Big Issue Vendor

Big Issue vendor Rob Lovett: ‘I’ve started saving’

Big Issue vendor Rob Lovett got a card machine before lockdown and has started saving, even though he dearly misses his pitch.
Rob Lovett can't wait to get back to his pitch in Longfields, Kent.

More than 1,000 Big Issue vendors are out of work because of the lockdown in England. They are unable to sell the magazine and can’t rely on the income they need.

We have been checking in with vendors to find out how they are getting on during this uncertain time. 

In this piece, we hear from Rob Lovett, 50, who usually sells the magazine in Longfield in Kent. He explains how his customers have disappeared and says that as a COPD sufferer, he is holding out for his two vaccinations.

Lockdowns have taken income away from hundreds of Big Issue sellers. Support The Big Issue and our vendors by signing up for a subscription.

I’ve covered more than 3,700 miles on my bike since the pandemic started. I try to get out every day but I don’t always manage it; when I do get out I try to do about a marathon a day at least. I’ve got an app on my phone to count the miles and I just get up from my house and go. I explore along the coast mainly. This winter I’ve been out for literally hours when it’s been snowing and when I’ve come back my hands aren’t cold, they’re numb. I’d be scared to bend them in case they’d snap.

Last year, before the pandemic, I’d planned to walk the length of Britain to raise money for charity but that’s all been put on hold now. Instead, I’ve just bought a boat. I’ve got a friend who wants to live on a boat and I thought it was a brilliant idea so we were looking at ones to buy for months. Then I got told about this one, she’s big – 45ft and 12ft wide. I went to have a look and I bought her just like that.

When I saw the boat I thought, I’m having that

In a couple of weeks she’ll get moved to hard standings in a boatyard where I can do all the work that I need to before she goes back on the water. I’m good with my hands; it’s a lot of woodwork – ripping it out and putting it back in again. These are skills I’ve picked up through my life, I lived in a shed for three years in my mum’s garden before she passed away. I’d built it out of pallet wood, I eventually upgraded it to shiplap and on the inside I had actual wallpaper, proper light fittings and laminate flooring. It was a home from home. If I could do that with a 17ft shed, just think what I can do with a 45ft boat.

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My plan is to get it up on the river and start living on it myself. It’s already got a log burner on there for me. I’ve spent a lot on it but it’s an investment in my future, somewhere to go and live full time. Before the first lockdown, I got a card machine for my Big Issue sales and I didn’t draw money out of the bank as I still had a bit of cash that I was handling. So I started saving. Then came the first lockdown and my savings dived right down, but I managed to get them up again when I was back on my pitch. When I saw the boat I thought, I’m having that. I don’t care if my money’s gone, at least I’ve got something to show for it. And it’s an opportunity. I’m a fisherman and I’ve done a lot of camping since I was a kid. Let me tell you, having cooked food on an open fire you can’t beat it.

I’m totally missing my pitch. I can’t wait to go back, I want to get out there because I’m getting bored. I’ve still got my little staffie, Molly, so I get out for walks with her. In the first lockdown, Molly and I did 410 miles in April alone. We were out there every day, just walking. Hopefully we’ll do the big walk next year. Devastated doesn’t cover how I felt when I couldn’t do it last year, it was more than that. We’re raising money for four dog charities and I’ve already got £1,500 in the bank for them. The more that people follow me on Instagram, the more the money will go up. I just want to say thanks to all those who are supporting me. The situation we’re in now, it is what it is. But I miss you loads. Stay safe and stay well.

Follow Rob on Instagram @bigissuerob

Interview: Sarah Reid @frutepastel