Big Issue Vendor

School’s in for Plymouth vendor Clive during Covid-19 lockdown

The much-loved seller has been working on his maths and English in a near empty college as he works towards his dream of being a social worker at the age of 57
Credit: Trevor Burrows

The return to education for millions of kids continues to prove divisive in England – but Plymouth vendor Clive has been making the most of lockdown to carry on learning.

Clive has been off his pitch outside Theatre Royal Plymouth since March when The Big Issue was forced to temporarily stop vendors from selling the magazine to protect them from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The veteran vendor, who has sold the magazine for 13 years including four on his current pitch, had also been studying at Plymouth City College prior to the lockdown and has seen that close too.

But that hasn’t stopped the passion for education he has found in his fifties.

Clive, 57, started at the college in March last year, passing a five-week access course before starting a creative arts course in September 2019.

He has become an accomplished actor in his time taking part in the Theatre Royal’s Our Space programme and passed the on-stage sections of the course with flying colours, but struggled with the digital aspects of the course and was forced to drop out.

But Clive also took maths and English functional stage one classes at the course and managed to pass both before advancing to the second stage when Covid-19 halted classes.

This has been a major, major achievement for me

When Clive’s digital woes came back to haunt him, student welfare staff asked him to study back on the premises – which has offered him a welcome way out of his flat while in lockdown.

“When I was a kid I hated education. I was in and out of care and fostering so my youth in the education system wasn’t very good,” he told The Big Issue. “By the time I was 14 I was in detention centres, my start in life was not the easiest.

“Nowadays I really enjoy education, it makes me feel like I’m achieving something. I do The Big Issue and I do it well but this has been a major, major achievement for me. Especially the maths one – I’ve never passed anything in maths in my life.

“I’ve been attending the college for about eight weeks – on the Monday I first went to college there was two of us. It was really strange! I’ve never seen more than five people there aside from cleaners, there are so many cleaners. It’s gone from a gentle vibe to being quite serious.”

DID YOU KNOW…

There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.

Embracing education isn’t just about self-improvement for Clive.

He hopes his first steps back into education in four decades will enable him to become a social worker to help people who have been on the streets, battling addiction and mental health struggles like he did before The Big Issue helped him transform his life.

To that end, Clive has also become chair of the Patient Participation Group for Adelaide and St Levan Surgery in Plymouth to give people a voice in how they are treated . He’s also helping researchers with a study to stop people from being discharging from A&E and into homelessness.

He added: “I’m hoping to be one of these vendors that becomes successful – it’s a bit late in life for me because I’m 57 so I’m hoping by the time I’m 67 that I might be some kind of social worker and can look out for people. That’s what I’d like to achieve at the end of it.”

While Clive has been making the most of the lockdown, so has his pet dog Geezer who has accompanied the vendor on his pitch for all of his life.

I’m really looking forward to getting back on the streets to start generating money for myself and The Big Issue to say thank you

The Big Issue is supporting the pair through the lockdown but while Clive is desperate to head back to his pitch when it’s safe, Geezer is in less of a hurry.

“All his life Geezer has been a Big Issue dog working like me – within two days of getting him he had to come on pitch with me,” said Clive. “Being a Big Issue vendor you don’t get that much time off, you wake up on Monday morning with a tenner in your pocket and it’s time to get on with it. You very rarely get a day off.

“Lockdown has been awful for the theatre, awful for my pocket but it’s been brilliant for Geezer because he can have a rest.

“I’ve been receiving quite a lot of help from The Big Issue. The money I get is a real godsend, it’s such a big help. Without that, things would be hard. I’m really looking forward to getting back on the streets to start generating money for myself and The Big Issue to say thank you.”

We can only keep supporting vendors like Clive with your help. You can help us support Big Issue vendors by buying one-off issues or subscriptions from The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

You can keep us going by subscribing to the magazine to receive it every week directly to your door or device. Head to bigissue.com/subscribe for more details.

You can also get a copy in stores for the first time. Head to Morrisons, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, McColl’s, Co-op, Asda or WH Smith to grab the latest issue.