Big Issue Vendor

Sean has rediscovered his love of cooking after we bought him pots and pans

The Exeter vendor is in emergency accommodation and says that he misses life in his tent while he is self-isolating from the coronavirus

Big Issue vendor Sean has rediscovered his love of cooking while in lockdown thanks to The Big Issue.

The Exeter Central station vendor, 61, has been staying in emergency accommodation while isolating due to underlying health problems after rough sleeping in a tent on the outskirts of the Devon city for the last year.

But when he got into the self-contained accommodation, he was unable to cook with the utensils and equipment that he had, with only two large spoons, two small saucepans and a wok to hand.

I’m alive and well, I’m missing you all and can’t wait to see you again. I can’t wait to get back on my pitch

So The Big issue bought him a new set of pots and pans – buying a colander, utensils and a Tefal set with three saucepans and two frying pans – so he could continue to feed himself while in lockdown.

And RAF veteran Sean has been making the most of it, cooking himself spaghetti bolognese, chilli and steak and kidney pies after rekindling his love for working in the kitchen.

Sean grew up cooking for his family after his father left when he was just seven years old. He learned how to cook from his grandmother then went on to cook Christmas dinner at a tourist hostel in Ireland before he started selling the magazine.

“The new pots and pans have really expanded what I can cook,” Sean told The Big Issue. “I enjoy cooking and entertaining, though that isn’t really an option where I am now.

“I like experimenting with food and trying out different flavours, herbs and spices and being able to plan, prepare and cook a meal has helped me to fill my time.

“I’d like to say a massive thank you to The Big Issue for their support, it’s been absolutely brilliant.”


The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.

The Big Issue has also helped Sean outside the kitchen too with money and supermarket vouchers to keep him going as well as putting money on his pay-as-you-go phone so he can keep in touch with the outside world.

Despite that, the move from a tent into accommodation has been an eye-opener for Sean, who admits that he is looking forward to getting back to the spot where he sleeps rough. The UK Government has already committed to preventing anyone who has been taken off the streets and put up in accommodation from going back to rough sleeping.

Sean, who has been selling the magazine for three years after another three-year spell 15 years ago, has also been keeping in contact with his customers and admits he is desperate to get back to his pitch.

“It’s nice where I’m staying, it’s a good place,” Sean told The Big Issue. “I had a couple of problems early on when I was moved out to a bed and breakfast, which wasn’t ideal, but I managed to get back into the same room.

“I miss the life that I had – when I was rough sleeping I was out in my tent – and I’m living in my personal hell. Every day is the same and it is difficult finding things to fill my time.

“Even when I was out selling The Big Issue, I was out all day talking to people and meeting people and having a good time.

“I really miss it. I’m an Irishman and we are very sociable people, we love to talk. I see my customers as friends and some of them have my phone number and email address so we have been able to keep in contact. And some who don’t have been in contact to ask how I am.

“Luckily I saw Covid-19 coming and managed to put away a little bit of money to keep me going.

“I’m alive and well, I’m missing you all and can’t wait to see you again. I can’t wait to get back on my pitch.”

The Big Issue can only keep supporting vendors like Sean with your help. You can buy 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 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.

Image: Kumar Sriskandan/Alamy Stock Photo