A late Big Issue vendor’s innovative way of keeping warm could help others

Friends of Kevin Headley, who died in May, are fundraising to make his Hottie hot water bottle backpack available to homeless people across the country

A late Big Issue vendor’s unique way of keeping warm in the cold is being kept alive by his friends – and could be used to help other homeless people.

Popular Kevin Headley passed away in May at the age of 52, inspiring an outpouring of grief and heartfelt tributes on his long-time pitch outside Hackney Wick Station in north-east London.

His love of the arts endearing him to the local community and he worked on projects raising awareness of homelessness as well as boosting local bands and DJs.

Kevin Headley Hottie
Hottie prototypes will be on show at Friday's fundraiser

But pals have decided to keep one of his final ventures going – a method of keeping the cold at bay, dubbed the Hottie.

The design turns a hot water bottle into a backpack made out of ladder locks, straps and Velcro. Kevin would use one on his pitch while selling the magazine, according to close friend and project co-ordinator Jamie Naish, who is keen to develop the design by making it open source.

Kevin Headley Hottie
The design can be worn to keep the cold at bay in winter

“The bonus is that you can walk around with it,” he said. “The first one was given to Kev at Hackney Wick station years ago and made a big difference to him. The original design was about saving money and we wore them when I was living in a warehouse to save on the heating bill.

“Kev was really well connected in the community and was involved in a lot of projects and initiatives. We started to try and push it four months ago with a business in New Cross. Kev was enthusiastic about it. He was the one who first said, ‘we need to try and push this out to as many people as possible’.”


In total, more than 92,000 people have sold The Big Issue since 1991 to help themselves work their way out of poverty – more than could fit into Wembley Stadium.

To fund the manufacture and distribution of more Hotties, Kevin’s friends are putting on a fundraising night at East London venue Stour Space on July 27, featuring a fashion show, music and DJ sets as well as a dance display from another of Kevin’s pals Mai Nguyen Tri and Ampersand.

James insists that he feels a responsibility to get as many Hotties into as many hands of people in need as possible to pay his respects to Kevin.

I was really, really sad when I found that he had passed away but I also felt like I had no right to sit around crying because that’s not what Kev was like

“He was really the driving force putting the people together who can help to solve the problem,” he added. “He was a real community figure and I used to see him on my way home every day, smiling and selling The Big Issue at the station. You can still see the tributes there and it is hard to believe he is actually gone.

“The sad thing is that he passed away when we were just starting to get some movement. I was really, really sad when I found that he had passed away but I also felt like I had no right to sit around crying because that’s not what Kev was like. I’m incredibly motivated to get what I can done and to get people in to drive this forward and open this out.”

Images: Mai Nguyen Tri