Big Issue Vendor

‘Birmingham has lost a landmark’ Big Issue vendor ‘Bubble’ has died

Karl Lamsdale – known as Bubble to his regular customers at Birmingham's Snow Hill train station – was found dead last week at the age of 54

Popular Big Issue vendor Karl ’Bubble’ Lamsdale, who once featured on the cover of The Big Issue magazine after his miraculous recovery from a hit-and-run incident, has died.

Lamsdale, who was known as Bubble to his regular customers on his pitch at Birmingham Snow Hill railway station, was found dead at his flat on April 15. The cause of death is unknown at this stage. He was 54 years old.

West Midlands Police told The Big Issue the vendor’s death is not being treated as suspicious and has been referred to the coroner.

There will only ever be one Bubble, he was a one-off who will be missed greatlyJon Hyde, The Big Issue’s sales and operations team leader in the West Midlands

Paying tribute to Lamsdale, The Big Issue’s sales and operations team leader in the West Midlands Jon Hyde said: “I knew Bubble for over a decade and never had a problem with him. He had a deadpan sense of humour and a glint in his eye.

“He showed amazing tenacity and spirit to recover from the hit-and-run accident that nearly killed him, recovering to again be part of the furniture outside Snow Hill train station. 

“Birmingham city centre has lost a landmark and the Big Issue has lost one of the best ambassadors it has ever had. There will only ever be one Bubble, he was a one-off who will be missed greatly.”

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Bubble back on his pitch. Image: Matt Sheehan

A Birmingham native, Lamsdale left the Midlands when he was 17 and lived in Penzance and Newlyn for almost two decades. His spell in Cornwall was the “happiest of his life”, Lamsdale’s sister Sam told The Big Issue.

He returned to Birmingham and became a fixture at Snow Hill station, where he sold the magazine for around 20 years. 

“He was very proud of selling The Big Issue and he was very proud of meeting the Queen at Snow Hill station in 2012,” said Sam. “We used to find it funny that out of all of us in the family, Karl was the one who met the Queen.”

Lamsdale graced the front cover of the magazine after a miraculous recovery from a hit-and-run incident in January 2018 that left him in a five-week coma with broken bones, sepsis and two heart attacks.

Within five months, Lamsdale had returned to his pitch and told The Big Issue how he had stunned doctors in the critical care unit that treated him with his progress, which he put down to “attitude and determination”.

Lamsdale told his recovery story in The Big Issue when he returned to selling a magazine with a difference – for the first time his face was on the cover. He said: “I saw God too, when I was having one of my heart attacks – he told me to piss off back to my pitch at Snow Hill!

“He was just like the pictures you see of him – grey beard, long hair and a robe. I haven’t seen him since though!”

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The remarkable story had an enormous impact on Lamsdale’s regular customers when he returned to his pitch.

Many had contributed to an online fundraiser that generated £1,800 to support his recovery while others only learned of his ordeal when he began selling the magazine again.

He told The Big Issue: “There are a few people who have said, “Where have you been?” and then they read my story and you can just see their chin drop to the floor.”

Harry Karl Bubble Lamsdale
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Reader Harry was delighted to see vendor Bubble back on his pitch Image: Big Issue reader Jemma

Before his death, Lamsdale had been planning to return to his pitch as vendors began to sell the magazine on the streets again on April 12.

He had built up a strong relationship with his regular customers over the years – a fact that struck home when he looked back at his customers’ reaction to his 2018 return.

He added: “It’s brilliant – it makes you feel more of the community than you thought you were. People around there look out for me, make sure I’m alright, but something like this makes you notice how many people accept you. It’s so nice.”