Tommy, King Street, Manchester

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Who took this photo of you?
It was done by an Italian guy. I spotted him and his camera – it was a Leica. I know the guy who owns the Leica camera shop and I can spot that kind of camera. I like them that much I’d have one myself and I’m not that into doing photos. I’d soon get into it if I had a camera like that! Anyway, I don’t know who the Italian bloke was, but he was someone on holiday. He was made up with the picture. He came to my pitch later and gave me the photograph.

What’s your pitch like?
It’s a great pitch. I know people by name who work in the shops and offices nearby. They’ve become proper friends.

What jobs have you done in the past?
I used to do printing. I used to print for the council. After that I went working on a building site. I passed all my City and Guilds qualifications straight away. I’m one of those who gets stuck in.

Why did you start selling Big Issue North?
I was foolish – messing about with drugs and that. Everyone makes mistakes, you know what I mean, but you learn by them. I’m doing pretty well at the minute. I’m due to start back at RAMP, a drugs service in Manchester, and I’ve just increased my methadone intake so I don’t have to touch any bad things now.

What started you on drugs?
Following others – with the gear. I tried it once and I was foolish. If I could rewind it a bit, I would. It’s hard because you are putting pressure on other people when you are messing about with crap like that. And you don’t want to. But some people look at you like it’s all your problem, and it is in a way, but if they just keep going on at you, then it’s not helping you, is it? Like if it’s a case of: “Get yourself out of it – I’m not helping you.” Well, everyone needs a little bit of help or someone to talk to.

Where are you living at the moment?
I’m sharing a house with another vendor. We’ve shared for ages. We want to get out of where we are. We’re in a housing association place but there are a lot of repairs that need doing. We’ve had to eat out a lot recently because we had a leak in the kitchen. We’re going to try and have a good Christmas out selling the magazine and then try and get a deposit for a private landlord.

What do you want in the future?
I don’t want too much out of life – just being comfortable.

What makes you happy?
Going to work everyday.

What makes you sad?
People struggling. We need people running this country who are from the bottom. Look at the poverty that is still around in the world. That shouldn’t be there now.

Interview: Christian Lisseman

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