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An artist's portraits of Norwich Big Issue vendors help his depression

Christopher Nairne was at his lowest ebb when vendor Shane Lakey inspired him to start drawing sellers around the city in his own unique style

Christopher Nairne vendor portraits

Selling The Big Issue can combat loneliness, which is why chatting to your vendor can make all the difference. But it works the other way too, as a cartoonist in Norwich found out recently.

Christopher Nairne, who draws caricatures of people for private commissions, was struggling with depression and anxiety to such a degree that he was left feeling suicidal last December.

That’s when a chat with Big Issue vendor Shane changed everything – and also inspired a unique collection of cartoons.

There’s only so many times you can walk past someone before you decide to either say hello

“For a few days we seemed to cross paths so often it became awkward not to at least smile and nod, and there’s only so many times you can walk past someone before you decide to either say hello or treat them like part of the scenery,” he said.

“It bought me out of my trance. Our chats cheered me up and bought me out of my shell. I wanted to give him something special to say thank you so I did one of my portraits of him, and a few days later he came up to me and gave me some drawing stuff he’d had for a while and thought I might put to good use.”

Christopher has now gone on to give four other vendors the ‘toon treatment and is looking into using his designs to raise funds to help The Big Issue Foundation, our charitable arm, just as they have helped him.

“Coming up to The Big Issue, introducing myself and asking for a meeting would have been impossible a few months ago,” he said. “I didn’t even have the confidence to buy a Big Issue at one point. 

“What I’m trying to say is the vendors do so much more than sell magazines! I think a lot of people don’t realise what an asset they are to the community and to The Big Issue.”

And you can see what the vendors made of his efforts in the gallery above.

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