A former Big Issue vendor who slept rough on the streets of Cambridge has made national headlines after earning a “dream” place at the city’s world-famous university.
Geoff Edwards, 52, is now studying English Literature at Hughes Hall, the oldest Cambridge college for mature undergraduates. He secured his spot after acing his Access to Higher Education course at Cambridge Regional College.
“It is the first thing I am proud of in my life,” a delighted Geoff said.
Selling The Big Issue helped and gave me back a bit of self-respect
Originally from Liverpool, Geoff left school with two O-levels and moved to Cambridge after struggling to find work as a field labourer.
He fell into homelessness some years ago and, in his darkest times, found solace in books – from Jack Kerouac to William Burroughs. “It’s a brilliant way of just escaping, really,” he said.
It was selling The Big Issue, he says, that helped him back to his feet – and re-ignited his self-respect. “I was homeless for a long time after that and I was isolated and getting anxious,” Geoff explained.
“Eventually I started selling the Big Issue on the streets of Cambridge, which helped and gave me back a bit of self-respect. I knew I was in a rut and I decided to do something different with my life.”
Geoff added: “Going to Cambridge University was a dream of mine, studying something I really love – I’m still getting used to the idea. This is what I have always wanted to do, but no-one in my family had been to university so I didn’t even consider it.
“I didn’t think of applying to Cambridge. I didn’t think Cambridge University would take someone like me, but my tutor encouraged me to apply. Cambridge is a big step up but I am looking forward to pushing myself. I can’t believe what I’ve achieved.”
This is the first thing I am proud of in my life
Lord John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, said: “This is just the most wonderful and uplifting news. All of here us at The Big Issue are so pleased to hear of Geoff’s success and to hear that selling the magazine offered him the hand up he needed at a very difficult time.
“It really goes to show that, given the opportunity to work their own way out of poverty, the most vulnerable people in society can realise their true potential.”
Geoff’s achievements have also been recognised by the Cambridge Access Validating Agency, which has awarded him an Outstanding Academic Achievement award. He will be presented with the award at a special ceremony next month.
Debbie Goodrick, a Cambridge Regional College tutor, said: “We are absolutely delighted that Geoff’s hard work and outstanding achievement has been recognised by a CAVA award. I am very, very proud of Geoff.
“Geoff has had an incredible journey to where he is now, and I have no doubt that he will flourish at Cambridge.”
— Paul McNamee (@PauldMcNamee) November 8, 2017