Nick, High Street, Sheffield

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 50 years old and originally from Bury. This is my second time selling Big Issue North and I have been doing it about four or five years.

Where are you living at the moment?
I live in a caravan on a new age traveller site in a former ski village in Sheffield. The land is owned by the council and they are trying to evict us. I’m not sure what’s going on. I’ve been there for over five years but I think the camp itself has been around for longer than that. There’s a chance that people could end up homeless if they do evict us. 

Has the council offered you anywhere else to go?
They gave us a list of potential sites within Sheffield but they already said that there were objections for us moving on to them. A lot of the places they have suggested aren’t suitable – just open spaces in the middle of estates – and there’s no way you could live there because you would be right next to flats and you’d have trouble with local residents. I’ve been trying to get a council flat for the last year or two but, because of the dogs, it’s been quite hard and I have a terrible memory, so I find it hard to keep appointments and things like that.

Why did you start selling the magazine?
I started just after I got made redundant. It keeps me occupied, keeps me talking to people. I suffer a lot from depression and so coming out and doing something helps keep me going. 

What job did you do before?
I used to inspect trees for a living. I’ve got a Masters in forestry, a degree in land management and the equivalent of a degree as a forest schools leader. So I’m really well qualified, but it’s hard to get work. I think I’ve been to an interview with every last council in the area and I’m not very good with interviews, I get very stressed out and nervous.

The trees in Sheffield are in the news at the moment, aren’t they?
I used to work at Sheffield Council, and all these issues go back years. There was work done then to try and get the trees worked on or removed, but the plan was to do it over time, in a strategic manner, so there would be just a small amount of trees removed each year with the locals’ consent, so their views could be taken into consideration.

So what happened?
This time the company Amey have taken over the contract and suddenly found themselves with huge bills for all the work they have to do, such as pollarding – cutting back – the trees on a regular cycle. Now they want to fell them en masse, thousands in one go, which is a huge amount and will make a big impact on the street scene. They are talking about replacing them with small to medium sized trees, which won’t take as much maintenance. So it’s just a money saving exercise.

What do you hope for in the future?
To get back working. I’m applying for four jobs in London. A lot of these jobs are far away, but I would be prepared to travel anywhere really. 

Tell us about your dogs.
There’s Dougal, who is five or six, and Teddy, who is about nine or ten. I was only supposed to be looking after Dougal for a bit but Teddy took him on like he was his own son and now they are the best of friends so I can’t separate them. They are my world – they keep me going every day and they keep me sane.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you very much for all the help you have given me over the years.

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Big Issue North during the Coronavirus pandemic

We have taken the difficult decision to tell our vendors that they cannot sell Big Issue North on the streets during the Coronavirus pandemic, for the safety of the public and themselves.

This is a serious emergency for our vendors, and they need your help. There are three things you can do right now to help them get through this impossibly tough period.

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