Karl Burns, NatWest, The Square, Bournemouth

Karl was a recent cover star when he met Prince William and footballer Gazza at Pret a Manger. Here's what he remembers about the day

I’ve been doing The Big Issue in The Square in Bournemouth for the last year. I’m the franchisee now for the town. When the Big Issue office is closed, I am the office. I enjoy every bit of it because I can help the boys.  Originally I’m from London. I love it down here, I’ve had my kids down here, I would not go back to London. I came down here in 1989 and I’ve seen that beach and I’ve never been back again. I like the scenery, the people, it’s lovely. And it’s just a different world to London. It’s got a little rougher recently due to certain things that are happening here but other than that I wouldn’t live anywhere else. 

After I split up with my partner I was rough sleeping under Bournemouth pier for a couple of months in 2018 and then I started doing The Big Issue until 2019. At that time it was good to keep me going but I wasn’t doing it like I’m doing it now. Now I do it as a full-time job. 

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I was beaten half to death three years ago. I was selling The Big Issue at that time, and it took me 17 months to get out of hospital. I had two brain bleeds. A brain swell. I’ve got no teeth. Absolutely every one was shattered to pieces. My jaw was shattered. I’ve got metal bars that hold my face together. I can hardly walk property. I’m waiting to sort out my PIP because then I’m getting a disability scooter. The Big Issue is helping me with that. 

I have a lot of people that come and talk to me that don’t buy the issue. I have a lot that do. I’ve met some absolutely weird and wonderful people. I know all sorts of people from all walks of life whether they’re begging on the street right up to the future king of England. 

I was on the cover of the magazine a few weeks ago after I met Prince William in Pret a Manger across the road from my pitch. I was sat on my pitch when I was informed the prince was going to be just across the road in a coffee shop. So I went over there and I already knew someone who was already there and that was Paul Gascoigne. 

I told Prince William: “Thank you very much for what you’re doing, and helping the homeless and those of us who are less fortunate than yourself.” 

He paid for my lunch. He told them to make sure that I’ve got a lunch on him. He also got his secretary to give me a tenner to pay for the issue and then he went out and saw the public and he was gone. After the magazine came out, Gazza signed some copies for me. I’ve been giving them out as a gift to some of my regular customers. 

I have two kids: Grace is 13 and Kieran is 12. When I leave my pitch I go straight to see my children and then I have dinner with them. Any money I earn from The Big Issue goes basically to me taking my kids out. I am working as hard as I can to keep myself and my life together and keep my family happy with me. It’s very important to be back in their lives, not only for me but for my children as well. I used to get them up, feed them, change them, take them to school, collect them, the whole lot. Now I get on better with my ex-wife than I ever did. 

I don’t think I’d still be around without The Big Issue. This has just kept me going. Now having my kids back, it’s helped me out so much. I can’t even explain how much. I would be lost without doing this job. It makes me get up every morning. 

Words: Liam Geraghty

NatWest Bournemouth, The Square, Old Christchurch Road, Bournemouth, UK