When Doctors diagnosed Besley with Leukaemia and gave him the news that he had six months to live, he decided to move back to Bristol. He then started selling The Big Issue in October in the Clifton area of the city while his sons took up selling the magazine in Shirehampton and Redland.
Besley spoke about his experience selling the magazine: “It’s been very good so far. There are nice people out there, the public is very supportive. They’re very outgoing, they want to know how you are, how you’re coping and what’s going on. I try to explain what the Big Issue is and that it’s a hand up – everybody has their own reasons for selling. For some people it’s just for money. For some it’s something to do. For some it’s just to hang on in life.”
He added: “I’ve been looking after my two boys most of my life and I’ve got them selling their magazines out there. They’re learning to cope with other people, they’re not very good at mixing in and connecting to people. The magazine has given them an outlet. They can’t work so all their life they would be stuck in the house or doing nothing. It’s an outlet for when I’m gone so they’ve got something to hang on to and something they can do without being tied down too much.
When Besley was just 17 years old when he was one of 37 survivors in the 1973 Basel air disaster. The ill-fated flight took off from Bristol Airport with 145 people onboard before crashing in the snow in Basel, Switzerland, on April 10, killing 108 people. Besley lost his uncle in the disaster but managed to save seven others from the wreckage, for which he was later awarded for his bravery.
Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the disaster and Besley is now hoping he will be able to live to mark the occasion. He explained: “That’s what I’m fighting for,” said Besley. “There are only a couple of survivors left and I want to be there to pay my respects to the survivors in Switzerland and the people in England.”
He concluded: “I always felt that I should have been with the rest of them on the plane when they passed so I have a heavy connection with Bristol. You don’t realise what it’s like until you’re in one of these air disasters. You still see it every year. You can hear the crying, you can hear the plane roar, you see every little bit.”
Chris Falchi-Stead, Director of Sales & Operations at the Big Issue, said: “Dave’s story is truly inspirational and our Frontline team will remain with him and his sons every step of the way in order to support him in every way we can.
“It’s incredibly tough out there for our vendors at the moment. The rising costs of food and energy and quieter high streets along with the colder climes are meaning a usually busy time for magazine vendors look increasingly bleak.
“Which is why we are urging people to give our vendors a fighting chance this Christmas and buy a magazine or a subscription from them. Every copy bought is £2 earned. Give our vendors a fighting chance this Christmas. Every copy counts.”
If you would like to support Big Issue vendors this Christmas, you can buy a copy from your local vendor or subscribe online or support us at big issue.com/christmas.