This year we reported on the deaths of 13 much-loved Big Issue vendors – that is far too many.
Official homeless death figures show just how vulnerable people are when they do not have a home. A man living on the streets will die, on average, at the age of 45 whereas a woman will die aged 43, compared to 76 years old and 81 years old for the general population.
We are saddened to report on the deaths of our vendors. And it is not just The Big Issue that is affected – their loss is felt by regular customers, businesses near their pitch and the local communities they are at the heart of.
Below we pay a final tribute to the popular vendors we lost in 2019:
Paul Kelly, 50, Sainsbury’s Buchanan Street, Glasgow
Paul’s tragic death in June rocked all of us at The Big Issue and so many of the people who would walk past his pitch on Glasgow’s bustling Buchanan Street.
The popular vendor gained many a customer and friend with his catchphrase: “Don’t be shy, give it a try, I don’t bite” and his pitch – just yards from The Big Issue’s editorial office – is a poorer spot for his absence.
Paul died on the morning of June 15 following a violent attack. In the days that followed there was an outpouring of emotion, and The Big Issue was inundated with messages of support and condolences from readers across Glasgow and the rest of the UK.
The 50-year-old was even remembered in the Scottish Parliament, where Monica Lennon MSP raised a motion in his memory.
Paul graced the cover of the Scottish edition of The Big Issue and there was also a touching vigil on his pitch where scores of Big Issue staff and vendors, Sainsbury’s workers, readers and passers-by gathered and spoke candidly of his impact on their lives.
Big Issue editor Paul McNamee paid tribute too.
He said: “It just feels odd and it feels sad and a little darker that Paul Kelly isn’t in this world. Everybody here at The Big Issue will miss him.”
Graham Hoile, 67, Co-op Heavitree
Graham had such an impact on his customers over the decade he spent selling the magazine outside the Co-op in Heavitree, Devon that they rallied round to buy a plaque in his memory.
Known as the ‘Face of Fore Street’ because of his attachment to the area, Graham died at the age of 67 after being struck by a train in May. The tragedy hit the local community hard and his customers and staff in the Co-op responded with a collection that raised £180. That paid for a permanent tribute to Graham, who was also known as ‘Paddy’, in the form of the plaque, which was put up on his pitch in November.
“Graham was a well-liked and respected member of the community. Rain or shine he would be selling the magazine without a grumble and often a story to tell,” said Sarah Parkhouse, Big Issue sales and outreach worker for Devon and Cornwall.
Andy Wotton, 52, Waitrose Barbican
London vendor Andy had such a strong connection with his customers that they paid the perfect tribute to him when he died – a personalised Lucozade bottle with his name on.
Andy was loved on his pitch outside Waitrose Barbican for his generous nature, often looking after customers’ bikes while they shopped at the store and providing water for their pets too. The 52-year-old, originally from Scotland, died on September 2.
Waitrose Barbican’s Tim Howard told The Big Issue: “He was always happy and he was one of those people who would make a point of remembering everyone’s name. He was just a really nice person.”
Tony Lucas, 52, Tesco, Paignton
More than 200 people lined the streets of Paignton to pay their respects to much-loved vendor Tony after his death in February. He died after experiencing a series of health issues following an epileptic fit on his pitch outside Tesco in Paignton town centre. His mother Marion Lucas-Moore told The Big Issue: “I’m certain that selling The Big Issue helped him – it made him get out of himself.”
Ivon Sanwell, 56, Halfpenny Bridge, Widcombe, Bath
Ivon “took a sense of pride” in his job selling The Big Issue before he died in February. The popular Bath vendor moved to the city for a fresh start after splitting from his partner at the beginning of 2017. He charmed customers on his Halfpenny Bridge pitch with his “heart of gold”, according to The Big Issue’s Bristol and Bath service broker Geo Leonard.
John Hill, 42, Buchanan Street, Glasgow
Former Glasgow vendor John Hill died in October aged just 42 – he had sold the magazine up until June 2018.
One of John’s regular customers Laura Brown wrote a poignant tribute to John, telling The Big Issue: “John taught me a lot about love, kindness and having a conscientious spirit.”
David Stone, 59, Waitrose, Bath
David Stone had been a much-loved mainstay for a decade in Bath before he lost his battle with cancer in September aged 59.
He was a big hit with customers because of his dry sense of humour as well as his devotion to supporting Walsall Football Club.
“Dave will be remembered by us in the office as a lovely man who had experienced a lot of different things in life and worked around the world,” said Geo Leonard, The Big Issue’s Bath and Bristol service broker.
Mark Passell, 53, Boots, Falmouth
Mark Passell lived a colourful life as part of the traveller community, spending time living in Brittany, the Netherlands and Spain before settling in Falmouth.
Known as “Scottish Mark” on his pitch outside Boots in the Cornish town, the popular vendor died aged 53 in Treliske Hospital in Truro after developing a blood infection and pneumonia.
Mark’s partner Hester Blindell said: “He was furious and not at all ready to go! We miss him and love him very much.”
Kev Bowyer, 52, Morrisons, Taunton
Popular vendor Kev Bowyer was always keen to bravely and honestly share his battle with addiction to help others – even when speaking to crowds of 200 people.
The veteran seller, who sold the magazine for almost a decade outside Morrisons in Taunton, died in August aged 52 after suffering a stroke.
The Big Issue’s Devon & Cornwall sales and distribution team leader Steve Carter fondly remembered Kev for an inspirational speech he gave at Taunton racecourse. “It took a lot of guts for Kev to do that, to speak about the things he had got wrong or not done in his life in front of do many people,” he said. “I will always remember him for that.”
Stewart Frazer, 47, Bath
Former bricklayer and die-hard Everton fan Stewart Frazer was “always a friendly face in a sea of people” in Bath.
The 47-year-old vendor, who turned to The Big Issue in 2016 after he was unable to find work in the building trade, died in August.
Big Issue Bath sales and outreach worker Chris Taylor said: “Stewart always put forward a sensible and rational argument in the vendors’ debates on football.”
Dave Hancock, 58, Hermes, New Bond Street, London
One of Dave Hancock’s regular customers held a memorial gathering in the wake of his death after being touched by his “intelligence, charm, and great sense of humour”.
Martina Larsson made the gesture for her “beloved friend and ardent vendor” Dave after he died in July following end-of-life care.
The 58-year-old had sold The Big Issue outside Hermes on Bond Street for more than a decade before having to take a step back due to a lung condition.
Andrew Patrick, 65, Boots, Knightsbridge
Andrew Patrick had been forced to give up his pitch long-time pitch outside Boots in Knightsbridge due to long-term health problems.
The 65-year-old, who “loved nothing more than talking about and watching films”, died on March 2 after being cared for in a nursing home.
Stevie, 49, Costa Coffee, Stockbridge, Edinburgh
The local community in Stockbridge was left “shocked and bereft” by the death of vendor Stevie in April.
The 49-year-old had sold outside the Costa Coffee in the area for 18 months and one of his regular customers Susan Bittker penned a heartfelt tribute to Stevie, saying: “As one of his friends said ‘he was one in a million.’ I hope he knew how much the people of Stockbridge cared about him and are grieving for him.”