This festive season, chart-topping singer Sam Fender has joined forces with The Big Issue to focus minds on homelessness and help support vendors.
To raise awareness, Sam is releasing Winter Song, a powerful cover of the classic track by folk rock band Lindisfarne, which calls on people to “spare a thought” for those without a home.
The single was unveiled on Annie Mac’s Radio One show on November 24 and is the programme’s current “Hottest Record in the World”. It is available to buy now, and next week there will also be a special edition of The Big Issue available from Sam Fender’s online store. Proceeds from sales of the magazine will go to vendors.
“It’s close to home for me because I’ve got family members and friends [who’ve been homeless],” said Sam.
“I’ve known people who have gone through it. And I know how easy it is, through their stories, to go from being relatively okay to being on the streets. So, for me, it’s important to be involved for that reason.”
Ahead of the release, Sam met up with his local vendor for a video chat to find out more about how The Big Issue helps people – and the pressures that sellers are currently facing due to coronavirus restrictions.
Earl John Charlton sells the magazine outside Newcastle Central Station and describes himself as a “proud Big Issue vendor”. He told Sam how the magazine helped him turn his life around when he was sleeping rough.
“I started doing The Big Issue when I was still begging in London, I was still using drugs, but I slowly started seeing better in myself and what I can do,” Earl said.
“I’m coming up to five years clean now, mate. Who I am and what I’m about now is all due to my pathway of doing The Big Issue.”
Earl also described his frustration at being unable to work at the moment. Like more than 1000 other vendors in England and Scotland, he can’t sell the magazine due to the lockdown.
“I can’t get out and sell a magazine on the street,” explained Earl. “But there’s bigissue.com/vendors, and you can go on the map and allocate a vendor of your choice and support them by buying a subscription for three, six or 12 months. You can buy a gift for someone or maybe buy it for yourself, in paper or digital.”
Having bonded over their shared background in England’s north east, Sam said that he was looking forward to the day when he could buy a magazine from Earl in person and give him a hug.
In the meantime, Sam called on all his fans to support The Big Issue.
“Obviously this Christmas is going to be different for everybody, it’s going to be tough for everyone. But most of all, it’s going to be tough for the people who don’t have a home,” said Sam.
“So if you could, jump on my website to buy The Big Issue with my daft face on it. The proceeds are going to go towards helping Big Issue in the future.
“I, for one, will definitely be sticking and helping Earl for a start. Because I think he is a legend. Let’s come together for Christmas.”
To read more from Sam and Earl’s emotional conversation, subscribe to The Big Issue in time to get the next week’s magazine, available from November 30. The limited edition cover featuring Sam himself will be available exclusively from samfender.com.