Keith,
Manchester city centre

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You stopped selling Big Issue North for a while. How long have you been back for?
I came back to sell the magazine just before Christmas to make some money. It’s also boring as hell not working and I like selling the magazine. I enjoy being out and about and doing something, meeting all kinds of people.

‘I would do something in computers or electronics if I could.’

How old are you?
I’m 51 this year. When you’re 20 you think 50 is like an old man, but then you realise it’s not that old, but still, you’re on your way, aren’t you? None of us are going to live forever. As I was getting to 50 I realised I needed to sort my life out. That’s when I stopped selling Big Issue North, got a private flat, and started doing a bit of labouring here and there. The problem is there’s no work out there, especially if you have a criminal record like me. And at least with Big Issue North I know that I’ve got work, and it’s an honest day’s work as well. 

If you could do anything, what would you do?
I would do something in computers or electronics if I could. It’s interesting, how it all works. I’ve done some courses but it’s hard to get proper training because there’s no money about for adult learning these days. And if you want to go to college or university, it costs money. And if you haven’t got it, you can’t do it. It is a bit disheartening. You want to move on and get a different job where you’ve got that job security and you can always pay your bills and stuff. Even though you have turned your life around, having a criminal conviction still goes against you and that’s a real downer. A lot of people won’t give you a second chance. 

What was your childhood like?
My childhood was fine. Top mum. Top dad. They were good parents and they never gave up on me. My dad was a rugby player and a labourer. He was run over and killed in 2006. That was hard. It was a couple of months before his 60th birthday. 

You have been clean for years now, but what led you to first use drugs?
Just messing about with mates and having a laugh and thinking it was funny. You smoke a little bit of heroin and, before you know it, you’re doing it 24/7. Going out making money, doing drugs, and that’s it. You get stuck in a loop and life is just passing you by. It took me a long time to sort myself out. The thing is you have got to want to do it yourself. There’s no point people saying to you you’ve got to come off drugs and do this and that, because you are not going to do it until you want to. 

What do you hope for in the future?
Job security, a nice place to live and my health, of course. Plus I’d like to live back near my family in Doncaster again. I visited them for Christmas and it was brilliant, but there was also a bit of heartache because I realised that my nephew and nieces are all growing up so fast and I only see them every so often. I feel like I’m missing out on it. I’d love to move back over there but I’ve got a flat here in Manchester and there’s no point giving that up to move over there and end up being homeless again. At least I’ve got a safe haven here and a bit of structure. 

What makes you happy?
Knowing that I am moving forward, that I’ve grown up and I’m not being a bleeding idiot.

Do you have a message for your customers?
Thank you for your support. I’ve met some really decent people during the time that I’ve been selling the magazine and it’s good to see them again.

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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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