A week in the life of Big Issue vendor and BBC stalwart George Anderson

Our man at the BBC George Anderson sells at Broadcasting House in London. He shares with us the reality of a typical week

Monday

The new Big Issue gets delivered on Mondays and I have to store a week’s supply in the Salvation Army, before taking enough for the day to the distribution point. Lots of regular daily things have to be done to support vendors in Oxford Circus as well as distributing magazines. Today I help Marcel get a sleeping bag from the Salvation Army, after his was stolen (not uncommon). Someone asks for information on backpacker hostels in the area, which people who are homeless can use, as long as they have ID. Helped some new rough sleepers to sign up to selling The Big Issue, whilst distributing the magazine to regular vendors, who pay £1.25 for each magazine and sell for £2.50. After running the distribution point, I go to the BBC.

Mimbre is a professional acrobatic group that are based in Hackney, London. They are looking to support ‘life on the street’ and have asked me to participate in their street acrobatics, with the idea of drawing a crowd and increasing Big Issue sales, which indeed it did.

Has been a long day, starting at 8.15am and finishing at 10pm.

Tuesday

Another long day on your feet outside, but at least the weather is good.

A slow start to the day. Despite sharing a couple of thousand ‘Good Mornings’, it is three hours before I sell a magazine… then I sell four in 30 minutes. It does make you feel better. You really don’t want to be sensitive to rejection if you are selling The Big Issue.

I was asked by one of the World Service presenters, Gareth Mitchell, if I could come into the studio and contribute to the podcast that they are putting out on the technology show Click. This is topical due to a Brighton conference tomorrow on the problems that the homeless have in interfacing with modern technology, which can range from simple things like where to get a phone charged to the loss of self-esteem from being left behind in our increasingly complex technological world. I have been on Click previously highlighting how The Big Issue are currently trialling card readers with a number of vendors, given the problem arising from a smaller number of people carrying money these days.

Another long day on your feet outside, but at least the weather is good.

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Wednesday

I try to take Wednesday off every week and have a catch-up sleep in my room in the hostel. Great having your own room. I have moved from walking the streets at night/sleeping rough via sleeping in a room of 10 bunk beds to having my own room in a hostel. It’s good to have your own space.

DID YOU KNOW…

Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.

Wednesday is usually filled with laundry, hoovering and grocery shopping as well as some chill-out time. But this week I have a manuscript sent for English editing from Brazil. I am self-employed (don’t receive any benefits) and have started up my own online business English-editing academic articles, mostly from people whose first language isn’t English. The article that I am editing today is looking at insulin effects in the brain, giving links to obesity, type-2 diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. Long manuscript and takes 10 hours to complete.

Thursday

Marcel is at the distribution point and tells me his sleeping bag has been stolen again. Marcel is a good-natured man, but seems to walk about in an absent-minded state of bliss… I get him another sleeping bag from the Salvation Army.

One of my favourites is Wendy Hurrell, weather presenter and more recently arts correspondent for the BBC.

I have spoken, and sold Big Issues, to many of the well-known faces and voices of the BBC, including Lord Hall, the director general, as well as most of the presenters and their guests for the shows. It seemed funny to begin with, but over time you get to know something of the person and not just the screen personality. One of my favourites is Wendy Hurrell, weather presenter and more recently arts correspondent for the BBC. Wendy is friendly and chatty and always positive.

Friday

One of my regular Big Issue customers is doing a leadership course at the BBC and has ‘homework’ tasks where she has to do things outwith her comfort zone. For her this is dancing and singing in public. She asked me and the person I was talking to at the time to be backing dancers while she sang the Bee Gees’ song Stayin’ Alive. It is readily apparent why singing is outwith her comfort zone, although she does give it a good go.

The One Show on Fridays usually includes some filming outside, which often includes a red blob in the background… that’s Big Issue tabard-wearing me.

Saturday

No one wants to pass and certainly don’t want to stop to buy a Big Issue.

It is common to have demonstrations around the vicinity of the BBC, which usually makes it very difficult for me to make any sales. Most demonstrators seem to be more wrapped up in their own cause. Today’s demo is by a pro-Palestinian group protesting about Tel Aviv being the setting for the Eurovision Song Contest. Worryingly, a similar sized group of pro-Israel supporters are also present… no violence occurs and seems more like opposing football fans goading one another. However, they are loud and challenging, so no one wants to pass and certainly don’t want to stop to buy a Big Issue.

Seems like a waste of time me being there when any demos are on.

Sunday

On Sunday, I shift 10 metres from the BBC to the nearby church, All Souls. It is always good to meet families attending the service. A number of the vendors that come to me at the distribution point sleep around the pillars of All Souls.

I usually sell about 10 magazines every Sunday morning at All Souls. The Big Issue was asked by English Heritage to nominate a vendor to pick their favourite building in London, along with 60 others from a variety of backgrounds. I was asked to do this and picked All Souls. English Heritage sent a photographer take a photo of me outside All Souls, which was magnified into portrait size and went on display at a number of London sites in an exhibition called ‘I am London’. I was asked to go on BBC Radio London to promote it and also the work of All Souls Local Activity Network, which makes a significant contribution to homeless people in this area.

Another reason to like All Souls is its rector Hugh Palmer. Although being one of the chaplains to the Queen, Hugh is a very approachable and helpful man.

Once all the congregations have disappeared after the church services, the highlight of Sunday is always my regular chats with Tony Blackburn, the first DJ on Radio 1. Tony’s a sweet man.

So that was the week that was… fairly typical and always interesting. There’s a lot of standing about and being ignored. However, I feel blessed to have made friends and contacts with so many sweet people, both members of the public and fellow vendors.