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‘He’s a Bristol National Treasure’: Thousands rally round Big Issue seller at risk of deportation

More than 7,000 people have signed an online petition to “stop the deportation of this Bristol legend”.

Thousands of people have rallied round a popular Big Issue seller in Bristol who is at risk of being deported by the Home Office.

Jeff Knight, who sells the magazine in the Stokes Croft neighbourhood, is a popular figure in the area where he has lived for nearly 20 years. More than 7,000 people have signed an online petition addressed to Bristol North West MP Darren Jones to “stop the deportation of this Bristol legend”.

“Jeff is a Bristol National Treasure,” wrote one. “For as long as I remember living in Bristol, his fist bumps have cheered me up on a rough day.”

Another wrote: “I fell over pretty bad once and smashed my head hard on the pavement. Jeff ran across the road and was the first to help me up. Despite a smashed tooth and broken nose I was still smiling afterwards. An absolute gem of a human being.”

Jeff came to the UK from Jamaica when he was 32 and was homelessness in different cities before settling in Bristol. Selling The Big Issue took him from living on the streets to sofa-surfing, and now he lives in a campervan paid for by the local community.

“When I first came here I missed Jamaica, but not now,” he told The Big Issue in 2019. “There’s too much killing going on there. I’ve come here and I do what I’ve got to do. I try my best. I’m a celebrity here in Bristol – everybody knows me and loves me. People see me in the morning and then they say, ‘The day’s just started and everything’s alright.’ That’s good.”

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In 2020 he became the subject of a mural by one of the UK’s top graffiti artists outside The Canteen, were he sells the mag.

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“Jeff has been known to us for 15 years,” said Frankie Stone, Big Issue outreach worker in Bristol. “He is an incredible individual and the team absolutely love supporting him.

“This case has been led solely by Jeff as he has no recourse to public funds and relies only on his income from sales of The Big Issue to survive. He is an integral part of the local community, and has the full support of his customers and friends.”

Supporters have been sharing memories and messages of support on the petition, which has received more than 7,000 signatories.

One woman, who gave her name as Kate Little, said Jeff would walk her to her early shifts at the hospital each morning. The routine started after she had been sexually harassed on the journey and Jeff asked if she wanted some company.

“I agreed and from that day on, for many months whilst I worked at the hospital, he’d walk me to work. We’d chat, he’d make me laugh & he would always wish me to have a good day. Geoff [sic] is a true Bristolian gent, a Bristolian icon. He is a living legend & a big part of why Bristol is one of the friendliest cities.”

“We will continue to support Jeff while his legal team build a case to present to the Home Office,” Stone added.

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