Behind the scenes

King Charles' Big Issue cover saw 'unprecedented' sales for vendors ahead of crucial Christmas period

King Charles wrote a piece for The Big Issue about his Coronation Food Project, which will help redirect surplus food to those experiencing food poverty

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.

Change a Big Issue vendor’s life this Christmas by purchasing a Winter Support Kit. You’ll receive four copies of the magazine and create a brighter future for our vendors through Christmas and beyond.

King Charles wrote a piece for The Big Issue about his Coronation Food Project, which will help redirect surplus food to those experiencing food poverty.

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.”

The King bought a copy of the Big Issue from vendor Kelvin Gregory alongside Lord John Bird, the founder of the Big Issue

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.”

Rankin self portrait
Superstar photographer Rankin shot The Big Issue’s cover photo of HM King Charles

Last week’s magazine also included a behind-the-scenes piece on the exclusive cover portrait taken by Rankin to mark the Monarch’s 75th birthday.

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 cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.

You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

Support our vendors this winter and beyond

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.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Inside the Big Issue: The filth and fury of Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley
Inside the Big Issue

Inside the Big Issue: The filth and fury of Olivia Colman and Jessie Buckley

Inside the Big Issue: Bob Marley and me
Inside the Big Issue

Inside the Big Issue: Bob Marley and me

Social investment arm of the Big Issue Group opens up applications for second cohort of social enterprises in London  
Press Release

Social investment arm of the Big Issue Group opens up applications for second cohort of social enterprises in London  

Inside the Big Issue: Behind Lorna Tucker's powerful film Someone's Daughter, Someone's Son
Inside the Big Issue

Inside the Big Issue: Behind Lorna Tucker's powerful film Someone's Daughter, Someone's Son

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Here's when UK households to start receiving last cost of living payments

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know