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A Bournemouth Big Issue vendor is toasting a new job as a brewery tour guide

Bill Webb is raising a glass to full-time employment after a “life-changing” spell selling the magazine

Bill Webb

A view from behind an typical English pub bar

A former British Army medic who came to the The Big Issue after a year of rough sleeping in a cave and walking along the coast with his pet dog for two months has now secured a job as a tour guide at a brewery.

Bill Webb, 62, who has been selling the magazine on his pitch in Bournemouth since 2012, took up the role at nearby brewery Southbourne Ales after impressing bosses.  Since another rough sleeper convinced him to give selling the magazine a go, Bill has gone from strength to strength, getting his own flat and working as a vendor co-ordinator, as well as participating in events for the Big Issue Foundation, The Big Issue’s charitable arm.

Using his experience as a former publican and restaurant owner, Bill started his new job on March 30. He said: “It’s been great and I’m really pleased with how it’s been going. I was a little nervous before my tour but I’ve been doing workshops at the local university with The Big Issue so I have some experience with public speaking.

Bill Webb
Bill-Webb_MUST-CREDIT-BOURNEMOUTH-DAILY-ECHO
Bill is planning on working at Southbourne Ales until his retirement Credit: Bournemouth Daily Echo

“I’ve always been a beer man as opposed to lager and with the office just a couple of doors down from The Big Issue I’ve been coming in since it was a building site. I did the tour to see what was expected of me then I added my own touches to the notes while rehearsing at home so I was all ready to provide the tour without notes.

“I want to express my gratitude to both The Big Issue and the team here – it’s a good group and they have really taken me to their hearts. I’m hoping this job will see me through to retirement.”

And Southbourne Ales owner Jennifer Tingay has been suitably impressed with his efforts so far. She told The Big Issue: “I have got to know him and heard a bit of his background and hiring him just seemed to be the perfect thing for both him and us. He’s a confident public speaker, he’s knowledgeable about the industry and he’s got a really positive outlook so it is great to be able to give him this opportunity to progress.”

Bill has already proven to be a hit with Southbourne Ales patrons. After attending his inaugural tour, Amber Robertson said: “Thoroughly enjoyed today’s tour with Bill! Packed with facts and I do love me a fact! Would recommend to anyone – perfect for a rainy bank holiday weekend.”

And Joe Barton added: “Just had the honour of Bill’s inaugural tour and it was an absolute pleasure! Very personable, very knowledgeable, and the beer wasn’t half bad either!”

The long-time vendor will juggle his new responsibilities with selling the magazine on a Monday and Tuesday at his pitch on the Apcoa Car Park in Bournemouth for the rest of April to say goodbye to his regular customers.

“I’ve told my regulars already and they have been very supportive, hopefully a few of them will come down to the brewery for a tour before long. I’ll miss selling the magazine but hopefully in a few months I can come back and volunteer in the office to give something back,” he said.

Kirsten Thomas, Big Issue Bournemouth team leader, said: “We are extremely proud of Bill. He has been an active member of our Big Issue community, helping us raise awareness and fundraising. He has participated in many talks and events to spread the word about The Big Issue and Big Issue Foundation. Well done Bill, good luck in your new opportunity.”

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