought the calendars, cards or has donated to this years project!

We are hoping to do another camera handout this year if we can do it safely. While it is still to be confirmed, because of Covid-19, we will do it in a socially distanced way with art groups from London homeless charities in the late summer. (for more details contact

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