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National Vendor Week: Big Issue sellers pick their favourite cultural highlights

For National Vendor Week, members of the team share the books, films, TV shows, music and sports that they enjoy in their spare time

Do you remember your first gig? What book would you take to a desert island? Learning about the cultural touchstones in someone’s life is the best way to get to know any of us. For National Vendor Week we asked our crew how they like to relax. 

Bridgette Sibley
Image: ©Exposure Photo Agency

Bridgette Sibley, Waitrose, Southsea, Portsmouth

I was so thankful for The Big Issue’s support during lockdowns. They got me jigsaws while I was off my pitch. That’s my hobby – it’s so therapeutic. It’s the only time I really relax – 1,000 pieces are just right. I can knock a jigsaw out in two days if it’s a weekend or I’m not selling The Big Issue.  

André Rostant, Carnaby St, Soho, London

André Rostant

Best book: Moby Dick. It goes from the minutiae of day-to-day living, to cosmological and metaphysical philosophy, sometimes within one sentence. It captures, better than anything I have read, something of humanity’s unique place in nature and the ironic transcendence of spirituality, which it reveals to be a function of nature. It is magical. 

Favourite films: The Sweet Smell of Success – a movie from the 1950s about jealousy and vanity, and the recent movie, The Banshees of Inisherin, about estrangement from friends and loved ones. Both films deal with the difficulty of relationships when one party wants out but the other cannot accept it. The movies do not illustrate their themes the typical dramatic way, with lovers; rather they examine family and friendship – the universal, deep, human experience. 

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Music that moves me:Trout Mask Replica [Captain Beefheart]; A Whiter Shade of Pale [Procol Harum]; any Dolly Parton song. The first album I bought was Bassman (1974), by the calypsonian Mighty Shadow. Its eponymous track is a beautiful song that describes the compulsion – the instinct – to write, that many musicians experience. 

Other: I am privileged to share lots of time with my children and grandchildren. I compose and perform music, and am a member of the UK Association of Calypsonians and Soca Artistes. I also write prose and poetry. If you want, you can go online and grab a signed advance copy of my new social commentary novella, The Muffin Man, from Crowdbound. It is a story set in Soho, that examines how the area, its residents and denizens, have changed and adapted over the years.

Stewart, M&S, Dundee 

Cookbooks are actually one of my favourite things to read as I love cooking in my spare time. I like to watch war documentaries more than anything, I just love learning about the history. My favourite band is Iron Maiden and I’ve been listening to them since I was a kid. 

Darren Brown, Sainsbury’s, Wilson St, Middlesbrough 

Vendor Darren Brown
Darren Brown Photo: Exposure Photo Agency

At the moment I’m reading a book The Beginner’s Guide to Hypnotherapy by Rory Z Fulcher. I have dyslexia so I read things over and over again until I understand it. 

Jon Gregg, M&S, Muswell Hill, London

Vendor Jon Gregg
Photo: Rob Greig

I’m trying to get back into busking, which is something I’d never be able to do if it wasn’t for The Big Issue giving me the confidence on the high street to look people in the eye and sell the songs. The key is to have a sparkling repertoire of tunes people know, like I Can See Clearly Now by Johnny Nash, Angels by Robbie Williams or Oh, Pretty Woman by Roy Orbison. I’ve tried to play some of my own songs, but I make more money playing Waterloo Sunset by The Kinks, so it would be great to get back out there and sing some more! 

Mary Daly, 47 opposite WH Smith, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset. Photo: Heidi Burton

Margareta, Co-op, Port Seton

I’m kept very busy playing with my grandchildren and spending time with the family. We have TV on in the background but it’s mostly cartoons for now, or movies when we get a chance. 

Mary Daly, High St, Weston-super-Mare

I love art and I make clothes. I try to make my own clothes a lot of the time. I’ve got a hand-sewing Singer machine and I’ve also got an electric one, but I’ve never used it. But otherwise I just hand-stitch. I started out when I was 10 years old and I make my own skirts and leggings. I’ve got my own style, people say I stand out. 

