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Bristol rallies to save beloved Big Issue seller Jeff Knight

Jeff, who’s been in Bristol for nearly 20 years, is building a legal case to bring to the Home Office after finding out he may be at future risk of deportation.

Priyanka Raval


Bristolians have swung into action to support beloved Big Issue seller Jeff Knight after claims that he faced the threat of deportation emerged yesterday.

Jeff has been living in Bristol for almost 20 years and sells the magazine in Stokes Croft. Whether a deportation threat has been issued is yet to be confirmed. An article in the Big Issue yesterday said he is ‘at risk of being deported’, but they’ve since clarified that he’s not being threatened with deportation but that his legal team is building a case for residency to present to the Home Office. 

As part of this, character referenes are being collected, with local Stokes Croft venues such as: Biblos, Om Burger, Emmeline, That Thing and the Canteen providing drop off points.

A petition on to local MPs reached 16,000 signatures today.

Frankie Stone, vendor outreach worker for the Big Issue said: “Jeff has been with us for 15 years. He is an incredible individual and the team absolutely loves supporting him.”

‘Bristol’s gonna help me’ 

“I’ll be alright, I’ll be alright,” Jeff says as he hugs me at 8:30 this morning, displaying the positivity he’s known for. We meet on his pitch, outside the Canteen, and in the course of our 10-minute chat at least three people approach him for a Big Issue. Drivers beep and wave as they pass. People heading into town are greeted with fist bumps, hugs and a warm greeting, and they never fail to smile in return. 

“Bristol gonna help me,” he says, showing me the character reference letters he has under his arm. “It’s all love with the people here.” 

“I can’t say anything about the case now, cus I’m working with the solicitor. But the more character references the better!” 

Jeff came to the UK from Jamaica when he was 32 in 1998, escaping a period of prolonged violence in the country. After being homeless in different cities he settled in Bristol where he’s become a local legend. In September 2020, Harriet Wood, known as Hazard0ne, made a mural of him on John Street in St. Nicholas Market. 

This is not the first time the community has rallied around Jeff. In November 2018, a crowdfunder was set up to raise money for Jeff to buy a campervan and get him off the streets. In just two months, £7,257 was raised, enough to cover van and tax, insurance and MOTs. “This is more than money, this is love,” Jeff said at the time. 

The Cable spoke to local Stokes Croft businesses who’ve come together to act as collection points for character witnesses. 

Several shops in Stokes Croft are acting as drop-off points for character references for Jeff

“It’s only been half a day and there’s been four letters handed in and dozens of emails,” says Maisie, who works in Boutique shop That Thing.

Maisie has come to know Jeff well. “He comes in most mornings for a chat and we have coffee with him. He’ll run in, tell a quick story and run off again! He’s just such a lovely person, like a mate popping in to see how you are at work.”  

“He’s just part of the furniture. When you see him, you’re ready to start the day,” she adds. 

Emilijia, who works at Biblos, reports a similar story. “He comes in every morning, he’s like a beautiful soul, he’s like sunshine.”

Local artist Wesley has a studio above the Canteen in Hamilton House and grew up just off Stokes Croft. “For me, Jeff is an inspiration. He’s been homeless, he hasn’t got much and they wanna kick him out of the country – but he’s always smiling and wanting to bring joy to other people.” 

As Bristol awaits the news of his legal challenge, it’s clear residents won’t let go of the local legend without a fight.

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  • Coverage of veteran Bristol beggar Jeff Knight in Metro, the Bristol Post and other publications/websites varies wildly in accounts of his chronology, especially when stating how long he has supposedly lived in Bristol or been selling the Big Issue.

    A Post report in August 2011 on Knight’s risible nomination as an Olympic Games torch-bearer said he had occupied a Clifton Triangle magazine-selling pitch for seven years – i.e. since 2003 or 2004. Yet, according to the Post dated September 21 2015, he moved to Bristol only in 2005.

    In 2019 a Metro item on his being given a van by crowdfunders said he had been “a vendor for 21 years in Bristol” – i.e. since 1997 or 1998, at least five years earlier/longer than the previously-reported dates, and up to a hefty eight years.

    Different dates for his arrival in the city and his vending tenure have also appeared in other press coverage of him.

    Of course, it is conceivable he may have moved away from Bristol and back during this time, maybe more than once, but, even if so, the dates and locations would still be inconsistent and do not add up. At least two of these reports must be erroneous.

    Yet another different time scale was stated in the sub-heading to a Bristol Live report in 2020. It said he has been vending the magazine “for two decades”, i.e. since at least 2000. That would tally with a 2019 Metro item which claimed he had then been doing so for 21 years, but substantially diverges from previous Post items variously saying or implying he began in, among other years, 2003/04 or 2005.

    This item by Bristol Cable, published in 2022, says he had been living in Bristol for almost 20 years, i.e. arriving during or after 2002.

    Which is it? And why has he relied so long on selling the Big Issue, even when not homeless or poor?


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