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In tribute to the Big Issue vendors we lost in 2022

We remember the much-loved Big Issue vendors who died this year

In memoriam

Image: M.H. from Pixabay

Big Issue vendors are valued members of their communities. Their loss is not only to the Big Issue family but to the customers and friends with whom they’ve built relationships.

John Byrne, London

Big Issue vendor John Byrne
John Byrne

John Byrne, 59, was a veteran seller who was also a Big Issue vendors coordinator for Oxford Street, London. “John had many layers to him, and we will miss all of them. He was welcoming and funny, always with a good story to tell,” said Natalia Stevenson from The Big Issue Foundation. While selling The Big Issue, John studied an undergraduate degree in English Literature and History at Goldsmiths University.

He told us in 2016: “I loved every minute. I got on really well with the other students, despite being older than them. I continued selling the magazine because it helped me pay my way and I still struggled to get
decent housing.” Byrne’s daughter Sarah remembered how her father loved his work. “He told me how much he loved it all, especially the people he would meet selling The Big Issue. I think it was great for him as it gave him a routine and a reason to get up.”

Ian Knowles Aberdeen My Pitch 1389
Ian Knowles

Ian Knowles, Aberdeen

Ian Knowles used to be a trawlerman until an accident on a boat injured his back. “I didn’t like being stuck at home not able to do anything, so I started as a Big Issue vendor,” he told us in an interview. “On my first day, The Big Issue gave me the usual five free magazines to get me started and I sold them in an hour. So I bought some more and thought, this is going to be the job for me. I enjoy it because I get on with people and I’m polite.”

Big Issue vendor Michael Crean
Michael Crean became known around Plymouth for dressing up as Santa on his pitch at Christmas. Image: Susan Owen

Michael Crean, Plymouth

Sue Owen, a Plymouth-based frontline support worker with The Big Issue pays tribute to the much-missed Michael Crean.

“Michael had a colourful life with many ups and downs but never a dull moment. He had struggled to find regular employment with his physical and mental health issues but needed to be doing something. He found his ideal job: he could work around his health and hospital appointments, it suited his huge personality and friendly nature and gave him a purpose and structure. 

“I will always remember Michael as someone who gave everything 100 per cent. At Christmas he dressed as Santa on his pitch, lit up his rucksack with fairy lights and gave sweets out to customers. I have so many photos of him selling with a beaming smile on his face; dressed as Santa, singing in torrential rain. Michael loved his work, it helped him financially, but it was so much more than that. He had a huge heart and I have had so many messages from his customers since his death, everyone saying something positive, funny or loving about him. He will be sorely missed by all his friends and family and has genuinely left a big Michael-shaped hole in all our lives.”

Chris Curtis, Bournemouth

Chris sold with The Big Issue before leaving to start a homeless support group called We Are Heart and Soul three years ago. Chris’s passion for supporting rough sleepers in the local area was infectious. He will be sadly missed by the Big Issue team and many of the vendors that We Are Heart and Soul supported over the years. 

Lionel Hegarty, Oxford

Lionel Hegarty
Lionel Hegarty

Lionel Hegarty, 78, was a beloved vendor in Oxford who died following a battle with pancreatic cancer. With no family, Hegarty was facing the prospect of a pauper’s funeral, but his customers rallied round to raise thousands of pounds to give him a proper send-off.

One of his customers, Megan Antell, started the fundraiser. She said: “Many people had been to visit him in hospital over the past few weeks, so he knew how loved he was and was in high spirits to the very end.”

We also remember

Karl Moores, Bristol

Matthew Schindler, Norwich

Richard Mortimer, London

Tom Currie, Notts

Mark Holland, Leicester 

Doru Turcan, Coventry

Geoff Hartwell, Oxford

Support the Big Issue

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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