Samuil, Tesco, Bonnyrigg

I listen to a lot of Romanian music: Nicolae Guta and Florin Salam are worth a listen. I’d love to get back into kickboxing. I trained for three years but it is quite risky and expensive. You need proper training or you can get injured. 

I like Christian music, as long as it’s not rock music! 

Marcu, Tesco, Haddington

Dave Martin, Tesco, Brook Green, Hammersmith, London

Vendor week
Images: Louise Haywood-Schiefer; Credit: Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

Best films and TV: I loved Heartbeat, and Minder – I like all the classic old series. I like Sherlock Holmes. The Edward Hardwicke and Jeremy Brett versions! Catch Me If You Can, films-wise! And any of the Star Trek films. It’s hard to pick one out, it’s like when people ask me what my favourite piece of my own work is – you can’t ask an artist that.  

Dave Martin
Some of Dave’s artworks. Image: Dave Martin

Favourite artist: For some reason I like Banksy. No one knows who he is. I know it’s all political but I find him unusual. I like anyone that does my kind of art, abstract, I like Matisse. I did a piece of work similar to his, that’s what first got me on to him, we both have done cut-outs. The response I get from people about my work really inspires me. When I get them framed and they’re put in pride of place at people’s homes, that really inspires. I recently sold two digital images of my work, my first A1 pieces. He’s going to put them on canvases. I really like the feeling of that.  

Music that moves me: I like Santana, Samba Pa Ti – it’s the sort of music I love listening to on a summer’s day walking through the park. Also Jive Bunny and the Master Mixers, Swing the Mood and Louis Prima Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing). I really like swing music. Also,  Puttin’ on the Ritz by Herb Alpert, and Dario G’s Sunchyme – I like to finger-tap to that. 

vendor week
Sonya Doran at Great Western Arcade, Birmingham

Sonya Doran, Great Western Arcade, Birmingham 

I like knitting and sewing when I’m not on my pitch. I’m making a blanket at the moment. I’ve not finished yet, but I’m getting the patches together and I’ve got a bit more knitting to do. It keeps me occupied and stops me getting anxious. It’s there to calm me down when I look a bit lost. 

Andy, Queen Street station, Glasgow 

My favourite book is The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. The messaging was life changing. I like watching Take the High Road, it’s great to hear Scottish voices on TV. But I’m more of a radio listener than a TV watcher. I tend to listen to Virgin or Classic FM. Depends on the mood. I’m listening to Maroon 5 at the moment – enjoying. My favourite gig was Ocean Colour Scene 25 years ago at Stirling Castle. My first gig was Beastie Boys at [Glasgow] Barrowland. I ran away from the children’s home with a friend to see it. 

Artemiza Tudor
Artemiza Tudor Photo: Exposure Photo Agency

Artemiza Tudor, Co-op, Moseley, Birmingham

When I am away from my pitch, I like to cook for my family and go to church. I attend my church two times a week and I even sing in the church choir. I love it, singing is something I really enjoy. 

Tarzan, Kirkcaldy town centre

I was a pretty good footballer when I was younger but I haven’t played in years. I leave that to my nephew in Romania who is a great player. I still follow my team Steau Bucharest.  

vendor week
Will Herbert

Will Herbert, Budgens, Upper St, Islington, London 

I go to Chelsea Flower Show every year. I meet loads of celebrities and I get photos with them and put them in a scrapbook. I remember Piers Morgan’s one of them – he gave me an old five-pound note when the new ones were coming out. You remember those little things.

Marian, Tesco, Penicuik 

I enjoy watching my son play football. He’s a full back in his local team. I’ve got a great team picture on my phone. I’m very proud. 

Will Payne, Better Food, St Werburgh’s, Bristol 

I grew up in Edinburgh, Trainspotting ways. Irvine Welsh lived just down the road from me. That area produced loads of good writers. I love the Scottish writers. I love Christopher Brookmyre. At the moment I am reading The Quarry by Iain Banks. I read a lot – between four or five books a week. I get them at charity shops. 

