Early last week, news filtered through to INSP staff, in Hannover for the 2019 Global Street Paper Summit, that Big Issue vendor Paul Kelly had died. Paul was found seriously injured in a Glasgow suburb on the morning of Saturday 15 June, and died not long afterwards. Last Tuesday, a man was charged with his murder.
Paul had a vibrant and attention-catching personality. Judging from the tributes that sprung up on social media in the days following his death, it seems that, regardless of whether you were a Big Issue reader or not, it was impossible not to be touched by his larger-than-life presence in Glasgow’s city centre. Paul was the Big Issue vendor closest to the INSP office. Staff spoke to, and bought the paper from, Paul, and saw him every day on their way to work or at lunchtime. His sales tagline of “Don’t be shy, give it a try” was so familiar, it became part of the architecture.
Today, members of the public joined Big Issue staff, Paul’s friends, and all others knocked sideways by the news that Paul had been taken too soon, at his pitch, outside the Sainsbury’s supermarket near the top of Buchanan Street, the main shopping street in Glasgow.
The tributes were led by Big Issue editor Paul McNamee.
He said: “Paul wasn’t just a part of The Big Issue; he was a part of Glasgow.
“Paul lifted you up. When you spoke to him, you knew something good was coming. The news of his death has knocked us all into a shock that hasn’t lifted yet.
“But we remember most our happy memories of him: of how he was always there and how he could never do enough for you. All we want today is to remember the goodness of Paul.”
— Paul McNamee (@PauldMcNamee) June 24, 2019
Paul Kelly’s memorial in Glasgow should remind us of the perils of poverty. Thankfully he had a life of friends and admirers and did not pass unnoticed through poverty’s vale of tears. He reached out and touched us all. The big issue is bigger by far because we knew this man.
— John Bird (@johnbirdswords) June 24, 2019
— Laura Kelly Dunlop (@laurakaykelly) June 24, 2019
Touching to see so many people turn out in memory of @BigIssue vendor Paul Kelly this afternoon in Glasgow at his pitch on Buchanan Street. Tributes were led by the street paper’s editor @PauldMcNamee.
“Paul wasn’t just part of the The Big Issue, he was part of Glasgow.” pic.twitter.com/znO23tgWFc
— INSP (@_INSP) June 24, 2019
McNamee had earlier penned a tribute to Paul, published in the latest edition of the street paper, writing: “Paul was just always there, a gentle pulse in the heart of Glasgow. “Don’t be shy, give it a try, I don’t bite” echoing up and down Buchanan Street. Regardless of how often that phrase sounded out, it never grated. There was a warmth and a winningness to Paul, a necessity of being.
“Paul was loved. The incredible volume of messages we have received, that we are still receiving, is testament to his quiet and glorious impact.”
The cover of this week’s magazine is emblazoned with a photo of Paul and headlined with his familiar catchphrase.
Other words were shared by The Big Issue’s Scotland team leader Rhys Morgan, staff from the supermarket outside of which he sold the street paper, and other customers and people who encountered him daily at his pitch.
Morgan said: “Paul called everyone his customers, but actually everyone meant so much more to him. For me, he was a constant in a workplace that could often be incredibly chaotic.”
Paul was also remembered in the Scottish parliament earlier this week, thanks to a motion tabled by MSP Monica Lennon.