Birmingham Museum: Big Issue vendor the face of exhibition
A Big Issue seller, who died earlier this year, is to take pride of place at a forthcoming exhibition to celebrate Birmingham in the 21st century.
Peter Dolan has been chosen as the face of ‘Birmingham, Its People, Its History’ − a prestigious exhibition which opens this Friday at Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, showcasing 800 years of the city’s development.
Peter, who died two months ago of a heart attack following a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, became a well-known figure in Birmingham City Centre where he sold the Big Issue for more than four years.
Visitors to the exhibition will be able to look at Peter’s jacket, his street seller pass, his photograph and a copy of Big Issue. They will also be hear his softly spoken voice, and read his remarkable story.
He will stand alongside other prominent Brummies including industrialist Matthew Boulton, Mini designer Sir Alec Issigonis and slave trade abolitionist Olaudah Equiano.
Tom Belte, a former Big Issue volunteer turned full-time area worker for the Big Issue said: “Pete was so eloquent, but he was also struggling to control his health. He had complained of being breathless and his health adviser thought he might have had a slight heart attack.
“But he went to visit his parents’ graves in Dublin, and suffered a heart attack over there. He led an enigmatic life and was on the autistic scale, so his understanding of his surroundings was different to a normal person.”
Before selling The Big Issue, Peter had served in the US Navy and served as a fairground attendant at Coney Island before coming to the UK. He worked briefly as a bus conductor before selling the Issue.
Peter had a BA in Spanish and French and was still fluent in both. He had lived all over the world, and had a fanatical understanding of the immigration system.
Belte said: “Pete was a literal genius and knew everything about the economy, politics and current affairs. He had a very mathematical brain, too. He was spotted at Waterstones in Solihull, reading a book about the theory of existential sociology... in French.
“He is the most amazing person I’ve ever known and was an inspiration to people all over the place. He couldn’t see that for himself, though. He just thought he was a ‘normal’ person.”
Peter sold on Navigation Street or Colmore Row in the city, and lived in St Anne’s Hostel before moving to St Eugene’s as his health began to fail.
'Birmingham, Its People, Its History’ opens at the city’s Museum & Art Gallery on October 12. See www.bmag.org.uk