When Windsor was announced as Harry and Meghan’s wedding venue, a right royal media storm kicked up. And the town’s homeless population was caught in the middle.
Rough sleepers should be swept off the streets ahead of the big day, council leader Simon Dudley urged police earlier this year. As an activist for homelessness charities, Harry confronted the row, albeit sideways. He and Meghan visited Social Bite, the increasingly famous Edinburgh cafe that trains homeless people. It didn’t take Sherlock to read this as an indication of the couple’s position.
The royal wedding has kept homelessness on the agenda. And in this week’s Big Issue we asked some of our Street Art contributors to help us celebrate the royal wedding – Big Issue style!
This week’s cover illustration came from David Tovey, who spent six years as a chef in the army and cooked for the Queen at Windsor Castle. After leaving the military, he ran a restaurant until suffering a stroke in 2011. A series of health problems including cancer and a heart attack followed, leading to homelessness and a suicide attempt.”. Art is one of the best treatments for trauma,” Tovey says. Today he is a rising star in the art world and has founded the One Festival of Homeless Arts
“I’m hoping this picture will help change perceptions of the homeless. To have Meghan and Harry selling the magazine is to highlight that anyone, and I truly mean anyone, can become homeless. It’s also to highlight that a huge number of people become homeless after a marriage break-up, not that I wish that upon Harry and Meghan.
“I’ve been extremely lucky since getting off the streets. Art has given me the power to change my life and to also help others. I could never have done any of this without the help of a stranger who saved my life on a park bench.
“You see, it only takes one person to change another person’s life. Gavin saved mine and look at what I’ve achieved since that day. Imagine if everyone helped one person from the streets, I wonder what they would all achieve.
“This is an invitation”
In Scotland, this week’s cover illustration came from Jo Adamson. After losing her eyesight in a car crash a decade ago, Jo turned to The Big Issue, becoming one of Glasgow’s most familiar faces. She has no sight out of her left eye, and describes her right eye as a “constant misty blur”. She stopped selling the magazine when she moved into her own flat four years ago and is now a full-time artist. Today her bedroom doubles as her studio.
“I still struggle to see but I use bright-coloured wax, which reflects in the light, and get very close to the paper. I was tempted to do them looking silly but I thought, no, let’s keep it sensible because it’s a royal wedding. It’s a risky thing being married. Hopefully they’ll be happy.
“I’ve got page boys and flower girls, but because I was putting so many people in it was hard. I was thinking of putting Prince Charles with big ears and but it was too wee to be able to do that. I’ve not actually done Charles and Camilla, I feel they’ll end up looking like horses, do you know what I mean? It’s hard to portray them nicely. I was just trying to keep Harry ginger-haired, cheeky but romantic. And Meghan is used to stardom and I think that helps, because who would take on that life?”
Two decades ago Geraldine Crimmins suffered a breakdown that led to her losing her house, two businesses and become addicted to drugs. She turned her life around after enrolling on an art course and is currently artist in residence at Old Diorama Arts Centre, London.
“I’m not a royalist myself but some people love the royal family, it doesn’t matter if they’re homeless or not. I used to live on the streets around Victoria, there’s an awful lot of soldiers sleeping rough and they’re very pro-royal.
“They’re a modern couple. I think they’re well matched. From a woman’s point of view, she’s given up a lot to marry him – her freedom. The press is already trying to torture her with her family but I don’t think they’ll be pushed around. They will run their own lives and be respectful. They’ll make a good team. I think they’ll be good for PTSD and homelessness.”
John Sheehy was born in Ireland in 1949 and emigrated to London in the 1950s. He has experienced periods of homelessness and suffered mental health problems. His artistic output spans painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography and poetry.
“I painted these portraits of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle from the heart. I feel warmth and kindness coming from both of them. I admire the royal family. I remember Prince Charles coming to visit us at Crisis Skylight about 16 years ago and I have been told they buy The Big Issue regularly. I’m looking forward to the big day. I want to wish them tons of good luck wishes and a long life.”