Big Issue Vendor

In tribute to The Big Issue sellers we lost in 2020

The Big Issue is saddened to announce that 21 much-loved vendors lost their lives this year. Read about their lives and what they meant to their communities

This year The Big Issue lost 21 sellers around the UK. That is far, far too many.

In 2020, perhaps more than any other year, The Big Issue has worked hard to protect vendors from the Covid-19 virus and to support them while they have been unable to sell the magazine due to lockdowns.

Big Issue vendors are right at the heart of their communities, building relationships with regular customers and becoming a familiar sight on their pitches.

Their deaths are a terrible loss not only to us but also to people in these communities and the hundreds who support them.

Maurice Richards – Charles Street, Cardiff city centre

Maurice Richards Cardiff

Maurice was a well-known face of The Big Issue in Wales before he died on April 20.

The 60-year-old turned to The Big Issue in 2015 after emphysema meant he was forced to give up his job on a building site and could no longer afford to pay his rent.

Maurice made the most of his time selling the magazine in Cardiff and represented The Big Issue several times in the national press and even made a splash overseas. The vendor featured on the front cover of Italian street paper Scarp de’tenis and was named Mr March in Slovakian counterpart NotaBene’s annual calendar. 

Big Issue Cymru sales and operations manager Tom Watts said: “Maurice was unusual for a vendor in that I think he would have still sold the magazine even if he was rich. Selling the magazine was how he expressed himself. He saw himself as a professional.”

Jimmy McMahon – London

Jimmy McMahon
Jimmy McMahon
London vendor Jimmy McMahon

Jimmy’s love of art and poetry were instantly recognisable on his London pitches.

The 56-year-old, who died in June, sold the magazine around East London for more than a decade and also showed off his artworks while selling in Covent Garden.

Lauren Neale, The Big Issue’s sales and operations manager in London, said: “Jimmy was a real character, kind-hearted and would give his last pound to someone in need. He was a talented poet and artist, known for his trademark red hat and squeezing the word “buddy” into every sentence. It truly was a privilege to know Jimmy.”

Roderick Mackillop – London 

Roderick Mackillop
Roderick Mackillop
London vendor Roderick Mackillop

Veteran London vendor Roderick loved selling the magazine so much that he described July’s return to his pitch as “the best news he had ever heard”.

Originally from Scotland, Roderick was a familiar sight along Long Acre in Covent Garden, selling the magazine on different pitches on the central London street for many years. He died on September 12

Lauren Neale, The Big Issue’s London sales and operations manager, said: “Roderick very much kept himself to himself but he was a very nice and unassuming guy.

“I spoke to him a lot during lockdown and when I told him that we were coming back he told me that it was ‘the best news he had ever heard’. I think that underlines just how much he enjoyed selling the magazine and speaking to his customers.”

Eric Pelly – London

London vendor Eric Pelly
London vendor Eric Pelly

Eric died on September 1 following a long battle with cancer.

A former chef and a rugby fanatic, the 54-year-old had been unable to sell the magazine since last Christmas and died peacefully in a nursing home.

He made a big impression on his customers over many years selling the magazine outside Waitrose in Ruislip and Neal Street in Covent Garden. He was known for his friendly demeanour and captivating stories.

Lauren Neale, The Big Issue’s London sales and operations manager, said: “Eric was never short of a story to tell. He was kind hearted, well liked and a good friend to many vendors and to franchisees.

“He tried to keep his spirits up despite his deteriorating health until he passed away. Covent Garden will be a quieter place without his friendly demeanour.”

Desmond Spiers – Plymouth

Plymouth vendor Desmond Spiers
Plymouth vendor Desmond Spiers

Desmond was loved by not only his customers in Plymouth but tourists too and was well-known for offering directions and recommendations of where to eat and drink in the Devon city.

The much-loved vendor, who sold the magazine outside the Barbican Plymouth for the last three years, was found dead on July 30.

Steve Carter, The Big Issue’s sales and operations team leader for Devon and Cornwall, paid a touching tribute. He said: “Des was respected and often would help tourists by pointing them in the right direction, recommending places to visit and eat.

