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Andy Gilbody, 46, outside Central Library, Plymouth

“Because of the tough times I’ve been through myself, I feel I have a lot to offer other people”

I have a very diverse group of customers. It’s a garrison town, so you have military families, you have a big student contingent, and you have tourists here to see the National Marine Aquarium and the Mayflower Steps. I get on well with all my customers, and I work hard selling six days a week. This is my livelihood at the moment, so I take it very seriously as a job.

I started selling the magazine at the beginning of January. I’d been through a very tough period. I split up with my partner at Christmas. It hit me hard, as you’d expect – it wasn’t a very happy time. I was also out of work where I was in Suffolk, so I decided to pack up and come to Plymouth and try my luck here.

I arrived in the city with a change of clothes and sleeping bag and not much else

I arrived in the city with a change of clothes and sleeping bag and not much else. I’d lived here about a decade ago, so I knew the place well and had a lot of affection for it. It’s a lovely city, and I decided this was where I would piece things back together. I started selling The Big Issue and within a few months I was able to save a deposit to rent a small flat.

It’s been going well there, it’s a pretty nice place, although I share a bathroom with another tenant. I’m getting back on my feet, and I’m looking at what might be possible in the future.

I was a qualified support worker in Suffolk, working with adults with learning disabilities and mental health difficulties, but I wasn’t able to continue doing that. Because of the tough times I’ve been through myself, I feel I have a lot to offer other people, perhaps in homelessness support work.

One of the things I used to do was take clients out for bike rides. I really like mountain biking but unfortunately the bike I had broke down and the cost of repair just wasn’t worth it. One of my customers gave me a kiteboard recently. Kiteboarding is like surfboarding where you parachute off the water.

One of my customers gave me a kiteboard recently. I like high-adrenaline sports

It’s a good place for it, here on the south coast. I like high-adrenaline sports, so I’d love to have a few lessons this summer.

There’s plenty to do in Plymouth and plenty for me here to focus on. I’ll keep working hard and hopefully the future brings better things.

My favourite author… Terry Pratchett. My favourite book of his is Going Postal, part of the Discworld series. I think Pratchett captures the sheer diversity of the real world in his own weird alternative universe.

My favourite sport… Formula One. I like to back the British drivers in a big way – Jenson Button, David Coulthard and Lewis Hamilton.

On my pitch… I’m at Central Library, Mayflower Street, Plymouth, six days a week from 10am to 5pm

Photo: Rob Nankivell

Plymouth Central Library, Plymouth, United Kingdom

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