Nick, Sheffield city centre

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How long have you sold the magazine for?
I’ve been selling the magazine for about seven years or so. Doing it is hard. The amount of beggars is horrendous. They come and sit near your pitch and then you have no chance of selling the magazine. I think people see beggars and people who sell Big Issue North as the same thing and we need to tell them that it’s different. 

‘I’ve just got a generator and I hope to get lights on soon’

You live in a New Age Traveller community. Tell us about that.
I have lived in this particular community for about six years or so now. We were evicted from our old site in Sheffield last year and we’re currently parked up on a temporary site near the River Don. We’re lucky that we haven’t had an eviction notice yet. The council started talking about it straight away. I don’t know where we are going to end up. My caravan’s a mess because I need to tidy up. I don’t have electric at the moment but I’ve just got a generator and I’m hoping to get lights on soon, so I’m not trying to see by candlelight. 

Why did you start travelling?
I’ve been doing it on and off since the late 1980s. I was living in Hulme, in the Crescents. There were some good parties. And the same kind of people, hippies and punks, who are part of the new age travelling community. I started going to free festivals. And then I bought a truck for £500 and I lived in it. That’s how I got started. The floor of the cab was rotten and you could see the road through it. The coppers used to pull me over in it all the time.

Do you have any plans for the future?
I could do with some help getting back to university. I’d like to do town planning. I know lots about trees and stuff. I used to inspect trees for a living and I’ve got a masters in forestry and a degree in land management. I would like to get a proper job again one day.

What stops you moving into other work?
Drugs. I lost a child when I was in my twenties. That caused the first drug problem. I got over that, got away from it, but then I got mixed up in gangs and I was nearly killed. I have been to rehab before. My parents got me in to one. I think they paid for me though they never said that they did. Rehab is there to reintroduce you to life, to give you confidence. If you talk to users and find out what has happened to them – the things that they have been through – those things knock the hell out of you. Rehab is also about structuring your life again. Get up and have breakfast. Get into a routine. But of course getting into a routine can be tediously boring to be honest. But that’s life: facing up to the things that you have to do. 

Tell us about your love for trees.
Trees keep us alive. Around our current campsite there are a lot of birch trees. Did you know they used to use bark from birch trees to write on? Of course everyone is talking about tree planting now. They should get drones over moorlands and drop seeds over them in a massive way.

Tell us about your dogs.
I have two. One is seven and the other 12. Father Ted and Father Dougal. They are good friends and can’t be separated. They mean the world to me. 

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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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