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'We need you': Christopher Eccleston urges Brits to buy the Big Issue this Christmas

'It’s not just the financial exchange with your vendor, it’s also about the personal interaction, the acknowledgement of their existence and their need,' Eccleston said

Christopher Eccleston

Christopher Eccleston and Big Issue vendor Easton Christian. Image: Andy Parsons

Actor Christopher Eccleston has urged Brits to support people less fortunate than themselves and buy The Big Issue during the Christmas period as the weather turns colder and more people are at risk of homelessness.

Eccleston, a Big Issue ambassador, said: “It’s not just the financial exchange with your vendor, it’s also about the personal interaction, the acknowledgement of their existence and their need.”

The twin impact of the cold weather and the pandemic make this an acute period for people experiencing homelessness.

“People are dying. People are sick and dying and living on the streets. It’s quite obvious, to walk down any street and you see people living on the street. The Big Issue is a lifeline,” Eccleston said, meeting a seller near his North London home.

Figures released this month revealed that almost 700 people died while experiencing homelessness in England and Wales in 2020.

“I think we’re going to be seeing the results, the damage economically from this pandemic, for the next 10 to 15 years. At the sharp end are the people who sell the Big Issue.”

Around 225,000 people in rent arrears say they are likely to lose their homes this winter. With the Stop Mass Homelessness campaign, The Big Issue is calling on the government to address this by making £360 million available to pay off rent arrears – compared to the estimated £2.2 billion cost of letting the problem run.

Eccleston gets a magazine from vendor Easton Christian. Image: Andy Parsons

Eccleston was meeting Big Issue vendor Easton in Seven Sisters, north London. Easton, who sells the Big Issue so he can pay his National Insurance contributions, has watched Doctor Who since the days of John Pertwee in the 1970s.

“Capitalism’s got hold in the last 40 years. That was the beginning, when I first moved to London, what we called cardboard city on the South Bank. I used to walk through it on my way to rehearsals at the National Theatre,” Eccleston said. “It’s not a problem that’s gone away.”

He added: “I’ve been noticing the cold weather and I’ve been noticing increased numbers on the streets since the pandemic. This is the second Christmas of our pandemic, and as an ambassador, it’s very important that we spread the message.”

In his work acting around the country, Eccleston buys a Big Issue magazine from the first vendor he sees – whether it’s in London or Manchester, or anywhere else. Those interactions have given him an insight into the challenges the pandemic has brought, in particular denying vendors the opportunity to interact with the public.

Eccleston recalled a conversation with one vendor in Brighton: “Being there outside the theatre in Brighton and selling The Big Issue, interacting with people, was very beneficial to his mental health. The pandemic took that away. It took away their way of lives as well as everyone else’s.”

Appealing to the public to support those vendors, Eccleston added: “We need you please, to buy the Big Issue, not once, maybe a couple of times. This is the Christmas period, the period of giving.”

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