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Big Issue vendor Damian Davies: ‘The Big Issue’s given me respect for myself’

Bristol Big Issue vendor Damian Davies is delighted to be back on his pitch after ‘missing it like mad’ in lockdown. He explains how selling the magazine transformed how he views himself

Every week in The Big Issue magazine, a Big Issue vendor tells their story in our My Pitch column. This week 34-year-old Damian Davies, who sells the magazine outside M&S in Broadmead, Bristol, every day, explains why selling The Big Issue magazine had removed the need for him to beg and how he dreams of returning to driving a forklift.

It’s been wicked to be back out selling again, I’d missed it like mad. The support from The Big Issue during lockdown was a very big help because I rely on selling the magazine to make money every day. But it wasn’t the same, because it was once a fortnight, whereas I’m out selling the magazine and earning money every day.

It’s very busy at the moment because people are enjoying being back out. I don’t have any family but on my pitch everyone knows me, everyone remembers me. I’ve got a really good spot here. One lady wanted to give me a cuddle the other day because it had been so long but obviously she couldn’t. A lot of my customers are older and they’ve been isolating themselves and very lonely. Just like me.

During lockdown I just played on the computer every day, I’ve got an old PlayStation 2 and I passed the time playing car games and football games. Before that they’d moved me out of a horrible hostel into a nice place. I didn’t ask for help, I do everything myself so they put me in a shared house. It’s lovely but over lockdown I just hung around with the same four people in the same house every day.

It’s very busy at the moment because people are enjoying being back out

The Big Issue has done loads for me. I love doing it, I get to meet a lot of people and everyone knows me in Bristol. I feel part of the community. I normally sell over 50 a week these days. When I got a card reader it helped me to sell more. Everyone wants to use the card reader, it’s changed times. Before lockdown I used to sell at the Hippodrome theatre at night time and work in the daytime at M&S. But there’s no point in going to the Hippodrome now. It was a good pitch when the theatre was on and I didn’t mind working at night time, so I hope it comes back.

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I was on the streets for a while after I split up from my missus and lost my house. I had to move away from Bath and I’ve been in Bristol for about six or seven years now. I used to beg and what stopped me was when I started selling The Big Issue. I haven’t begged since, I don’t need to any more. I’ve got more respect for myself and people give me more respect in return because I’m not sat on the street asking for something for nothing. I’m earning my money instead of begging for it.

We have all suffered over lockdown. I haven’t had my jab yet but I expect I’ll feel better once I’ve had it. I do worry a bit about blood clots on the brain but I expect I’ll still take the vaccine, especially if I ever need it to go back to the pub. I know a lot of people around Bristol and I’ve missed seeing them in the pub.

My hope is that I’ll get into a situation where I’ll be able to go back to work and have a normal life again. I used to work on building sites and I’ve got a forklift licence and a CSCS card. That would be my main ambition for the future but as long as we don’t get locked down again it should all be fine. It’s taken me a long time to get my life back on track but everything’s going good at the moment.

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