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Exeter vendor Will's top tips for thriving in lockdown

Until the Covid-19 outbreak, 29-year-old Will sold outside O2 on Exeter High Street. The Big Issue caught up with him to find out what small things he thinks are key to keeping some normalcy during the lockdown

It’s a concerning time for our vendors. The Covid-19 outbreak means they temporarily can’t sell The Big Issue on the streets, and so their livelihoods disappeared virtually overnight. Now, like many of us, they’re getting used to life in lockdown.

Will Adams, a 29-year-old seller from Exeter, has had to apply for Universal Credit to cover his loss of earnings during the public health crisis. He was told he’ll receive £317 a month, which is about half of his usual income.

“It’s a bit upsetting for a couple of reasons,” he told The Big Issue. “Firstly, that I’ve had to apply for it at all. I never thought I’d have to do that again. And with my outgoings it’s going to be a massive struggle on what they are going to give me.

“My rent is £80 a week, which is already a massive chunk of that. I think I’m going to have to apply for housing benefits too.”

Will, who has sold The Big Issue for four and a half years, misses being at work and worries for his customers, many of whom are elderly, as well as the wellbeing of his fellow vendors. But he’s doing what he can to keep busy during lockdown.

When we spoke to Will a couple of years ago, he told us he was a big reader. That’s still the case and he thinks everyone should get lost in a story every now and then during this difficult time.

“Sometimes people don’t want the strain of reading for hours, though” he said. “With everything that’s going on, I’m quite stressed and can’t concentrate on reading. I can’t even concentrate on drawing, which is one of my favourite things to do.

“So if people can afford it, they should download Audible or another audiobook app. There are some amazing books on there.” Will has been listening to some of George R R Martin’s writing, like the Song of Ice and Fire books which were adapted to become Game of Thrones. He says they are “great if you want an escape”.

Will said he is really feeling the loss of routine, and imagines many Big Issue readers feel it too.

“When I was working on my pitch, selling the magazine, I was in a routine each day. I’d get up at 6am, have my coffee and some breakfast, get ready for work, go to work, and so on. That’s out the window now. So it’s really important to keep busy or your wellbeing could suffer.

“If you can establish a routine, if you get anything else done on top of that, it’s a bonus.”

If you’re missing football, Will can empathise. An avid Aston Villa supporter, he said the sport plays a part in comraderie between local vendors too.

“There are a couple of other vendors in Exeter, Sean and Mikey, and us three have quite a lot of banter about the football at the weekends,” he said. “Sean’s a Tottenham fan, Mikey’s an Exeter City fan, obviously I’m a Villa fan. We might put little small bets on for fun.

“It just makes a bit of excitement at the weekend, a bit of banter, and that’s not there any more. It’s not important in the grand scheme of things but I do miss it.”

Will says, with most leagues on hold, watching old games is a surprisingly enjoyable way to get your sports fix. He has been working his way through World Cup games and big cup finals, as well as rewatching a lot of boxing matches.

“I don’t rewatch too many of Villa’s matches though,” he said. “We don’t do very well very often so it gets a bit depressing!”

There are two things that Will thinks are most important for us to prioritise during this lockdown: getting fresh air and exercise and reaching out to family and friends.

“Even if it’s half an hour sat on your doorstep, it makes a difference to your mental wellbeing,” he said. “The other week, there were two days when I did not go out at all. It left me feeling really down in the dumps and tired. It’s no good for anyone.”

He has been touched by how loved ones have crowded around him during this uncertain time – and says the video call is your best friend.

“I’ve been quite surprised this week, so many people have reached out to me and it’s quite humbling,” he said. “Stay in touch with people if you can.

“I want to tell my customers to stay safe, look after yourself and listen to the NHS. I hope to see you all again soon.”

Image: Kevin Cowell

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