Big Issue vendors in England have told how they survived the second lockdown with the support of their customers and the magazine’s frontline team, as they return to work after pandemic restrictions were eased.
For the last month, more than 1000 vendors in England were unable to make any income through selling the magazine as the coronavirus crisis forced the country into strict lockdown measures.
Now back running their business, many have said how happy they are to see their customers again.
“It’s been hard,” said Martin Clarkston, who was back on his pitch in Clifton, Bristol. “I normally rely on people buying Big Issues from me, so I’ve just been trying to survive really.”
Martin said that things weren’t yet back to normal, and he’d noticed that the town didn’t yet “feel like Christmas” but he had put on his Big Issue tabard anyway.
“It’s good to be back out and about,” he added. “Back in business!”
Last winter, Martin fell ill with pneumonia. Having been homeless for three and a half years, he was still sleeping rough when he was sick.
In April this year he managed to get into supported accommodation. So, while it was hard not to be able to make money over the last month, he said he was very grateful to have somewhere to be during the latest lockdown.
All vendors are asked to wear masks or other protective clothing while selling the magazine and The Big Issue is supporting many to get contactless payment systems, where possible.
In areas in a higher tier or for people who don’t have a vendor nearby, The Big Issue has a new map which links subscriptions directly to individual sellers, giving them 50 per cent of the proceeds.
Truro vendor Nick Cuthbert said he was enjoying his first day back out selling, with his faithful dog Bryony at his side.
“It was really busy this morning,” he said. “Everybody’s had a good day in Truro today.”
Nick said this lockdown wasn’t quite as bad for vendors as the four-month shutdown earlier in the year because they had at least had a couple of day’s warning before the restrictions came in. His regular customers took that opportunity to rally round.
“A lot of people knew that it was happening, so we all did exceptionally well on those last three days before the lockdown came in,” he said. “That helped me get by through the next month.”
Though he was in a slightly better position financially, Nick said it was still hard to be separated from his community.
“I missed them,” he added. “I usually speak to a good hundred people a day. It was strange not having that.”
Vendor Robin Price was up early to get to his pitch in Weston-Super-Mare. He tweeted a train selfie at 6.30 in the morning to let his customers know he was on his way.
Morning all. Have a great day. @BigIssue @frutepastel @ruthlaw80 @laurakaykelly @johnbirdswords @PauldMcNamee @SchrutesWitch @StuartcollisStu @my_trains @125_RailwayInfo @WilsonBone @MarkCordingley1 have a great day everyone. pic.twitter.com/nQ5SgoCByK
— Robinprice [GWR HST 1976-2019] (@robinprice1975) December 2, 2020
“It’s so good to be back gossiping with my regulars,” he said. “Thank you to everyone who has supported me in these troubled times. Without you all, I wouldn’t have got through it.”
London vendor Paul Logan was selling the magazine on Liverpool Street, despite having broken his foot just before the lockdown started.
When he found out his foot was broken, he was worried how he’d look after himself but his customers made sure he was ok.
“I had a couple customers helping out,” he said. “One of them did the shopping for me. That was a major lifesaver.”
Determined to get back to work as soon as possible, he put on his medical walking boot and went back to his pitch.
“I’m looking forward to seeing my customers over the Christmas season,” he said. “The vaccine’s on the horizon, so hopefully we can all look forward to a better 2021.”
In Gloucester, the City Community Policing Team tweeted out a message to their followers to encourage them to come down and buy a magazine from local vendors.
— Glos City Police (@GlosCityPolice) December 2, 2020