Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m 46 and I’ve sold Big Issue North since October 2019. Before that I sold the Big Issue in London, which is where I am from originally. I had a pitch in the West End near Oxford Street and I sold there for about10 years. I moved up from London to be nearer my kids but after I’d been up here for a few years they ended up moving back to London with their mum. I stayed up here. I like it in Manchester – it’s not as busy as London and the people are friendlier.
Why did you first start selling street papers?
I had a relationship breakdown and I ended up on the streets. Being on the streets in London was a bit scary. When I came to Manchester, I ended up in a hostel for quite a while but then I got a flat a couple of years ago, which was amazing although, of course, having your own flat has problems of its own.
Lately I’ve had a real problem with my gas and electric. I switched to a pre-payment meter late last year. Before that, I was paying monthly and when they started this scheme to help people with their bills, they just credited my account. When I moved to a pre-payment meter, I was supposed to get vouchers to help with the fuel prices, but I haven’t received a penny. I’ve been on the phone to them and they keep saying that the vouchers are on their way but so far nothing. I’ve got two separate meters, one for electric and one for gas, but I’ve heard that British Gas will only allow you to use the vouchers on electric. That’s crazy because it’s the gas that I use to keep warm. I can take care of the electric on a weekly basis, but I can’t afford to put the central heating on at all.
What did you do over Christmas and New Year?
I went back to London to see my kids for Christmas. Of course I went by coach. It’s a lot cheaper than the trains. I was back up in Manchester for New Year.
How was 2022 for you?
Anything and everything happened – the Queen dying, the war in Ukraine, and all that mad stuff in politics. Let’s hope for a better year in 2023! For me, well I’ve been plodding along steadily. It hasn’t been spectacular sales wise. Sales are down. People are struggling themselves and they can’t always afford to buy the magazine now. I’ve seen it for myself. People who would normally buy Big Issue North every week now only get it a couple of times a month. It’s also very quiet on my pitch because I sell near the station and there have been loads of train strikes. And people are just staying away from using the trains anyway because they are so unreliable at the moment. When there are no trains, I lose a day’s work. And even when the trains are running it’s really quiet. Even my busiest weeks have been quieter than they normally would be.
And what are your plans for 2023?
I don’t know – still plod along. Hopefully I will get to do some courses. I’d love to do a health and social care course because I have worked in that in the past. It’s getting the funding to do it though – that’s the hard part.
Do you have a message for your customers?
Thanks for all your support last year. I hope you had a good Christmas and I look forward to seeing you all again in the coming year.