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Big Issue vendor Terry Cokeley: 'The Big Issue was looking out for me'

London Big Issue vendor Terry Cokeley has started using a card reader now that he is back to his pitches after lockdown. Here he says how grateful he is for the support The Big Issue have given him over lockdown and through life's ups and downs.

P46 Hello, my name is Terry. I’m football mad and hoping to qualify as a referee so I can show those refs in the Premier League how it should be done. Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Every week in The Big Issue magazine, a Big Issue vendor tells their story in our My Pitch column. This week 62-year old Terry Cokeley, who sells the magazine at Forest Hill Station and Crofton Park, London, speaks of the support The Big Issue has given him over the years and how much he enjoys football as the Euros are kicking off. 

I’ve sold The Big Issue since 1999 and I’ve been inside through that time and all. Coming out of prison and having The Big Issue to go back to was good, I just spoke to the staff in the office and I was able to start selling again, which was very helpful. What The Big Issue means for me is getting out there and meeting people. That’s what it’s all about.

Lockdown felt like a long time, didn’t it? I was keeping myself busy, out most of the time walking for exercise near the sheltered accommodation where I live. I was doing a lot of that. I was sorted for cash from The Big Issue, the payments really helped and it was very nice of them. They also gave me telephone calls, I was speaking to a woman called Natalia from the office. She’s a nice person, always been there for me. It helped to know that someone was looking out for me.

It’s been great to see all my regular customers again. I was able to keep in touch with some of them as I’d see them at the station in the mornings when I was out walking. I’ve been using a card reader on my pitch recently – at first I found it difficult to use but now I’ve got used to it. I usually buy 20 magazines a week, on my first pitch I’ve only got about five customers but I use the rest over the week on my other pitch. The people are starting to come back out again but it’s mostly shoppers rather than office workers for now.

My Pitch 1465
Terry Cokeley, happy to be back out in London accepting contactless payments Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

I’ve loved football since I was a kid. I used to play quite a lot when I was at school, for a team called the Bethnal Green Strikers. I always remember the friendly we played on my last day at school, I was a striker and my girlfriend was in goal. The girlfriend bit didn’t last very long though. My team’s Manchester United and my favourite players at the moment are Marcus Rashford and Bruno Fernandes. It’s great what Rashford is doing for kids in poverty, it’s really good that he’s doing that. I like when appears on the cover of The Big Issue. I kept one back for myself the last time he was on there.

I go to a football group at Millwall on a Friday afternoon and do a bit of refereeing. I don’t really play any more as I can’t run much so refereeing suits me better. I’m hoping to do it properly when the training courses open up again and I can get a qualification. Being a ref, you’ve got to try not to make mistakes but take responsibility for yourself if you do. I learned a lot from watching how they do it on TV but they’re all really bad at the moment. I don’t like the referees in the Premier League because you see players holding another player’s neck in the area and sometimes the ref don’t give it. They know damn well it’s a penalty. That gets me shouting at the TV alright.

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For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
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