Actress and Big Issue ambassador Sophie Winkleman meets vendor Kelvin Gregory
Actress and Big Issue ambassador Sophie Winkleman has shared the important lessons she’s learned after meeting vendors and distributors in London as a rare snow flurry hit the capital.
Also known by her royal title of Lady Frederick Windsor, Sophie joined vendor Kelvin Gregory on his pitch outside Somerset House in the bitter cold on Monday (8 January) to experience first-hand what it’s like to sell the magazine.
As the temperature plummeted to 3C, Sophie admitted: “I can’t imagine standing out here all day – very, very freezing and having people not even talking to me.
“I’ve realised in a very short space of time that communication is very, very important. And just being rejected and having people walk by you all day, that’s not OK. I want people to have humanity and make eye contact and talk to vendors.
“It’s fine if you can’t buy a magazine,” she clarified, “but just say, ‘Happy New Year. Sorry, I can’t get one today.’ That’s very, very important. Every single Big Issue vendor deserves admiration and kindness.”
Kelvin and Sophie became fast friends, with the former showing the British actress photos of Ralph, his 15-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier who sadly passed away in November last year.
“It’s very sad that Ralph’s died,” Sophie remarked wistfully. “But Kelvin’s been very brave and he showed me a very beautiful poem.”
Earlier that November, Kelvin made international news when he was pictured selling a copy of The Big Issue to King Charles III, who appeared on our cover for his 75th birthday.
“He’s very wise about life, Kelvin,” Sophie observed. “He’s taught me quite a lot. He thinks human beings are an entire family. We’re not tribal, we should be an entire family all together. He’s been very interesting and he’s changed my mind about a few things.”
Best known for her role as Big Suze in the cult classic Peep Show, Sophie Winkleman joined The Big Issue as an ambassador in 2020.
“I think I was 15 when I first started spending my money on it,” she said in 2020. “I read about it and did a project on it for school.”
When she moved to Los Angeles for six years in 2009, Sophie even had her mother send her copies of The Big Issue, to remind her of home.
Today, Sophie Winkleman subscribes to The Big Issue and she told us it’s “by far” her “favourite weekly”.
“You’ve got to give it a chance,” she said. “A lot of people buy it and then don’t read it, which is really daft. It’s a brilliant, brilliant read. I especially love reading the vendor story at the back of the magazine. It’s just fascinating.“
Sophie’s second stop was at the Covent Garden distribution point, where Sam, Alan and Paul sell the magazines to vendors across London.
Sam is one of the Big Issue’s most successful vendor coordinators and has worked for the Big Issue for 28 years. Alan has worked here for 11.
Accompanied by Chris Falchi-Stead, The Big Issue’s frontline director, the trio took Sophie Winkleman through how the magazine works logistically to ensure vendors can make an income.
While they were talking, a gentleman wearing a green cap approached the trio. Alan introduces the gentleman (who is also called Alan) and explains that in his retirement, he travels down from Cambridgeshire every Monday to London, to buy a magazine from them.
“It’s like a big family,” Sophie grinned after meeting Alan. “I didn’t quite realise what a bustling, close, warm, loving community it is.
“The Big Issue is one of the things I’m most proud of about our whole country. It’s spectacular, and I’m so thrilled to be a very tiny part of it.”
Find out how to subscribe to The Big Issue like Sophie. Every subscription purchase goes towards supporting The Big Issue’s mission to help the most vulnerable people in the UK improve their lives.