Karl Burns, NatWest, The Square, Bournemouth

Karl was a Big Issue cover star last year, and he donated some copies, signed by Gazza, to charity

It was absolutely excellent at the House of Lords [Karl attended alongside Big Issue vendors for a reception recently]. Really brilliant. Apart from the photo that went in The Big Issue because I had my head down. That was because I didn’t realise who Sophie was [Sophie Winkleman, actress and Big Issue Ambassador, pictured above with Karl]. I knew she was an ambassador but I didn’t realise she was Her Royal Highness. 

I was talking to Sophie about all sorts and had a coffee and that with her. She was really nice. She wants to write something about me. I met her at the Lords and she sent me an email the next day because she wants to find out more about me. 

I’d never been to the Lords before and it was amazing. It was better than I thought it would be. I was on the panel telling my story. I talked to the other vendors about getting their sales up. 

Things are going all right on my pitch. I’ve been here for the last year or so. 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. 

It’s not too busy today but it gets there. I set myself a target every day and most days I reach it. My plan is to carry on plugging away selling The Big Issue in the future. 

But there have been no more royal sightings on here recently after I ended up meeting Prince William in Pret a Manger across the road from where I sell the magazine last year. That went on The Big Issue’s magazine cover. I’ve had pictures of me meeting him made up into postcards. A lot of people have asked me for a copy of the pictures so people can donate to pay what they want for a postcard.  

When on the panel at the House of Lords, Karl showed everyone his moment as a cover star.
Image: ©Louise Haywood-Schiefer

I heard about Catherine and Charles’s news the other day too. I hope they both recover. 

Meeting William changed the way I think about the royals a bit. He was really nice to me and it was amazing to be given the opportunity to do that. Well, I wasn’t given it, I engineered it myself! 

I haven’t seen Gazza [former footballer Paul Gascoigne, who he also met that day] much either, he’s moved away I think, moved in with his manager. He signed a few copies of the magazine and I gave one to local charity We Are Humans, one to St Mungo’s and one to a local church group to auction off. I don’t know what they got from them and whether they have auctioned them or they kept them but I’ve said whatever you get from them you can keep the proceeds.  

I have been asked to go on a local DJ’s TikTok music video dressed as a Big Issue vendor. I haven’t got a clue why that’s happening. I was just introduced to him and I was showing him pictures and things. He said, “I know what I can do for you, you can come on my next music video.” I think he’s called Peaz. 

Last year some customers bought me a mobility scooter and it’s brilliant. I’m sat on it right now. It’s changed my life amazingly because I can get about now. I can get on the bus with it as well – it’s the biggest one that can do that because it folds down. It means I can go out with my kids, and we went to the fair over Easter. 

Interview: Liam Geraghty

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