Darren, Marks and Spencer, Leeds

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Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 47 and from Rothwell. My dad used to work at Fanny pit – that’s what they called the local coal pit. It shut down in 1983 but I remember my dad working there. My mum and dad are still alive, but they are retired now. It was a hard life, hard work. My dad has vibration white finger, and he lost a finger. The loss of hearing from the noise and coal dust affected his breathing. I also remember the miners’ strike and what Margaret Thatcher did. It was terrible. 

‘I would like to go back to college at some point and re-train’ 

What do you remember about the strike?
My dad on was on strike for years when there was all that trouble. We went through a lot of hardship. He used to go and get meals from the union every day – they would come in those foil trays like you get Chinese in. And my mam used to make us corned beef hash every tea time, and by the end of the strike I swore if I ever had corned beef hash again it would be too soon. Things were very hard. Very frugal. We certainly didn’t get any pocket money for a number of years. 

How long have you been selling Big Issue North for?
I’ve been selling for three months now and only at M&S for two weeks. I enjoy it. I like talking to people and hearing what they have to say. 

Why do you sell the magazine?
My mate introduced me to it actually, and I thought I would give it a go. I had a lot of problems at one point. I had an aneurism and I nearly died and it’s meant that I have some health problems. I was in hospital for a long time and I was out of work for a long time. Selling the magazine is convenient. It helps to think I am back doing something and it’s better than sitting at home.

Where do you live?
I’m stopping at my brother’s at the moment.

What makes you happy?
I have a cat and I like to be around her. She makes me happy. She’s called Millie and she’s about six or seven years old. She’s very affectionate – she always wants to come and sit on my knee. I have had her since she was a kitten.

What makes you sad?
When I have bit of dispute with my family, but luckily it doesn’t happen very often. Family is a big thing for me.

What are your plans for the future?
I would like to go back to college at some point and re-train. I did a YTS when I was young as a fitter engineer in a food factory. We used to replace all kinds of parts on the machines and I enjoyed that. I’d like to go back to that maybe. 

What do you in your spare time?
I don’t have a lot of spare time. I sell the magazine six days a week, sometimes seven. I’m usually quite tired when I finish. I just go home and do my chores, crash out, watch telly. 

Do you have a message for your customers?
I’d like to thank them very much and wish them all the best. 

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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.

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