The Big Issue seller who was helped by Prince William is a 60-year-old man who first became homeless after moving to London in 2011, FEMAIL can reveal.
Dave Martin, who is originally from Derby, has been selling the magazine for more than 10 years outside a Tesco in Brook Green, west London and makes £125 a week from sales of about 50 magazines.
Alongside the magazine sales, the former garage-worker also creates and sell his own art, and has even had his work put on display at the Brick Lane gallery in east London.
Mr Martin was pictured this week as many fans snapped photos with the future king, who was spotted selling the magazine in Westminster.
He said the prince’s new role was organised for an article featuring William, which will be published in the magazine a week on Monday.
Dave Martin, who is originally from Derby, has been selling the magazine for more than 10 years outside a Tesco in Brook Green, west London and makes £125 a week from sales of about 50 magazines
Mr Martin was pictured this week as many fans snapped photos with the future king, who was spotted selling the magazine in Westminster. He is pictured with Prince William and London cab driver Neil Kramer
Previously Mr Martin’s biggest brush with fame was a Big Issue event where he appeared on stage alongside rock band Muse after they performed an event to raise money for the Big Issue at the Eventim Apollo in March, which is just a stone’s throw away from where Mr Martin works in Hammersmith.
‘I didn’t think it’d get better than that,’ he said.
On his website – which he uses to sell his art – Mr Martin says he moved to London in 2011 and soon found himself homeless.
‘I started selling the Big Issue the same year to support myself and I now have a regular pitch outside Tesco in Brook Green,’ he writes.
‘In 2014 The Big Issue took me to an interactive exhibition at the Tate Modern. I saw lots of great art and was particularly inspired by the work of Matisse, and in 2016 I started making my own abstract art’.
He now makes his own collages out of coloured card including postcards which sell for £10 for a pack of four and wall prints for £35.
Previously Mr Martin’s biggest brush with fame was a Big Issue event where he appeared on stage alongside rock band Muse after they performed an even to raise money for the Big Issue at the Eventim Apollo in March, which is just a stone’s throw away from where Mr Martin works in Hammersmith.
‘I explore different colour and shape combinations. I then make prints based on those originals. I’ve been exhibiting since 2019 and last year my work featured in a group show at the Jealous Gallery,’ he explained.
He is also part of the Homeless Made project, which is part of the Baron’s Court project.
Last year, Mr Martin spoke out about the impact of coronavirus on Big Issue sellers.
Speaking to local paper Sherpherd’s Bush W14 he said he was ‘heartbroken’ he couldn’t say merry Christmas to his customers after London was plunged into a Tier 4 lockdown.
He explained that Covid saw his sales go down despite usually doing really well in December.
‘People will have Christmas cards and presents that they won’t be able to give me so I can’t look forward to that. I have Christmas cards to give people too. It’s all a mess,’ he said at the time.
‘I have one or two cards from my customers which I will be keeping for Christmas Day so I have something to look forward to. If it weren’t for The Big Issue, I wouldn’t have got through the lockdowns this year. It’s thanks to them that I did.’
He now makes his own collages out of coloured card including postcards which sell for £10 for a pack of four and wall prints for £35. Pictured
Mr Martin moved from Derby to London and lived rough for three months, when he was approached by a Big Issue vendor who said he could make a living selling the magazine.
He previously told MyLdn about his time sleeping rough: ‘That really got to me. In the great scheme of things that’s not long, but even one week on the streets is a lot.’
‘I was having to beg for food, lumping a big backpack around, and trying to stay dry. The hardest thing is just trying to find somewhere undercover because it’s such cold, biting weather that you could get pneumonia.’
He added that people sleeping on the street outside a pub or club often ended up ‘getting a kicking because people are drunk and get abusive’ and he found these reactions ‘really upsetting’ at first.
‘Now, it’s water off a duck’s back. I’m so used to people giving me funny looks that it doesn’t bother me. It’s their problem not mine. That’s just what you get as a homeless person – people just walk by and don’t say a word. I think people don’t know what to do or say or how to help, and I suppose it is difficult for them.’
He says the job gave him his self-respect back and allowed him to get a flat in Tottenham and start making art. Last year, he even had his own exhibition as part of the Works on Paper and Contemporary Painting at Bethnal Green’s Brick Lane Gallery.
