Tommy, King Street, Manchester

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What have you missed during this time?
I’ve missed all the people – all my fan club. I’m really looked after on my pitch. They’ve always been good to me. I’ve been selling on this pitch for a long time, and on and off I’ve been selling Big Issue North for about 20 years or so. I’ve been coming down to my pitch recently and keeping my eye on it – making sure there are no beggars down there giving the local shops any problems or making a mess. It’s important that people have a good image of Big Issue North vendors now that we are coming back on the streets. 

‘I can’t wait to get back and sell and for things to be okay’

How have you kept busy?
I’ve been watching a lot of YouTube and playing a few games on the consoles. And I’ve had to go over and run a few errands for my mum. She lives in Fallowfield and she’s in her eighties. Her husband, my step-dad, died about a month ago of cancer, so it’s been really tough on her. I’ve been going by bus to help her out and the service has been really good. You have to wear a mask on buses now, otherwise you can get fined. I carry masks about with me all the time anyway. 

How has the centre of Manchester changed during the lockdown?
When this all first started it was weird how quickly it all happened. Suddenly all the shops shut and everything stopped. A lot of shops on King Street have opened again now but it’s had a hard time, this street, and there are a lot of empty units here now. Hopefully it will bounce back nearer Christmas. But people have lost a lot of money.

Will you feel safe selling the magazine?
I’ll feel safe, yeah. To be honest, I think I may have had it in November last year. I was so ill, I was off my feet for weeks. It felt a lot worse than flu. I don’t know if I will be able to use a card machine to sell the magazine. I might get one but to be honest I’m not sure if people will want to use it anyway. I’m not sure that we will be able to get rid of cash altogether. Some people don’t trust cards and only deal in cash. 

Why do you want to still sell the magazine?
I want to keep things stable. I’m currently on methadone and trying to reduce my prescription and I don’t want to do anything that messes things up at the moment. That’s why I keep on doing this rather than trying something else. I’ve got a great key worker at the drugs service and I don’t want to let her down. 

How’s it been financially?
It’s been terrible really. Our freezer went and so we’ve had to make do with coming down and buying fresh stuff every other day, which costs a fortune. I’m speaking to you now and I’m down to my last few pence but I should be able to get some money tomorrow and then next week – hopefully – I can be back selling the magazine, so by the time people read this I might be back on my pitch. I share a place with a friend of mine and he’s like my rock. Luckily he’s good with money and keeps things going. The Big Issue North office have been pretty good too. They’ve helped us out with money from that crisis fund to go towards electric and things like that. But I can’t wait to get back and sell and for things to be okay. I’ll be back as soon as I can get some magazines to sell.

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