When much-loved Big Issue vendor Kevin Headley died in May, he left behind The Hottie to help homeless people keep warm on the streets – and the idea has spread beyond his native London.
The long-time Hackney Wick seller and arts community mainstay came up with the simple idea of using a hot water bottle as a backpack to keep the cold at bay and used one on his pitch while selling the magazine.
A group of his friends, led by project co-ordinator Jamie Naish, pledged to carry on his good work, making the simple backpack out of a hot water bottle, ladder locks, straps and Velcro.
However, plans are afoot to bring the idea to Brighton, through another old friend of Kevin’s called Maria Garrett.
There are currently around 1,450 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.
“It’s not quite set up just but I’m in quite a good position and we have a lot of people interested in getting involved – I’m in talks with the local university to use their workshops to make the bags,” said former Big Issue vendor Maria. “It is one of a couple of projects I have on the go, I’ve been running an outreach service since 2012 which is about to become a charity.
But I like the Hottie project and the plan at the moment is to make them as a bigger package with instructions that means we can get them to wherever they need to be go all over the country.
As the temperatures continue to drop over the Christmas period, rough sleepers face a battle just to survive – a battle that outreach worker Maria will see first-hand in Brighton.
And the Hottie could prove a crucial aid in surviving the punishing conditions when the project is introduced next year.
“Every year for the last three or four years I have done a project like this, including hot water bottle ones,” said Maria. “And the Hottie is really useful because it can save a life in the cold and as it is a backpack, a person can stay warm even if they are in a position where they can’t use their hands.
“I feel a little bit of pressure to carry on Kevin’s legacy – I knew him a long time after meeting him in Reading years ago – we almost followed each other around over the years. I’m sure that if he was alive then he would be helping us to make the Hottie.”