Big Issue Vendor

‘I get a few extra pennies’: The Big Issue vendor helping Covid-hit grocers

While he's off his pitch, Will Herbert is helping a local firm to support producers impacted by the pandemic
Big Issue vendor Will Herbert has been helping a local business to support Covid-hit producers. Image credit: nourishedcommunities.com

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.

So The Big Issue has been checking in with vendors to find out how they are getting on during this uncertain time.

Will Herbert, 61, usually sells the magazine outside Budgens in Upper Street, London. While he’s off his pitch, he is helping a local business to support Covid-hit producers.

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

Round the corner from where I usually work there’s a fruit and veg shop called Nourished Communities that does organic produce. I walked in and asked the owner Rollo if they needed anyone to hand out flyers.

So for three hours a couple of times a week I hand out leaflets for an online market stall they set up. It’s to help farmers and producers who aren’t able to trade in farmers’ markets. I’m not actually talking to anyone but I put on my PPE anyway and I get a few extra pennies in my pocket.

My Big Issue regulars come by, say good morning and ask me how I’m doing through the pandemic. I just tell them the truth, I say if it wasn’t for handing out these flyers I’d be in big trouble at the moment.

It’s not big money but for a couple of hours it gets me out of the house and meeting the people I’ve been meeting for years. It clears my head. Rollo and I are helping each other in this bad situation. This is quite a well-to-do area though, and a lot of the people ain’t too short to buy a bit of fruit and veg – they know it’s all fresh from the farm.

When I was working on The Big Issue it was like I forgot about how my life had been. Drugs wouldn’t come into my head at all.

Since I gave up the drugs and the drink my life has spiralled around. It’s been about seven years now and The Big Issue was a part of that. They gave me the stability to get out because otherwise I’d have had to sit at home like I’m doing now and I would have been too weak. I’d have to have had a drink or drugs or what have you. But The Big Issue got me out of the house and spending time with people.

When I was working on The Big Issue it was like I forgot about how my life had been. Drugs wouldn’t come into my head at all. Since lockdown though I’ve had a few throwbacks where you can be tempted.

Will usually sells the magazine outside Budgens, Upper Street, London
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Will usually sells the magazine outside Budgens, Upper Street, London

I’ve been seeing a girl since just before Christmas, she’s been very, very helpful for me. I’d seen her before when I first started doing The Big Issue but I didn’t want to say that I was coming off the drugs.

But now my life’s all looking a bit rosier, she’s come into it and it’s a nice thing. She’s got me into a bit of sports at home. Joe Wicks. She says, “Come on!” but I’ve got to go slow. You’ve got to be committed with it, consistent. One or two days is no good. I’m starting to feel the aches and pains in the backs of my legs but I feel good for it.

I’ve found Upper Street quite busy – we’ve got a market here and the area’s full of big supermarkets. People still have to get out shopping so you get a little bit of traffic here. I still see some of my regulars and I wanted to say to them that I hope the quarantine hasn’t been too hard on everyone.

I’m looking forward to going back to selling my papers, and giving the vulnerable a bit of encouragement about the vaccine. I’ve done a lot of good, I do try.

Will was speaking to Sarah Reid.