The King bought a copy of the Big Issue from vendor Kelvin Gregory along with Lord John Bird the founder of the Big Issue. Credit Ian Vogler
Vendors enjoyed a bumper level of sales last week after a world-exclusive portrait of King Charles III appeared on the cover of The Big Issue.
In parts of the country, sales were reported to be “unprecedented”, with vendors selling dozens of copies a day. Each sale is crucial as we head into our Christmas period, as temperatures drop and energy bills mount.
The world-exclusive cover of The Big Issue was a black and white portrait of the King taken by superstar photographer Rankin at Clarence House to mark the Monarch’s birthday.
King Charles III turned 75 years old on 14 November and used his birthday to shine the spotlight on a good cause, with an exclusive message for the UK and the world in The Big Issue.
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This became a global story, reported by more than 2,000 media organisations across the world. The cover image was also featured on the front covers of national newspapers including the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Times.
On the monarch’s actual birthday, 14 November, King Charles III attended the launch of his Coronation Food Project. The launch took place at a FareShare distribution centre on the outskirts of Didcot when he met Big Issue vendor Kelvin Gregory, 61, who usually sells outside Somerset House.
The King bought a copy of The Big Issue, with his face on it, from Kelvin.
“That was nuts!” Kelvin told The Big Issue after meeting and shaking hands with both the King and Queen Camilla.
“He asked about my well-being, if I had accommodation, how I find selling the magazine, and how The Big Issue has helped me.
“I said I enjoy doing what I’m doing because The Big Issue helped me through bad times. Selling taught me interpersonal skills and gave me confidence back. It really helps so people should keep supporting.”
Summarising the interaction, Lord John Bird – Founder of The Big Issue, wrote in his latest column: “A tremendous amount of energy goes into trying to get food into the mouths of the poorest. I witnessed it last week when King Charles launched his Coronation Food Project.
“There is a vast network of provision for people caught in the emergency of hunger, and the Coronation Food Project will hopefully ensure the provision of more food.
“I was with Kelvin,” Lord Bird continued. “A Big Issue vendor there to sell a copy to King Charles, with Charles’s birthday photo on the cover and a matching story. I was also there hopefully to stress to the King that if we wish to end food poverty, we seriously need to turn off the tap that produces people born into poverty.
“Energy and devotion to food relief filled the large room of devotees of ‘social justice through food justice’, as some have come to call it. All went well, with Kelvin selling and getting a tenner off the King; and I got to give King Charles a copy of my minuscule manifesto calling for a Ministry of Poverty Prevention. And was pleased to hear the King say that prevention is the big deal.”
Celebrated photographer Rankin is a long-time collaborator of The Big Issue. Across his career he has photographed an extraordinary range of individuals including David Bowie, Madonna, The Rolling Stones, and Queen Elizabeth II.
He first collaborated with The Big Issue when he photographed the Spice Girls for us in 1997.
“It was an absolute honour to shoot [King Charles III] specifically for Big Issue,” Rankin told us.
“It was specifically an honour to shoot this portrait around the Coronation Food Project, which I’m a big supporter of, and it’s something we don’t talk about enough,” he continued.
“[The King] was very funny and super charming. He knew exactly what it was for.
“I got the impression that he’s very switched on and very engaged person in terms of what he’s doing and why he’s doing it.”
Follow the example of our King by buying our latest edition of The Big Issue, this time featuring musical royalty on the cover.
If you can't visit your local vendor on a regular basis, then the next best way to support them is with a subscription to the Big Issue. As a social enterprise, we invest every penny we make back into the organisation. That means that with every subscription, we are supporting people in poverty to get back on their own two feet.