Chris, Selfridges, Manchester

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 51 in December and I am from Newton-Le-Willows originally. I’ve been selling Big Issue North for more than 25 years. This is a job to me. I like doing this. 

‘Since selling Big Issue North, I have turned my life around’

Have you had other jobs in the past?
Yes. I’ve always worked, even when I was at school. I had three jobs in one day. I used to get up at five o’clock in the morning, go to the Mother’s Pride bakery in Wigan and help with the orders there, and then go and do a milk round. And then I had an evening paper round. I didn’t really go to school much. I hated it. 

Why?
I got pushed to the back of the class. They didn’t really bother with me there. I left school with no qualifications. but I knew that I was going straight into the local coal pit anyway. That’s what my dad did and I knew I had a job there. 

Do you have any brothers and sisters?
I’ve got two sisters, I am the youngest in the family. One of my sisters lived in Hong Kong. She’s done well. She’s met the Queen and everything. I get on well with my family now. I had some difficult times with them in the past. I’ve always been a bit of a black sheep. I don’t know why. I have some regrets but it’s all good now. Since selling Big Issue North, I have turned my life around. 

How so?
It’s kept me out of bother. It’s the best thing I ever did. It brings your confidence up, selling the magazine. That’s why I want to spread the word about Big Issue North. I want people to know that we don’t get the magazine for free, that we pay £1.25 for it and that it’s for anybody who is low income or has no money and who needs an extra bit. Any person who is skint. You don’t have to be homeless to sell it – it’s for anybody who needs it. 

Has begging increased recently?
Yes, begging has increased a lot. There’s no need for it. This is what Big Issue North is for. I have people who come and sit near my pitch to beg. It winds you up but what can you do? We have a code of conduct that we sign when we start selling the magazine and we have to behave a certain way, so we can’t just kick off. 

Where do you live?
I share a place with a friend. And we also share a dog, called Taz. He’s very well known on my pitch. He’s got his Christmas jumper ready and his scarf. 

What are your hopes for the future?
I want to get a peddler’s licence and a cart so I can sell things – whatever I can get hold of. The rule is, if you have a peddler’s licence you have got to keep moving. You can only stop to serve somebody. Manchester City Council would rather you got a market stall, but I can’t afford that. I’d also like to get a hot dog stand. I did a food and hygiene course with Big Issue North at one time, and a health and safety course. 

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you for supporting me throughout the year. 

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