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Tributes pour in for much-loved Maida Vale Big Issue seller

Chris McCormack, who died aged 50, 'extended a hand to others, even when he needed a hand up himself'

04 August, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Chris McCormack [Photo: David Tett/The Big Issue]

A COMMUNITY is mourning the death of a much-loved Big Issue seller who brightened up the lives of many despite struggling himself.

Chris McCormack, who sold the magazine outside Maida Vale tube station, was described as “cheerful”, “kind” and with a “wicked sense of humour”.

He grew up in the area he would later sell the magazine in and counted actor Hugh Grant among his loyal customers.

More than £2400 was raised through an internet appeal to help to cover the costs of his funeral last week. The send-off was standing room only, according to the 50 year old’s brother Fred who said he had been “overwhelmed” by the “generosity and kindness of people”.

Fred, who lives in Westbourne Park, said: “He felt safe there [Maida Vale]. He liked that it has a great sense of community, it’s diverse and it spans different economic groups. People were friendly. For someone as vulnerable as Chris was it was much safer than most parts of London.

“He seemed to extend a hand out to others, even when he needed a hand up himself. People seemed to really love him. He was a part of the community.”

Mr McCormack was born on July 19 1966, near Portobello Road, and moved to Maida Vale as a young child. He went to Rutherford School boys school, which later became North Westminster Community School, and worked as a bricklayer but eventually drifted into a lifestyle of partying and living in squats, his brother said.

Chris was a particular fan of psychedelic music as well as the house and techno squat scene and was a regular at various festivals including Glastonbury, every year since 1982.

“He always managed to find a way in one way or another”, he said. He was described as “a patron of the party scene” who was “always seeking adventure” and “enjoyed life as much as he could”.

He began selling the Big Issue in the early 2000s and had credited the magazine with giving him a renewed sense of purpose.

Chris’s brother Fred McCormack 

“He thought Hugh Grant was a really nice person and they got on really well,” Fred said. “He didn’t really like his acting though.”

One friend recalled how he brightened up Maida Vale station one particularly cold Christmas. “On the run up to Christmas he hung a small pack of battery powered fairy lights on the corner outside the station and kept adding more as the weeks went on. In the end, he covered most of the railings and lamp-post in lights. It was a brilliant sight.”

When Chris turned 50 a little while back, friends took him out for a drink at the Warrington Hotel in Maida Vale for a final hurrah, before he checked into rehab. Chris died on July 1. his last picture shows him on the day he received a badge to say he was 60 days clean and sober.

Chris Stuchbery, The Big Issue’s regional manager for London, said: “Chris will be sadly missed by his customers, vendors and staff alike. He was a popular, friendly and engaging character in Maida Vale and made many friends over the years.”

To donate: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/fredandchris

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