Big Issue Vendor

Big Issue vendor Steve Dixon: ‘At the minute on my pitch there’s nothing’

Steve has seen his customers disappear and is lucky to see anybody he knows. He worries about the customers who rely on his friendly chats
Steve Dixon says he is worried about the customers he’s missing over lockdown

More than 1,000 Big Issue vendors are out of work because of the third 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 Steve Dixon, 52, who usually sells the magazine in Durham city centre. 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 started off with The Big Issue at the beginning in 1991. I’d been homeless for two or three weeks and eventually I found myself in a hostel in Newcastle. One day this lad in the hostel emptied his pockets and had loads of money. When I asked him how he got it he says, oh, The Big Issue.

So I went straight down there! I got a load of magazines and went into Newcastle city centre. My mate stood on the other side of the street and if anyone went near me he’d shout, don’t buy it off him – come over to me! We would share everything, it was fun.Before that I’d sold programmes outside St James’s Park so I knew how to manage in crowds and turn on the voice.

I’ve always thought with The Big Issue that common sense comes into it too. If you stand there with a big frown on your face nobody wants to come near you. You’ve got to look happy, you’ve got to turn on the charm.

“At the minute on my pitch there’s nothing.”

I left Newcastle for a while and travelled around. I was doing any jobs I could get – building sites, labouring. I’ve had asthma all my life and in the last 10 years I’ve got COPD too. So I’m limited now in what I can do. I get out of breath easily and halfway through the day I feel really tired. But when you do The Big Issue you can start when you want and finish when you want.

At the minute on my pitch there’s nothing. As the first lockdown came people were getting a little bit scared but after it when I came out there was just nobody there. I stuck it out that first day and I did manage to make a few quid. But I used to sell between 50 and 100 magazines a week.

Then after the second lockdown I was managing about 20 or 30 a week. I’ve heard them talking about the death of the high street and I always thought it would take a while but then Covid-19 came and now I worry that it’s going to be empty.

“With my COPD I’ve been on edge about Covid, I’ve just stayed in during lockdown. I’ve just been reading.”

The customers have disappeared, after the second lockdown I was lucky to see anyone that I knew. I like to talk to them about different things, especially the elderly ones. I’ve been worried about them as I haven’t been able to keep in touch so now I’m just wondering if I’ll ever see them again.

Some people don’t get to interact with anyone and when they come down the high street I might be the first person they’ve talked to in days. So I always try to put on a nice smile and be interested in what they’re talking about.

With my COPD I’ve been on edge about Covid, I’ve just stayed in during lockdown. I’ve just been reading. When I’m reading a book the time goes past dead quick. I had my first vaccination nearly a week ago so that’s given me more confidence.

It’s frightening being out there, especially when you get letters from the government saying if I catch Covid there’s a definite chance that I’ll be in hospital in intensive care. Everyone’s trying their hardest to stay safe but it just takes that one second for you to let your guard down, so until I get my two vaccinations I’m going to stay put.

Steve was speaking to Sarah Reid