Big Issue vendor Clive has completed a remarkable turnaround to conquer his alcohol and mental health demons and play a starring role in a community theatre project.
Clive, 55, and his dog Geezer have become local favourites after the vendor purposefully requested to sell the magazine on the pitch outside the Theatre Royal Plymouth.
He was inspired to get involved with the theatre in July 2016 after being offered a ticket to see In My Dreams I Dream I’m Dreaming in a Theatre Royal performing space called The Drum.
Now his journey has come full circle after he has taken on starring role in one of the theatre’s productions himself.
Clive was one of 15 people offering more than 100 personal stories with a slice of cake and a coffee at The Clipper, a former pub turned into a community space by Nudge Community.
Over November 29 and 30, Clive told up to 60 people per day five tales pulled from his darkest times in Words Like Kites. Each contributor’s story was available to be ordered from a menu alongside food or drink.
The production was such a hit that it was featured on local BBC and ITV news last week.
“Each one of mine is named Black something to show that they represent a dark time of anguish in my life and make them stand out, for example, Black Bus is about the time I was knocked over by a bus and waking up to be so happy that I was alive,” he said.
“I really enjoyed it, I was quite nervous for the first table I did and I got quite a lukewarm reaction, but for the second one the reaction was amazing and everyone was clapping and cheering very loudly.
“It was a great thing for me to do and has played a big part in helping me stay sober and improving my mental health. It was a huge mountain to climb for me to beat alcohol addiction, so performing like this was quite a small mountain.”
The Big Issue has inspired the launch of 120 street papers globally, including sister titles in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Taiwan and Korea.
Sara Baldwin, Theatre Royal Plymouth engagement manager, said: “It was a real challenge for Clive and the others.
“We really intended to take a different approach to community theatre and I think people really responded to the story café.
“The project really was an open, beautiful, honest and creative way of telling these stories.”
Clive took on his starring role after getting involved with Project X – a small group within Our Space, the Theatre Royal Plymouth’s creative programme that uses theatre skills classes to build confidence. The initiative welcomes adults with multiple and complex needs and has been a big help to Clive as he has mixed his theatre experiences with selling The Big Issue.
As we enter panto season, Clive will now have face the busiest time of the year in his red tabard.
And the 10-year veteran Big Issue vendor insists that the skills that he has picked up in his work with Project X can be applied to his pitch.
“I’m quite happy to talk about my mental health because I am learning about it as well,” said Clive.
“I think that people are quite happy to come up to a Big Issue vendor to talk about these things because they know that we have been through dark times and can talk about them.
“It’s a busy time at Christmas for me as we go from one matinee a week to six so I’m selling the magazine to 1,300 people a day and it’s not just about shouting that I have a magazine to sell, it’s little chats and the banter. It does take a lot of out of you but I enjoy it. It’s challenging but very rewarding.”