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Sonya Doran, 54, Great Western Arcade, Birmingham

Sonya loves knitting and sewing and her main ambition for this year is to decorate her flat – with a little help from family and friends

I’ve been selling the magazine at Great Western Arcade for 10 years now, on and off. I got involved because I was homeless years ago in Birmingham and London. I came to The Big Issue so that doesn’t happen again. I was in a bad relationship while I was homeless and I suffered domestic violence at the hands of my ex-boyfriend. He battered me and nearly killed me. I was taken into hospital and then I thought I would be going back out onto the streets again but they got me a flat. I’m just hoping now that things don’t go wrong again and then I end up back out here. 

I like doing The Big Issue. The staff are kind and all the people who buy the magazines are very polite. You get the odd customer who isn’t, but on the whole most are. My customers tell me I’m a popular woman, always happy and smiley and very polite, and I think I take after my family in that. They always taught me to be polite and always say please and thank you. It helps me to sell the magazine too. 

I like having a chat while I’m on my pitch. And for Christmas I got a lot of presents, some on my birthday. They get me deodorant and things like that and send me cards. I try to send them cards too. It’s nice to be nice back. I’m glad I got involved with The Big Issue, I think it is a good thing for people who need it. If I hadn’t done this I probably would have got myself into trouble by now, mixing with the wrong people. 

I missed it when I couldn’t sell the magazine during the pandemic. Being stuck indoors was like being stuck in a circular prison. The shopping vouchers from The Big Issue helped me, they got me some food in and things like that.  

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I like knitting and sewing when I’m not on my pitch. I’m making a blanket at the moment with 50 stitches. I’ve not finished yet, but I’m getting the patches together and I’ve got a bit more knitting to do. It keeps me occupied and stops me getting anxious. It’s there to calm me down when I look a bit lost. I suffer from anxiety and depression and I also have learning difficulties 

My aim for 2022 is to start decorating my flat. I’ve already painted it with the help of family. I’m not doing it all myself, if I was I’d be worried. Something would most probably fall off and I’d get paint all over me if I did it myself. The Big Issue have been really good to me while I try and make the flat a nice place to live. They bought me a new bed and a new mattress, as well as some net curtains, through the vendor support fund because the bed I had was broken. 

I’m trying to get more people involved in The Big Issue. Trying to get more people to come and sell the magazine because I believe it is a good thing. I know a lot of the vendors around Birmingham and they’re good people. 

It’s like a little community. I was really close friends with Bubble (Birmingham Snow Hill station vendor Karl Lamsdale, who died aged 54 in April last year). He was the best bloke and he was always someone to talk to. It was really upsetting when I found out he was gone, I had known him for a long time and sold the magazine at the same time as he did. 

Thank you to all the people who buy the magazine. Without it, I don’t know how we’d get anywhere. 

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Great Western Arcade, Birmingham, UK

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