Today a London legend disappears for good. Oxford Circus Bill closes his newspaper stand for the last time.
Bill’s pitch is one of those fascinating sites/sights of alternative London. He’s not exactly off the beaten path. He’s a larger than life character who dominates a corner of one of London’s busiest intersections, where Oxford Street crosses Regent Street.
For years and years and years, he’s been selling the Evening Standard newspaper from his stand. And he’s also been providing general entertainment, chat and banter – and occasional shows – like this week’s bizarre Punch & Judy. He’s always been a source of stories, a haven for waifs, a fiercely partisan Tottenham fan and a downright den of mischief. If you want to know more about the chequered past, the football firms and the current mischief, check out his forthcoming book. It’s called Oxford Circus Bill.
So why is it coming to an end? Like other Evening Standard vendors, Bill has been under increasing pressure in recent years. The terms for selling the paper have deteriorated, there’s been mushrooming competition from the distributors of free newspapers, the threat of crime, assault and the wearing down of body and soul that comes with working outside in the cold, heat, rain, hail and snow for decades.To be fair, bawdy Bill’s body and soul seem to be as robust as ever. But the final straw was the decision of the Evening Standard, London’s main newspaper, to transform itself into a free newspaper. Falling circulation has led to this last desparate throw of the dice by the paper’s new owners – hoping to recoup on advertising off the back of increased distribution, what they lose on cash sales. But no sales means no Bill doing the selling. So that’s the end for Oxford Circus Bill, the London legend, the mouth, the yell, the wink, the laugh. Until he finds another pitch from which to advertise his greatest asset. Himself. Watch this space.
5 responses to “Oxford Circus Bill”
The main man. I first met Billy when I was sleeping rough in London, I am proud to say he is a real friend. I had the honour of being able to help him by keeping his pitch running when he needed time out. I had nothing, I was sleeping rough in a doorway on the upper end Regent Street.
BILLY trusted me with his business and so a friendship born from nothing. THANK YOU FOR PLACING YOUR TRUST IN ME BILL. I hope you stay in touch.
Love to the family too.
By the way PAUL, well done for highlighting the plight of BILL, and the demise of the LONDON EVENING STANDARD. I hope that they realise pretty quickly that quality newspapers are not free. There is a whole range of issues surrounding the why and what-for’s. Lets just say that the people who own the paper got it wrong this time. They had seen off the opposition, now they decide to make it free, why to save money. HOW CAN SCRAPPING THE PAPER AS IT IS BE COST EFFECTIVE. The London Standard vendors only earn a percentage of what they sell. if they sell nothing they make zilch. Its a free commodity that they would be stupid to lose. . well done again
The free daily papers in Dublin end up lying around stations and train carriages – something not paid for is not valued. I don’t understand the economics of the trade – why would someone pay to advertise in a paper that is read for a couple of minutes and then thrown away?
In London ‘free’ newspapers are just a waste. but companies do advertise in them IAN. I pick up a copy on the train and read that, when I have finished I recycle-bin it. That way I feel that I am doing my bit for the enviroment and not adding to waste by getting a fresh copy. Try that approach IAN, it works.
I was told that distribution costs were too high, so they sacked the drivers mates- the workload then got too heavy for the drivers- hence? I still hope that the Evening Standard may increase circulation enough to keep standards high- we’ll see. Really sorry for the retailers, not least the great ‘characters’ like the one Paul has featured.