Big Issue vendor Robin: This is my life. I don’t know what I’m going to do

What happens when your livelihood disappears overnight? Long-time seller Robin Price tells us how the last week has been for him

I’ve sold The Big Issue for 26 years now and this is the first time I’ve ever been told that I cannot go out and sell. I’m sitting here watching the sun go down and the beach was packed today so I felt quite gutted not to be out. It felt like everyone else was out and I’m not allowed to.

I genuinely don’t know what I’m going to do, I really don’t. Last week, I could see it was getting more and more quiet as the week went on. I bought my magazines on Monday and I sold 18 all week. I’d normally sell all 50, I guarantee you that. I have this motto, sell 10 a day and have two days off. But the lovely people of Weston have been helping me out with an extra pound here, 50p there. It all helped.

Robin Price trains Heidi Burton
Robin Price's model trains
Robin's love of model railways led to him being dubbed 'The Big Issue's Rod Stewart'

A few shops started to go to takeaway only, like Greggs and Costa, and it just went downhill from there. The owner of the coffee house I stand outside texted me on Friday night to say she was sorry but she wasn’t opening either. I didn’t go out on Saturday because I thought, what’s the point? If there’s no cafes open there will be nobody in town.

I’m also a franchisee for The Big Issue so I don’t quite know how that’s going to work. Basically, I would go to Bristol, pick up 100 magazines a week and come back down and sell them on to vendors. If there were any immediate problems I’d try to sort them out or if new people wanted to join up I’d take their details and hand them in to the office. It was a lot of mentoring, basically. It was kind of like my own business, but for The Big Issue. So yeah, I liked doing the franchise work.

The Big Issue has become my life. It’s given me something to focus on

I’m going to miss my customers, I’ll miss the banter. I’ll wake up early anyway. I’ll miss the chitchat, the laughs, the social work bit. You listen to everyone’s problems after the weekend, ‘Oh, you won’t believe what she did on Saturday…’ That sort of thing. You take it all for granted but now all this is affecting me. Hopefully this isn’t going to last long but I see people are saying three months. I’ve been watching the five o’clock bulletins with Boris Johnson every day on the BBC. He comes across as if he’s genuinely trying. You’ve got to remember that none of us know anything about this. It’s all new to us, but equally it’s all new to them as well.

Over my life The Big Issue has helped me out, it’s got me off the streets, it’s stopped me from begging. It’s become my life. It’s also given me something to focus on, and I’ll go as far as to say it stops most of my mental ill health because of that focus. I might bitch and moan about it on a Monday morning when I’m going up to Bristol but I love it really. I’ve got my model railways to distract me and a computer I can mess about with. Everything’s to do with trains for me. But I don’t know what I’m going to do, if I’m honest. I know there are thousands of other vendors out there who are going through the same as me, but I just feel absolutely lost.

Robin Price was speaking to Sarah Reid