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Joyful reunions as vendors and customers emerge from lockdown

Stars of The Big Miss You Podcast celebrate being able to see their friends again with socially distanced selfies

The stars of The Big Miss You Podcast have described their joy and relief, as Big Issue sellers return to the UK’s streets.

Running throughout lockdown, the podcast was a virtual street corner that allowed vendors and their regular customers to send messages to each other whilst the magazine couldn’t be sold on the streets.

Now that restrictions have lifted, the friends featured have been able to meet up again in real life. They have celebrated by sharing their reunion selfies with The Big Issue.

Charity fundraiser Samantha Lane sent us a photo of her with her local vendor Jim Pelham, in Salisbury.

“I loved the podcast you did with Jim and me in it,” she said. “And how lovely it was to see him today. I was in a bit of a hurry so we just had a little chat but I’m hoping I can get back into town on Friday and buy him that lunch I promised. He seemed well, and relieved to be earning again.

“I really hope more people stop and think about buying a copy of the magazine. Vendors don’t have it easy at the best of times, but the last few months have been really hard on them.”

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It’s clear in the photo that Samantha and Jim were happy to see each other again.

Jim added: “It was delightful to see Samantha again. It’s been nice to be back and to catch up with Salisbury society. I’m thriving.”

In Norwich, singer and artist Mary Benefiel Dunn was happy to meet up with vendor and raconteur Simon Gravell – on the very first day he was back on his pitch outside Topshop in Norwich.

“I wanted to get my copy on the first day, and it was a happy reunion,” she said. “Simon looked good, and we had a good chat. Neither of us are good at being quiet like we’re supposed to be, but let’s assume that we’ll get away with laughing and carrying on. I hope you like the photo. I do.”

Simon was also glad to reconnect. “It was really, really nice to see Mary,” he said. “We did our photo bumping arms, and I thanked her for the podcast because at the end of the day it’s all publicity for me. By the sounds of things, she’s been telling as many people as me about the podcast – making sure people hear it!”

As he had promised in the final episode of the podcast, Simon has been working extra hard since the beginning of the week – hoping to make up for lost ground.

“I’m happy with the start that I’ve had,” he added. “I was buzzing on my pitch. I never shut up from the minute I got on it. I’m giving out all the old spiel, you know.

“One of my regular came up to me and give me an envelope, saying that’s for all the magazines I’ve missed. I’m not the crying type of guy, but that nearly broke me.”

In Edinburgh, Stockbridge vendor Kenny had been looking forward to bringing a magazine to his customer Mae at her shop The Write Stuff.

It was “lovely to see him back” said Mae – adding that he’d helped her to work out how to get a good selfie.

Kenny said that it’s been alright so far on his pitch. “I’ve not seen too many of my regulars yet but the people in Stockbridge have been really welcoming to me, saying ‘Welcome back’ and ‘We’re glad you’re back’ so it’s been positive,” he added.

“The PPE equipment has helped because people have been inclined to come over and buy a magazine when they see that you’re masked up and have your gloves on.

“It’s been such a relief to get back out there – the last two or three weeks of lockdown, especially, had really started getting on my nerves. Just to get out doing something is great. Getting out for a walk for an hour a day just wasn’t enough!”

You listen to all episodes of The Big Miss You Podcast on Apple, Spotify, Acast, Google, YouTube, or wherever you get your podcasts.

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