Joe, Marks and Spencer, Prestwich

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You’re in the 2023 Big Issue North calendar. Tell us a bit about it.*
The calendars are on sale now. I’ve been selling a lot of them, but there are still more available so people can come to me to get them. As part of it, we went to this place to have something to eat. It’s called Escape to Freight Island and it’s near Piccadilly train station in Manchester. It was lovely. It was the first time I’ve ever been there. The food was gorgeous. I had this kebab and I’d never had one like it before. And the burger was amazing. You wouldn’t think there was no meat in it. It was the first time I’d ever eaten a vegetarian burger. 

And would you eat one again?
Definitely. It was better than the beef burgers you buy in the shops. 

How has 2022 been for you?
It’s been all right. Now and again, I suffer from bad depression, and I’ve been up and down a bit again this year. I take medication for it from the doctor and that helps. 

What are the main causes of your depression, do you think?
I had a rough time as a child, and I have a lot of bad memories. But a lot of my depression started when my girlfriend died. And I had seven sisters and one brother once upon a time and now I only have three sisters left. And my mum and dad have both died too. So that all gets me down a lot.  

What do you do to help with your depression?
When it does come, I start cleaning to keep myself busy. Selling the magazine also helps because that gets me out and about talking to people. That really cheers me up, even on a grim day when it’s wet and business is slow.

What are your plans for Christmas?
I’m not sure yet. I live in a bungalow now, sheltered accommodation. I think they are putting a Christmas dinner on for us. I’ve been there for over a year and it’s really nice. The warden comes in a couple of times a week and I feel a lot safer there than I did before, when I lived in a flat on my own. Life feels a bit more settled now.

And what are your plans for 2023?
I don’t know. My New Year’s resolution is to stop smoking though. I’ve been smoking since I was about 16. I started because my dad was giving me a hard time and I just did it. My friends smoked. I was hanging about with the wrong people back then. I’ve tried to give up before and used e-cigarettes and patches, but they never worked. This time, I plan to just stop on the first of January and see how it goes from there. 

Why do you want to stop?
It costs me too much money and I know I have to look after my health these days.

How old are you now?
I’ll be 60 on the 2 December. It’s a big birthday. I don’t know what I’m going to do on the day yet. I’ll just see what happens when the times comes. 

Happy birthday! How do you feel about turning 60?
I’m getting old! Life begins at 40, they say, and now I’m 60, but I know I could have plenty of years left yet. I don’t know what the future holds. I’ll probably stop selling the magazine in about another 60 years!

If you could have anything for your birthday, what would it be?
A house – to own my own house and not have to worry about paying rent ever again. 

When were you happiest?
When I was going to school. I just really liked it. I felt like I was learning something. After that, things were difficult – a lot harder. But starting to sell Big Issue North was also one of the best things that ever happened to me. I love it. I was selling the magazine when it was only 25p for me to buy. So I’ve been selling it for a long time!

Do you have a message for customers?
I want to say thank you to all of them, but I want to give a special mention to Eddie and Audrey. They have helped me out a lot, especially during the lockdown when I had a lot of financial problems. They are customers and friends. I go to church every Sunday with them before I start work. I wouldn’t be here without them.

*Buy your 2023 Big Issue North calendar from vendors or visit

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