Jeff Knight, 53, The Canteen, Bristol
Unity is everything. We’re one nation after all
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I came to the UK from Jamaica when I was 32 to try to make something of myself. I lived all over before I settled in Bristol – London, Birmingham, Sheffield. When I came to Bristol I realised they’re loving and caring people who look after each other, so I stayed. We’re one nation after all. Unity is everything.
I was broke and begging in Castle Park one day when a policeman stopped me and told me I should sign up for The Big Issue. He told me where to go, and I was badged up from that day. That was 18 years ago and this is my job now. When I first started I was living on the streets and I could sell 50 or 60 magazines in one day. I liked it from the start, I thought it was great and would help me make some money.
Sometimes they can throw you out,
I was on the streets for a couple of years and after that I was sofa-surfing. But people can take advantage of you when you’re staying with them like trying to get you to give them money. Or sometimes they can throw you out.
I’ve got a campervan that the local community crowdfunded for me and that’s where I live now. It’s amazing, wonderful. It’s obviously not the best of the best but it’s got a TV, two solar panels on the top and bunk beds. I’ve got it here in Bristol for now but when the time is right I’ll make a move. There are so many places to explore. I don’t really know yet where I will go but I live on my own so I’m free to do whatever I want.
When I first came here I missed Jamaica but not now. There’s too much killing going on there. I’ve come here and I do what I’ve got to do. I try my best. I’m a celebrity here in Bristol – everybody knows me and loves me. People see me in the morning and then they say, “The day’s just started and everything’s alright.” That’s good.
I treat everybody the same, no matter what you’ve got. Too much money can be a problem, it can make people uncomfortable, but love is the key to everything. That’s my philosophy, it’s just logical to me.
I come from a Christian background and it’s still important to me. Everybody’s religion is important. I know Muslims who fast for Ramadan, and I respect them. Insult no one, that’s a good way to live. Nobody can stop time after all. Respect and love everybody.
Everything I do, I love it. I’m always singing and dancing on my pitch. Bob Marley, Buffalo Soldier. I love music – reggae, R’n’B, hip-hop and jazz. I’m always making moves on my pitch. My customers love it.
I never plan, when you plan things go wrong. But I know I want to keep selling The Big Issue. Otherwise, just take each day as it comes. I’m happy and that’s the key. Life’s short so you’ve got to make the most of it.
The Canteen, Stokes Croft, Bristol, UK