Jon Gregg, 55, Marks & Spencer, Muswell Hill Broadway
“Through this job I met my partner, Rose”
People are not carrying cash like they used to so I’ve just bought a card reader. I only got connected last week.
I’ve been selling The Big Issue for over 20 years. My partner Rose also sells the magazine. She and I have different pitches in Muswell Hill – I have M&S and she has Sainsbury’s. Because I’ve been on the pitch a long time I have a lot of regular customers – there’s a core that like to buy it week-in, week-out, they’re really important. But then you get weeks like the one when Bruce Springsteen was on the cover, where you get extra sales because he has a lot of fans.
In this week’s magazine you can read about the reluctance of Brits to be fruit pickers as well as the Hurricane Girls, who flew planes in the Second World War. I’ve been looking forward to reading that one, they sound like typical unsung heroes.
People like to see a vendor do something a bit different
Around this time last year the selling got a bit slow because a lot of customers go off on their summer holidays with the kids being off school. I’ve been playing guitar since my teens, and thought I’d do some busking while it was quiet. I had an old acoustic that was quite hard to play, so Rose was telling our customers that I was looking for a cheap acoustic! One came along, did a deal and got me one. I’d never sung and played guitar on a high street before.
I started off by doing stuff by The Kinks because they are still very big in Muswell Hill. People really enjoyed hearing the big tunes like Sunny Afternoon and Lola. Busking’s about adding a nice vibe to area and giving people a lift, so well-known songs are better at that.
I didn’t want to be playing on my pitch or Rose’s because they’re at the entrance to a supermarket and I didn’t want to get in people’s way. I started using the other end of the M&S building from my pitch, which is good right now because it’s in the shade!
I have written some of my own tunes as well. The Big Issue inspired one of them, called Going Through The Emotions. It’s all about standing on your pitch, being there every day and playing our part. Generally people are very encouraging, they like to see a vendor do something a bit different.
I try and sell as many magazines as I can then I’ll play guitar for a bit. Weekends are a particularly good time to do it, when I’ve sold out of magazines. But the magazine always comes first, especially Monday to Friday.
Sometimes there are quite long gaps in between selling.But on the whole the people in this area are really supportive of The Big Issue and I want to thank them.
I am grateful to The Big Issue staff too – they helped me sort myself out, find somewhere to live. And of course, through this job I met Rose.
Where you can see (and hear) me…
If you’d like to check out my music you can search on YouTube for ‘Jon Gregg busking’ or ‘bigissue2009’. On SoundCloud my songs are under TurquoiseStrat
Image: Shendrew Balendran
126-138 Muswell Hill Broadway, London N10 3RU, UK