Darren Goldrick, 46, NatWest, St Andrews Street, Cambridge
I came to The Big Issue in the late Nineties. I was a bit lost in my life and my friend introduced me to it as a way to earn money. I started selling in 1998 and really enjoyed it so I did it for a couple of years. In the mid-2000s I started travelling about selling The Big Issue. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed how much of the country I got to see and how many wonderful people I’ve met. I especially enjoy how many beautiful dogs I’ve met. I don’t have a dog of my own but when I was working in Nottingham they called me the dog whisperer because every single dog in the area gravitated over to see me.
Last month was a bit of a struggle for me because there was an arson attack on my camp. I lost absolutely everything, my passport, driving licence, birth certificate. I was out selling The Big Issue and a young couple who were walking across my field saw the whole thing go up in a fireball and a guy walking off with a sick grin on his face. I felt suicidal when I found out but then very quickly the local community mobilised.
Within 48 hours I had a new tent and new bedding. Lee, The Big Issue co-ordinator, has been amazing. I was on the phone to him for about an hour after it happened, and he contacted charities and got a load of stuff dropped off for me. I’ve never been attacked before, and if it hadn’t been for everyone rallying round I’d have nothing right now. Absolutely nothing. Even people who walk their dogs in the field have been amazing. It shows that they value me being there. I have a lot of people stopping just to sit down and have a brew. I have mental health problems and things like that are a big help. It’s just nice being able to sit and have a nice conversation with someone.
I’ve been living in the field since I moved to Cambridge six months ago. The tent is through choice – it’s done me so much good moving back to this lifestyle. I’ve lost five stone and I feel so much healthier. Cambridge is absolutely stunning – the architecture, the history. I had a crick in my neck for the first week because I was walking around looking up. I’ll stay here until spring and then I’ll go off and travel elsewhere. I have no problems being in the tent over winter. I know how to build my camp, I make sure I’ve got a good fire pit and that I’m well insulated.
I’m a massive Manchester United fan and one of my customers bought me a new radio after the fire so I can keep up. I need the radio, for me it’s my lifeline because I don’t really do internet. I will definitely be voting on December 12. I’m born-and-bred Labour and I’m very, very worried about what Brexit is going to do to the country. If I could add one thing to the manifestos it would be a homelessness bill. There are too many hidden homeless in this country, far too many. There is just not enough social housing. I registered to vote through Wintercomfort, a homeless day centre. They’re fantastic, they provide all the support you could need. That’s where I’ll have my Christmas dinner. I hope all my customers past and present have a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. A massive thank you to you all.
Photo: Onur Pinar
Sidney Street, Cambridge, East Anglia, CB2 3HX, United Kingdom