My favourite book is the Bible

Eva, M&S, Aberdeen

Lawrence Chaser, M&S, Chiswick, London 

Lawrence Chaser, Prince and Dune
Images: Louise Haywood-Schiefer; TT News Agency / Alamy Stock Photo; Credit: Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo

Best book:Dune is my favourite book. I came across it in my teens – I hadn’t thought much of the fantasy, action element before. It blew my mind, the whole eco-system it had. This was my gateway book to that genre for sure. I find reading very relaxing and it just takes me away from things. I’ve been re-reading all the books I liked in the past. And loitering a lot in Waterstones to see if anything else grabs my fancy.  

Favourite TV and film:The Following, with Kevin Bacon. How he didn’t win more awards for that, I don’t know. You can see elements of that in real life, charismatic characters winning people over, it’s cultish.
Glass Onion and Knives Out. It’s escapism, you can just take it for what it is.   

Music that moves me: I’m more of a soul boy. When I was younger I was really into rock, I grew up with ’70s rock. I also grew up with Motown, reggae. My teenage rebellion was listening to Led Zeppelin. And then I got to appreciate jazz a lot. I liked Earth, Wind and Fire and Prince. My absolute favourite, I’d say it was Prince. The first album I ever bought was Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life. I still really like it. I’ve got it downloaded. And I really liked the track Do I Do by him too. The most standout gig I went to would have to be Earth, Wind and Fire at the Royal Albert Hall, definitely.   

Big Issue vendor Ian Duff stands with a copy of the magazine and his card reader
Big Issue Vendor Ian Duff, Bath ©Exposure Photo Agency

Ian Duff, Union St, Bath 

My favourite book is Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice. On TV it’s Killing Eve – a great story that had me on the edge of my seat and I couldn’t work out the plot, which is unusual for me. You on Netflix has a very clever, twisting plot as well. The first album I bought was [Michael Jackson’s] Thriller. I hate it now. Billy Joel is my favourite artist. When I’m not selling, I’m mainly cooking. I love making up new recipes. 

George Anderson, BBC HQ and Oxford Circus, London 

Photo: This photograph of George featured as a poster in Historic England’s I Am London exhibition at Central Saint Martins in 2016 (c) Historic England

My favourite book is Brave New World by Aldous Huxley. It’s a book of the future. I like it because it was prophetic, before we even discovered what genes were, it was talking about these things. It could still be the world we end up in. I like all the different types of music, from the 1950s all the way through to now. I do a lot of exercise, so I like a bit of Rocky music to go with it! My favourite gig was probably just before Covid. I went to Warsaw and saw The Rolling Stones live. It was cheaper to go to Warsaw with all the costs, than watch a show here! They’re such a classic band, I really enjoyed them. Everyone knows at least one of their songs. And I wanted to see them all before they died, y’know.

Big Issue vendors in the Southwest put together their list of recommendations. Here are their highlights:

Books: Sherlock Holmes – “best detective in the world”, Alex Cross novels by James Patterson – “I found them really engaging”, Alice in Wonderland ­– “a good story to read to my children”, Not a penny more, not a penny less – “Jeffrey archer, brilliant writer”. As well as Harry Potter, the Bible, Of Mice and Men and A Kestrel for a Knave.

Films/TV: Avatar – “Blew my mind watching it in 3D”, Vikings – “would love to live in these times and live off the land”, The Mandalorian – “It’s great because it’s Star Wars”, Eastenders – “because it’s where I’m from”, Love Thy Neighbour – “brilliant humour”. As well as Young Guns, the old Pink Panther cartoon, Fargo, The Shawshank Redemption, Waterworld, Friends and The Archers on Radio 4.

Music: The Specials, Swedish house mafia, Kate Bush, church music, Johnny Cash, 50 Cent, Pink Floyd, REM, Guns and roses.

For more on National Vendor Week follow our social channels. Thanks to our frontline team and
Cello Dutton-David

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.

To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member.

You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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