Row over Big Issue wine adverts

Front view of one of the new tabards
Image caption Some 3,000 of the new vests are to be handed out across the country

A recovering alcoholic who sells the Big Issue in Bath is protesting against the magazine's plans to bring in new vests sponsored by a wine producer.

The magazine is rolling out the tabards claiming they are "more visible" than the existing yellow and blue ones.

Pat, 62, said he was willing to give up the £10 he would make in a day to make his point.

Big Issue said without the deal it would have not been able to afford the tabards.

A Big Issue spokesman said: "We went with them because they were prepared to sponsor the tabards, the value of which is quite significant - and money we don't have in the business.

"We thought long and hard about this because there are quite negative stereotypes attached to homeless people - not just Big Issue vendors - around alcohol.

"However, Fairhills is a fair-trade wine company, they work with underprivileged groups in South Africa and we think their ethos is not contrary to that of the Big Issue."

The Big Issue is rolling out 3,000 of the red vests across the UK.

The company said wearing the tabards was a "matter of choice" - something the vendors dispute.

Pat asked the BBC not to disclose his surname because he does not want people from his past life to find out that he has been homeless for 30 years.

He said: "They're [Big Issue] telling us, not asking us, to advertise an alcoholic product.

"I'm a recovering alcoholic. Most vendors have one addiction or the other - that's why they're selling it."

Another seller, Shane Hayton, said he did not like it either.

"It's got a great big advertisement on the back and a little one on the front.

"We suffer enough in Bath as it is without stereotyping homeless people as drug addicts or drinkers, when we're not.

"Now we are going to be walking around with wine adverts which is going to make everybody think we're alcoholics."

The Big Issue magazine offers homeless and vulnerable housed people the opportunity to earn a legitimate income.

Vendors buy the magazine for 85p and sell to the public for £1.70, keeping 85p for themselves.

No-one from Fairhills could be contacted for comment.

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