“Des had a massive respect for our military and especially the veterans and always wore a poppy with pride. He struggled a lot during lockdown. He missed his local customers and was so relieved to return to his pitch.

“Des had his demons but enjoyed selling The Big Issue and loved the interaction with the locals on the Barbican.”

Eddie Sirani – New Milton

New Milton vendor Ed Sirani
Eddie Sirani
New Milton vendor Ed Sirani

Ed was a real champion of The Big Issue cause and would use his pitch to educate customers about how we helped vendors with a hand up.

The long-time seller had sold the magazine for a decade in New Milton before he died in hospital on September 20 at the age of 63.

Ed’s dedication saw our Dorset and Hampshire team name him Vendor of the Year back in 2015.

Kirsten Thomson, The Big Issue’s South West regional manager, said: “Ed used to take great pleasure in how many Christmas cards he received, which always made him feel special as he felt his customers took the trouble and went out of their way to include him.

“Ed was very much part of the community in New Milton and he was proud of selling The Big Issue. He had his challenges, but he was there every Monday saying a loud hello to everyone in the office in his cheery, cheeky manner.

“Ed was very caring, kind and considerate. He loved his customers and the people of New Milton so it is a real shame that we have lost him.”

Customers flooded Ed’s pitch with floral tributes in the wake of his death and a book of remembrance was also opened in his memory.

Andrew Kieser – Bournemouth

“Polite and kind” Bournemouth vendor Andrew was described as a “doting father” in a touching tribute.

The 36-year-old passed away last Christmas after 14 years of selling the magazine on and off outside Topshop in the Dorset town.

Simon Chilcott, head of service development for The Big Issue in Bournemouth, said Andrew had been doing his best to look after his son, who has mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome.

Andrew had previously spoken to The Big Issue about his passion for classical music. He had been a keen pianist as a youngster and had returned as an adult, performing in church occasionally.

“Andrew was such a polite and kind individual who will be sadly missed by The Big Issue team, vendors and the many customers he had spoken to over the years,” said Simon. “Andy was a doting father who tried his hardest to juggle life so he could spend as much time as possible with his young son.”

Eric Cullen – Falmouth

Falmouth vendor Eric Cullen
Eric Cullen
Falmouth vendor Eric Cullen

Falmouth vendor Buddha lovingly remembered his best friend Eric after he died on June 5.

Eric, known to his regulars as Eggsy, passed away in his sleep at the static caravan he shared with Buddha in Penryn, Cornwall.. He was 54 years old.

The pair had lived together for a decade, spending time on the streets before being housed in the property. They even shared a pitch, selling the magazine for the last eight years outside Boots in the coastal Cornwall town.

Buddha paid a touching tribute to his late friend. He said: “Eric was one of us – a nice bloke, a happy, cheerful Big Issue seller.

“He was a much-loved person and it was a shock for me, especially waking up to it, there was nothing I could do.”

Dean Telfer – Bristol

Dean Telfer iZettle
Dean Telfer was one of the first vendors to receive the device in Bristol

The £4,000 raised in Dean’s memory is an indication of how well-loved he was in Bristol.

The much-loved 39-year-old vendor died last Christmas and inspired an outpouring of emotion from customers who raised funds for Dean’s funeral as well as for charity StreetVet in his memory. 

James Wilkinson, Sales and Outreach Worker for The Big Issue in Bristol, said: “Dean was always a kind and gentle personality in the office and on his pitch and was a real staple of his community.”

Gone but not forgotten

Not all vendors sell The Big Issue over the long term, many pass through our doors periodically or spend only a short time as a seller. Regardless of how long they are with us, every individual is important to us.

Here are some more names of those we lost in 2020. They are gone but not forgotten.

  • Mark Chapman – Birmingham
  • Costel Calin – Whickham, Tyne & Wear
  • Sean Emmitt – Edinburgh
  • Carlton Forbes – Nottingham
  • Rob Holland – London
  • David Julian – London
  • Kevin Kelly – Glasgow
  • Haydn Lord – Brighton
  • Trevor Lee – Lincoln 
  • Nikki (Nicola) Palmer – Plymouth
  • Marian Radu – Abergavenny
  • Mark Waite – Leicester