For Norwich vendor Jim Hannah, the lockdown that took him away from his customers has been particularly hard to bear.
The Scot, originally from Hamilton, started selling the magazine eight years ago as part of his efforts to give up drinking. He is now eight years sober and he puts that down to working on his Dove Street pitch and the unique relationship that he shares with his customers.
That’s typified by Manuel, a Big-Issue-tabard-wearing teddy bear knitted for Jim by one of his customers who now takes pride of place as the vendor’s mascot, perched on his tabard.
Customers take turns to take the bear, named after the Fawlty Towers played by Andrew Sachs, on holiday and share souvenir snaps with Jim, 61.
Vendor Jim said: “It’s important to me. This is what The Big Issue is all about for me – the communication. It’s the main reason why I started selling the magazine when I sobered up. I’d been stuck in my shell while I was drinking and when I sobered up I was quiet. But doing this job you have no other choice but to talk to people.
“I’m eight years sober now and the job has kept me sober. When I stopped drinking I wanted something to occupy my mind and this has done it.”