John, Co-op, Earlsdon, Coventry

John is a self-confessed chatterbox, and he loves to listen to music. His favourites are Elvis Presley and Eric Clapton

Things are good on my pitch at the moment. I have plenty of regular customers and they buy me food and drink and ask me about my life and take an interest. I like selling The Big Issue so much, man. I’m happy with this job because I love to chat to people, I’m a chatter. I like to talk a lot, and the job allows me to do that. I like to talk about university and education with people here as there are quite a few students around here. It’s a big issue for me because I have six kids too. 

A lot of my customers love me. I’m famous in the area where I sell The Big Issue. I’ve been doing it for more than 12 years and I try not to ask my customers to buy it. I want people to come up to see me and buy the magazine, so I just let them come to me and I smile at them. Sometimes you need to be patient and the job can be difficult when it is cold. But I would be happy to tell anyone to sell The Big Issue. 

I’m Romanian and I’ve been in the UK for around 18 years, and I like it here. When I first started selling the magazine I didn’t know how to speak English properly. But selling The Big Issue has made me feel good about speaking English well. It’s helped me with a lot of things, but making my speech understandable to my customers has helped me to make friends. Now people love me. People support me. I support them. I help them. I like to do a lot of things for customers like carrying their shopping to the car or helping them to cross over the road. A few years ago I raised money for a little boy called Ben who had cancer. He passed away three or four years ago. Things like that have made me well-known in the area. I feel like part of the community and people tell me I am like part of the old furniture. 

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Usually I sell the magazine until about four o’clock in the afternoon, but I’m building up my time now where I can and I’m on my pitch until about five or six o’clock some days. It’s coming up towards Christmas and I want my customers to see me more. Christmas is a big time for any Big Issue vendor. 

Away from my pitch, I like to listen to music a lot. I listen to Elvis Presley and a lot of Eric Clapton, sometimes I play some R&B songs. But my children keep me pretty busy. My kids are aged 13, 12, eight, seven, four and then I have one who is nearly one year old. I hope everything will get better for them in the future. I hope it’s not going to be the same as it is for me. I wish good things for my kids and for everyone else’s kids. 

Thanks to all the people on the high street of Earlsdon. I would like to thank you all for supporting me and my family, including my wife, who sells the magazine at the University of Warwick. Thanks to The Big Issue, they support us as well. I want to be in the magazine to surprise my customers. They don’t know that I’ll be in it. I want them to open the pages of this magazine and see my face.  

I want to wish a happy Christmas to everyone and a happy new year. I hope you have good health and good prospects for the year ahead. 

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Co-operative Food, Earlsdon Street, Earlsdon, Coventry, UK