Last month, the Archbishop of Canterbury stunned shoppers in Cambridge as he went undercover to sell The Big Issue.
Lee Welham, whose pitch is outside the city’s Round Church, struck up a friendship with Justin Welby, who was staying in Cambridge while researching an upcoming book, and persuaded him to don a tabard and experience life as a vendor [see our June 21 issue].
He managed to sell five copies, including one to Robert Halliday, who got in touch with us to share his surprise.
“On the afternoon of Thursday June 10 I was in Cambridge city centre, where I happened to be passing The Round Church,” he wrote.
“There was a new vendor there: when I went to buy The Big Issue from him I saw there was a photographer.
“Imagine my surprise when I was told that I had just bought a Big Issue from the Archbishop of Canterbury!”
News of the sell-off was picked up by the press, with hundreds of stories reporting the event across the UK and the world.
Afterwards, the Archbishop too reflected on the experience, posting about it on his social media platforms.
He said: “The Big Issue changes lives and changes society. Each time you stop for a chat with a vendor and buy a copy of the magazine, you are part of that change. I’m hugely grateful to have had the chance to go on a shift with Lee and get a glimpse of what it’s like selling The Big Issue.
“When we look at the life and ministry of Jesus – who famously said he had no place to lay his head – it’s clear that homelessness is an issue that matters profoundly to God, and that tackling poverty together is the essential work of a society where every person is truly valued.”
The positive impact was also felt by Lee, who instigated the whole event. The cover of the magazine featuring him with the Archbishop led to bumper sales that week.
Lee said: “It’s been a great week. I sold plenty of magazines, including £194-worth on my card reader in the first morning alone. All in all I sold more than 300 magazines across the week and I know some of my customers are still keen to get a copy, so I’ll be seeing if I can track one down for them.
“I did all my sales on my card reader and in the end I was diverting cash sales to other vendors to help them out – I’m trying to inspire them to get card readers too.
“It was great for me and I managed to pay a little bit of my rent early, which is always nice.”