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Richard Rowe, 38, Finsbury Park tube station, London

Big Issue vendor Richard Rowe has big plans to work on his art, write a book and save up for a deposit to rent a flat in 2022

I’ve been selling the magazine on and off for four years and I’m so thankful for The Big Issue. I’m out all the time selling the magazine, sometimes I even do 12-hour days. I don’t mind it, it’s earning me money and keeping me busy and I take the odd pit stop in between. Sometimes I don’t make a lot of money and I sit there in a dilemma and think: ‘Do I need a career change?’ But I don’t because I have The Big Issue to support me.

I started selling The Big Issue initially because they were helping me with my art and helping me to get off my feet. I was a very lazy person and I have made mistakes while selling The Big Issue but I’ve been doing it solidly for two years now. I’ve just started selling outside the new part of the station in Finsbury Park, previously I was selling in Angel.

Sometimes Barney joins me on my pitch. He’s a jug – a mix between a Jack Russell and a pug – and I’ve had him for two years, I share him with another vendor. We’ve even made a Big Issue jacket for him to keep him warm. He might be the next Street Cat Bob! If he can do it then so can Barney.

I started my art when I was homeless and out on the street. I like making collages about people’s personalities. Once I’m commissioned I try and follow a person around for a few days so I can ask them questions about themselves.  I’ve been commissioned by Jeremy Corbyn, I’ve done a couple of shops in Camden Passage and I’ve also done my friend’s whole bathroom with it.

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It was The Big Issue that got me back into my art. They used to give me old magazines that I could cut up to make the collages. I even had one on the front cover of the magazine in September last year as part of the vendor takeover of the magazine to mark The Big Issue’s 30th birthday. It was so fun and great to do. I have ADHD and making my art is the only thing that keeps me calm and collected. Now I just want to do more artwork and get more commissions.

I’ve got lots of big plans in life in 2022. I’m writing a book about my life, The Big Issue and what I do. It’s thousands of words already and I’d like to send it off when it’s done to see if I can become a famous author.

I want to be someone better than the person I was. I had a lot of demons to deal with in terms of drugs and stuff like that. The Big Issue is helping me to tackle them. I’ve not been in trouble with the police for a very long time so I’m doing really well on that front. And I’m also on methadone and dealing with my addictions. I’ve also got no flat at the moment, I’m sofa surfing. I want to get a deposit for a flat so I can get my life up and running again.

I would like to dedicate this piece to my flame, my soulmate, my best friend David Gray. He’s another vendor who has taken me under his wing and he has always believed in me and was the first one to actually see my talents.

All I want to do is put one foot in front of the other, do my artwork and keep up a positive attitude.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Finsbury Park Underground Station, Seven Sisters Road, London, UK

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