“Quality, not charity!” Macadam was relaunched in 2009 with a dynamic and attractive editorial policy. This monthly magazine which was the first street paper in French, began sixteen years ago under the impetus of a Belgian whose name has since disappeared from people’s memories. The project was rapidly abandoned, taken up again, and again abandoned. After a rather rocky start, two men managed to bring it back to life. Gabriel Gaudillat, a former homeless vendor who is now the President of “Artisans du Macadam”, the editorial association based in Lyon, and François Fillon. No, not the French prime Minister, just someone with the same name who was a Progrès journalist and a freelance volunteer for Macadam when it began. He is now the magazine’s director.
One of them had conviction and the other had the know-how. This is what made the difference when they decided to take over the project in 2006. A writing and expression workshop was even set up so that all the vendors would take part in the magazine’s development. For them, “Macadam was much more than a paper. It had a real social purpose and provided a dignified and accessible solution for people who had difficulties.”
The first cover was a photograph of a homeless person begging with a cup in his hand and a headline that read : “Poverty in France”. “How do you expect people not to be repelled by this ? With topics like this, nobody will want to keep reading ! People are already down. We’re not going to add to that by giving them depressing articles.” said an annoyed Gabriel. Indeed, sales were disastrous. The paper’s relaunch was again postponed. But François, Gabriel and the other vendors wouldn’t let it be forgotten. Due to a lack of means, the paper became a small black and white fanzine. The whole team got involved and suggested stories, wrote inserts and thought of how to improve “their” magazine. François even paid for the first scale models out of his own pocket. Their determination paid off.
In 2009, Macadam finally became a real magazine, in colour. About forty professional journalists, photographers and designers give up a bit of their time to produce it. Famous writers such as Jacques Attali, Jean-François Kahn, Franz-Olivier Gisbert and Martin Hirsch also agree to write editorials free of charge. Associative and editorial partnerships are thus set up with entities like Courrier International and Reporters of Hope (Reporters d’espoirs), an editorial agency that promotes “positive” information that leads to solutions, which encourages as many people from as many different areas as possible to get involved (economy, science, health, environment, society, culture…). These sources provide Macadam with free articles.
It was out with the stories that caused the reader anxiety and sent him/ her deep into the throes of poverty, and in with the entertaining varied articles that mixed celebrity interviews, reports on positive solution-providing initiatives, travel diaries, unusual news, games, good deals… On the front cover, Carla Bruni, Mimi Mathy, Nicolas Hulot, Adriana Karembeu, Line Renaud, Eric Cantona… “A quality newspaper with real editorial content”, which makes all those who sell it on the streets proud. “This magazine is not just an excuse for people to give us change, explains Jean-Claude, a seller in Paris. We are not begging. It is a remunerative activity that keeps us in touch with reality and helps us to resocialise ourselves.”
In contrast to other street papers, most of the vendors are not homeless, but rather people who are struggling. “People just like everyone else who have fallen on hard times”, explains François Fillon. For the hundred or so vendors, Macadam therefore gives them an income (they get half the price of the magazine which costs 2€) and helps them to remain independent whilst maintaining some social cover. “They are not asking for a handout and they don’t expect a tip, adds Fillon. They are official newspaper vendors who are proud of their job.”
Jean-Claude decided to leave everything behind and start a new life because of professional and family problems. Six months later, he was homeless. “For me, Macadam was a means of staying afloat, and a great springboard for reintegration.” After nine very hard months, the former deputy mayor of a small town found a job organising activities at the Villeurbanne library. “Thanks to the magazine, I was able to take charge and build my confidence back up.”
Jean-François had been unemployed for a long time. Macadam stopped him from giving up. He was at Lille Station every morning at 10.30 with a happy glint in his eye. He was always there. “Come rain or shine, I forced myself to stick to a schedule. There was no way I was taking this job lightly.” With a little joke or a smile, he was easily able to build up a relationship with those he came across. Until the day one of them gave him the opportunity of returning to his previous job as a painter and decorator. “It should be seen as a magazine that gives you a hand, explains François Fillon. This activity helps you maintain a rhythm and gives you something to wake up for in the morning whilst you are waiting to find a new job, or waiting to get through tough financial times.”
Today, Macadam seems to have reached new heights. The magazine is supported by the International Network of Street Papers which has recognised its quality and social use. The magazine (with a circulation of ten thousand) is now 100% funded by its sales and it now contains a little advertising. It is also being helped by the Crédit coopératif and the Macif. “We will soon be able to extend distribution to other big cities in France”, explains François Fillon. You can find our vendors near stations. Buying Macadam from them is the most beautiful form of respect.”
Macadam magazine received the “2010 European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion” label.
To subscribe, contact the association “Les artisans du Macadam” : 04 78 97 26 73
To become a vendor : 06 31 96 34 76 or email@example.com