On a freezing cold day in London, rain pelting down, three celebrity friends of The Big Issue took on the challenge of selling the magazine. Colin Murray, Melanie Sykes and James O’Brien had come out to mark National Vendor Week – a celebration of the men and women across the UK who sell the magazine every day – and to get a deeper understanding of the sellers’ work. This is the story of the day. It got pretty competitive…
“Right, tell me what I should do.” It’s Wednesday lunchtime and autism rights advocate and editor in chief of Frank magazine Melanie Sykes has joined Big Issue vendor Kelvin Gregory on his regular pitch near Somerset House in central London. As he takes her through a training crash course, she admits she’s nervous. “I’m a bit shy, really. So it feels very out of my comfort zone to just approach random strangers.”
“It’s not as easy as you think it might be. I feel all the charm in the world isn’t going to help on this particularly rainy day. It’s interesting, actually: people’s reactions to you even saying hello. People are very ‘head down’, aren’t they?”Melanie Sykes
Persevering as the rain gets heavier, Melanie finally makes a sale. “It’s something that I think about all the time: don’t just walk past vendors. Please just pick up this magazine. I don’t really care about the weather, what’s important is spreading the word and getting people to engage with some proper literature about real issues.”
It’s all smiles as a sodden Melanie finishes her selling shift, and thanks Kelvin for his support. “I sold four, which sounds really lame. But it’s not easy.”
It’s an LBC vs BBC sell-off as we roll into the afternoon. Combative talk radio host James O’Brien is up against Radio 5 Live and Countdown star Colin Murray. And neither is backing down. Let’s do this…
James has played a blinder by using his hit radio show this morning to tell 1.3 million listeners he’s going to be out selling The Big Issue. When he arrives, there are already customers waiting to score a magazine and a selfie.