Big Issue Vendor

Sister of Big Issue vendor Darren James vows to keep his memory alive

Darren James would have been 50 this weekend – but sister Jen is ensuring he won't be forgotten
Heather Small offers Jenny Roberts comfort after the moving tribute. Image: Ben Sullivan

The sister of Big Issue vendor Darren James has revealed how she’s continuing to keep his memory alive on the weekend he would have turned 50.

Darren, who died in an alleyway near Goldhawk Road Station in December 2017, would half reached his half-century on March 23.

His sister Jen Roberts has already organised a release of a charity version of The Hollies’ ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother’, a song Darren had always wanted to cover himself. The new version features the likes Peter Andre, M People’s Heather Small, Atomic Kitten’s Natasha Hamilton, Alexander O’Neill, Errol Reid and Patti Boulaye.

Now she is planning to take things further with a concert and a documentary planned.

She said, “I’ve come to Marbella in Spain. I’m laying a rose for him. His ashes are scattered here. He always wanted to live here, but he never had a passport so he never had that opportunity.

Jen added, “What we did last week is started filming our documentary for Homeless Worldwide. We’ve got our first concert secured at Piece Hall in Halifax in September where we’re going to employ the homeless to run the festival and have a number of artists perform onstage. We’d donate the ticket sales to the homeless.

“We want to get the doc commissioned by the end of the year. Some of the artists who were on the single will be in Halifax, including the London Community Gospel Choir.”

Darren used to sell The Big Issue in Bournemouth. Unfortunately, he fell on hard times after moving to London and died shortly afterwards, aged 49. Even though his identity and family contacts were on his person at the time, his family weren’t informed about his death until March 2018. He had been rough sleeping in the capital for two years.

His sister had previously said the idea for the charity single came from Darren’s love of the song; a song he always wanted to record himself. The single is raising money for Homeless Worldwide, the Salvation Army and Shelter.

She said: “I don’t want the loss of the life of my brother to be another life wasted. Darren was truly loved by everyone. His humour, good nature and kindness will live on with this single.

“It was always his dream to one day record it in a studio and release it. Now that dream has posthumously come true.”