SQ Magazine

The UK's Leading Independent Youth Culture Publication


Posted on Sunday, 17 April by

In 2009, SQ did the unthinkable and set out to uncover the real story behind Eastbourne’s most famous and random resident, the man with at one point over 3000 facebook followers; Big Dave.

Few things manage to draw together a wide community in today’s highly hyped “broken Britain”. It takes something special; an outpouring of emotion following national tragedy, the rise and demise of the national football team every two years at a major tournament or even an elusive figure who captures the hopes and dreams of millions. Eastbourne may not have an Obama or Mandela to do such a thing, but it does have Big Dave.

At the time of writing, 2147 people are now members of the Facebook group; “Big Dave, Eastbourne’s Random Resident Appreciation Group”, the brainchild of Tim Appleton.

The group has become something of a local internet phenomenon, with people of any age, gender and race vying for photos with the man himself. In months what started as a small joke between a group of friends has become the talk of the town.

SQ exposes everything behind the icon, starting with the man behind the Facebook cult, Tim Appleton.

“I always hoped it would be a success and that others would take pictures of him but had no idea that it would get as big as it has. I remember it hitting the 1000 mark and laughing about it.”

No matter how ridiculous it may seem to many, this individual is a local celebrity.

Wild claims range from him being a failed fur trade magnate all the way to him being Father Christmas. No definitive answer as to his background has ever been uncovered. SQ took action.

We didn’t meet Big Dave in an upmarket restaurant or bar as you would expect when meeting a cultural icon. Instead, we met on a much more modest location – a town bench outside an Eastbourne bank.

It wasn’t too far from his usual haunt outside McDonald’s on Terminus Road or the grassy knoll across from Eastbourne train station. You couldn’t help but feel slightly nervous when first approaching the man. Not so much because of his large build or rugged appearance, but nerves born from the fact that he is a prominent character in Eastbourne culture. No matter how ridiculous it may seem to many, this individual is a local celebrity.

When asked for 5 minutes of his time, the man known by very few, if not no one, simply grinned and opened up to us. It was as if he had been craving for someone to talk to for a very long time.

It quickly became apparent that he was a lonely figure. Despite having nearly 2200 online fans and being something of a phenomenon, it’s something he is ill aware of.

“Nope. Not in touch with any friends. Or family.” He paused and looked deep into the distance. He sat with an iron like face, but the tone in which he spoke told another story. He was quick to dismiss any connection with family or friends and was reluctant to talk further into the matter.

As he continues to speak, you feel further humbled by his story.

What was uncovered though was his true identity. Various rumours had been circulating and bubbling as to what his real name was, so it was something we felt needed to be known.

“Alan Walker. And I’m 52.” Big Dave suddenly had a name.

By the time the minor details had been told and the buzz of talking to a local celebrity like this had slowed, you began to pick up the finer details of Mr Walker’s appearance that brings you crashing back down to earth. While he often talked with an intonation that would indicate he’s a man satisfied with the life he leads, other signs would point otherwise.

While gently laughing he stubs out a cigarette on the floor with his hands and your eyes couldn’t fail to be drawn to the tips of his fingers. An orange dew circulated each fingernail and an unpleasant aroma began to stand out.

This serves as a reminder that although this man has been used as a figure of fun and novelty by thousands, he’s simply no more than any other homeless adult. One struggling for life on a day to day basis. A man with a quality of life that descends so many. here are speckles of dirt that shine in between each strand of a greying beard, and only two handfuls of teeth in a mouth that you would assume fails to put away the three meals a day so many do.

As he continues to speak, you feel further humbled by his story. He’s a man claiming to have lived rough his whole life.

“I was born on the streets and always lived like this. Not much more to add than that really.”

“I can’t get in to hostels either because of my age – I’m told that I’m too old.”

For this reason he continues to sleep rough each and every night and wake up day after day in the same places, facing the same challenges.

He’s still someone you can’t help but admire and feel endeared towards. For all the setbacks in life that he’s faced, he was approachable and open enough to speak to three students and answer questions while others would have turned us away. His spirit has not been broken by the troubles that have ravaged a life the majority of people would not be able to face.

For a 52 year old man, living in the worst of conditions, unable to enjoy many of the pleasures we so often take for granted, he is remarkably optimistic. He spends scarce time discussing low points, instead very openly talking about what he does enjoy.

“I’ve always lived in Eastbourne. I often visit Brighton too, but yeah…Eastbourne is my favourite! You get to meet some great people in this town.”

A laugh follows that is fitting to the man, but sadly not the situation. Alan Walker may not really be Father Christmas, but he has a heart and spirit that is enough to fool anyone.

In March 2011, Alan Walker sadly passed away. In the days that followed his true story began to emerge. He was a loving and devoted father to a large family, that had once worked as a respected male nurse in Worthing, West Sussex. While it now appears that the details we were told by Mr Walker weren’t wholly accurate – the true message behind this story still stands tall today; that Alan was an open, friendly and well respected member of the Eastbourne community that truly made a larger mark on this town than ever could have been expected.

Join Big Dave’s Facebook group online.

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Corey Pellatt
22-year-old editor of SQ Magazine and Media Studies student at the University of Sussex. Freelance writer for clients including BHAFC.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Big-Dave/135232859830741 Join his offical site!

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