Big Issue Vendor

‘It feels like Christmas now’: Vendor Clive returns to theatre pitch

Covid-19’s devastating impact on the theatre also hit our Plymouth seller hard. He finally returned to Theatre Royal Plymouth after nine months away this week
Credit: Trevor Burrows

Popular Big Issue vendor Clive has shared his joy at returning to his pitch outside a theatre in Plymouth after nine months away due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The theatre industry has been hit hard by the pandemic with many stage doors still closed in areas where the most severe Covid-19 restrictions remain in place. Ticket sales have slumped a staggering 93 per cent throughout 2020 while big stars like Helen Mirren warned “theatre workers face homelessness earlier”.

But some theatres have been able to reopen their doors during the normally lucrative Christmas season and that includes the Theatre Royal Plymouth where Clive usually sells The Big Issue.

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And he is delighted to be back. The vendor told The Big Issue: “It wasn’t Christmas until I stepped back on to that pitch.”

Both the popular vendor and his dog Geezer have become a valued part of the theatre’s community after he specifically requested the pitch when he was wowed by a production.

As well as selling the magazine outside the venue, Clive also takes part in acting classes and workshops at the theatre.

But he has spent nine months away as the theatre’s Covid-fuelled closure, as well as lockdown measures preventing Big Issue sellers from working on the streets, meant he was unable to work.

That drought ended on December 8 when the theatre reopened its doors for the first time in tier-two Plymouth and Clive was delighted to get back on his pitch.

He told The Big Issue: “I’ve been speaking about Christmas, of course, and sorting out sending cards and so on but I do feel like it’s Christmas now I’m back there. It’s been such a big part of my life over the last four years.

“The two-metre rule killed The Big Issue stone dead at the theatre so I came off the pitch a week before all vendors were off the streets across the country. I was off my pitch and then bang, the following Saturday it all fell apart.

“I did move pitches but it wasn’t really working for me because I’m an evening vendor and the only customer I was getting was a theatre customer who accidentally bumped into me. I pulled back from there and I have been waiting to come back to the theatre.

“Normally outside the theatre I’m selling 20-odd magazines on a good show but it will take time to get to that.”

It’s been such a big part of my life over the last four years

Theatre Royal Plymouth’s engagement manager Sara Rhodes said: It’s brilliant to be able to open our doors once again at the theatre to deliver our Christmas season of shows and to have Clive and Geezer back on their patch.

“Our audiences have been regularly getting in touch during lockdown to see how Clive is doing and to pass on well wishes, so we know they will all be so pleased to see that lovely welcoming smile outside once again.”

During his stint off his pitch, Clive has been studying at Plymouth City College to achieve his maths and English GCSEs in a bid to make up for a difficult childhood.

After long spells spent rough sleeping and battling addiction, Clive is continuing to work towards his dream of becoming a counsellor at the age of 57.

Clive added: “All my down time from The Big Issue is spent swotting up on maths. It’s nice to be in a position where I’m sober and my mind is good enough to be able to take these projects on and do my daily life with The Big Issue.”