Posing for a photo! Prince William smiles with passerby Laura Zuikauskas who stopped for a chat on the street
Prince William happily posed for photos and took selfies with tourists who spotted him on the street as his cover was blown
‘I like doing geometric shapes a lot because it just comes naturally to me. I’ve done a few different commissions with different colours and different designs as well,’ he previously told the Big Issue.
‘I like it when that comes to fruition for me. I like creating and when I do create a piece I feel very proud. I know lots of artists aren’t ever happy with the finished article but I feel proud.’
The vendor also played a central role in the Ben Eine-curated Big Issue Art Special magazine in March 2020.
While he uses card, scissors and blue-tack to create geometric prints – he’s also been taking classes with homeless charity St Mungo’s, who provided him with acrylics and oils.
He added to the Big Issue magazine: ‘To start with I just came up with an idea about shapes and colours and then I thought, well, do it on A4.
‘So I got coloured art cards, I’m printing all these shapes – diamonds, squares, circles and what have you – and for some reason I tended to get a good match with the colours. People seem to like my combinations, more so than my shapes.
‘I’ve been thinking about my past, and what gave me the idea – I used to work in a garage in Derby, where I’m from. I used to mix the paint for car spray, using different shades of colours.
As soon as word got out that William was on the street, dozens of royal fans approached him hoping for a quick pic with the future monarch
Inspiring photographs have emerged showing Prince William selling the Big Issue in central London. Retired Met Police chief superintendent Matthew Gardner shared this picture to LinkedIn of William with his brother-in-law writing: ‘What an honour to have a private moment with our future king who was humble and working quietly in the background, helping the most needy. These ‘silent gestures’ often go unrecognised,”
The Duke of Cambridge (pictured posing for photos while selling the Big Issue), 39, donned a red seller’s vest and hat before standing in Rochester Row, Westminster to quietly sell the magazine. A tourist who goes by Dan L shared this image online. He wrote: ‘Bumped into to the Duke of Cambridge today while exploring London. A true gentleman, a noble cause, and one exceptionally memorable first trip to England.’
‘Maybe part of it came from there. Shapes-wise, I remember my grandmother having a tea mat that was just diamonds, it was an elaborate pattern. When people ask me I usually say it suddenly came to me but I think I got it from there.
‘I’m selling the odd thing now. I’ve got this guy called Gavin, he does my prints. He’s got his own business, he’s a designer as well. He’ll scan my originals and then he’ll make them up.
‘I display some of them on my pitch, some of my customers will pick one and then we’ll arrange a meet and do the sale. I sold an original a couple of years ago for £200. We did the sale in Costa! That was through The Big Issue. A woman rang in, a price was discussed and before I knew it I’d got a phone call, we met up and we did the deal.’
William’s badge read ‘a hand up not a hand out’ and was showed he was licensed to sell in London
Mr Martin also revealed that people have compared his work to Matisse, but he has his own individual style and his inspiration is from himself.
‘I’ve been in Street Art in the mag a couple of times. It alerted people who see me on my pitch to the fact I was an artist, I think they were quite surprised! Now more people are finding out it’s me I’m selling the odd one – I do display my designs on my pitch. With this exhibition coming up things are looking good. I’m even getting a website together’.
Mr Martin will now interview Prince William for a piece in the Big Issue, which comes out next Monday.
‘People started to accumulate after a little while. I managed to sell all my magazines. Well, he sold them. Not me. Prince William certainly helped me make more money,’ he said.
‘He was really good at talking to people. He seemed just like a regular guy. He was chatty and really laid-back.’
William was described as ‘polite and engaging’ after he had a ‘lovely chat’ with a London cab driver during his shift.
Among those grabbing a selfie was cabbie Neil Kramer, from east London, who was charging up his electric vehicle when he was approached by the future king.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Neil said he ‘pinched himself’ after speaking to the Duke, who ‘never forgot his name’.
‘I was charging up my taxi on Rochester Row in Westminster when I was approached by a vendor who introduced himself as William and asked would I like to buy a copy of the Big Issue,’ he told FEMAIL.