George, who usually sells the Big Issue outside the BBC broadcasting house, is featuring in Historic England’s new ‘I am London’ exhibition. The exhibition aims to explore London’s identity through prism of its inhabitants and historic buildings. He will join a diverse range of other Londoners including Professor Lord Robert Winston, a beefeater, a 7/7 paramedic and a DJ, all of whom are sharing their own experiences of the city by selecting an historic place or building that is particularly significant to them.
Until a few years ago, George worked for the NHS in Scotland, and had saved up enough money purchase a semi-detached house with his partner. However, following the financial crash, he lost his house, job and partner, and after tragic deaths in the family, he found himself on the streets of London, “totally unprepared”, with only a light-duty sleeping bag.
He had originally travelled to London to find work and develop his newly established business (editing medical articles by authors for whom English was not their first language), but the high travel costs and the death of a cousin with whom he had been planning to stay left him impoverished and homeless. A big city can be isolating to anyone without a support network, and George was “a stranger to London, I didn’t know anyone or anything.”
However, working with the big issue has helped to get him back on his feet, and has given him the space to focus on growing his business, and he is now “looking forward to the day when I will be buying The Big Issue rather than selling them.”