Big Issue vendor André Rostant is quite the creative. His songs come after he penned a novel earlier this year. Image: Eloise Campbell Bowling
Big Issue vendor André Rostant has written and recorded a new song that he hopes will become a ‘Big Issue anthem’.
The 60-year-old, who sells the magazine on London’s Carnaby Street, donned a Hawaiian shirt and picked up his acoustic guitar to record The Big Issue Ballad (Dignity) alongside producer Allegro at a recording studio in Ealing last month.
The self-penned track, recorded with the help of homelessness charity Under One Sky, charts the experiences of selling the Big Issue and acts as a rallying cry to support vendors and people experiencing homelessness.
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“It is remarkable that The Big Issue doesn’t have an anthem, a definitive, instantly recognisable tune of its own to use for various purposes,” said Rostant.
“My hope is that this tune, written from the heart, with love, might serve as one.
“Street homelessness, in the UK and elsewhere, is something that people deliberately avoid seeing/refuse to see. That irks me enormously.
“It is deeply frustrating and infuriating to see people all over the world with no place to call home” and, often, no fixed shelter at all.”
Rostant wrote the song over a few days and recorded it alongside another called The Heroes on the Stair.
He has a particular flair for calypso music and Irish folk in a nod to his parents’ heritage from Trinidad and Ireland respectively.
But music is an enduring passion for the London vendor.
“My musical influences are all and sundry – I simply love music and write lots,” said Rostant. “I am not a natural performer but, since it’s hard to get anybody to take up a song, and it doesn’t make any sense to sit singing them while washing up in the kitchen, I get up and sing them!”
Rostant doesn’t fancy his chances at securing the prestigious Christmas number one – the death of Shane MacGowan has cemented The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl’s Fairytale of New York as the frontrunner.
But the song is still a worthy summation of the impact the Big Issue has had on people’s lives.
“It is an emotive tune and the lyrics are strong. I just hope it pricks a few consciences and raises awareness,” said Rostant.
“The Big Issue as an enterprise is truly a hand up, not a handout – even though many are in desperate need of both! The Big Issue has certainly helped me to structure my life, to keep the lights on and my children fed, and to hold me from simply giving up.”
Under One Sky’s Mikkel Juel Iversen said: “Andre’s lyrics are so deep, vivid and meaningful that his song becomes a visual journey through homelessness full of truths and hope.”