News

How Norwich vendor Jim Hannah bear mascot connects him with his customers

Manuel, a teddy bear knitted for Jim by one of his customers, spends every day on Jim's tabard except when customers take him on their holidays. It's a small but vital connection that helps keep Jim sober

Vendor, Jim hannah

Vendor, Jim Hannah

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.

IMG_0317.JPG
Manuel's jetsetting lifestyle takes him far from Norwich but does wonders for Jim's relationship with his regulars

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.”

Manuel Rome Jim Hannah
Manuel made it to Rome thanks to Jim's loyal supporter Danny Adams

Manuel certainly gets in a few hairy situations on his hols. Sharon and Geoff Bareham were joined by Manuel for their trip to Monte Gordo on The Algarve where they shared shots of the bear at the bar and on the beach.

Sharon tells The Big Issue: “Jim’s built up a really big client base and it is part of him now, it’s something we’re all used to seeing Manuel. For the lady to crochet and knit the bear for him just shows how much the people he has built up a relationship with care about him.”

Danny Adams would agree. The Salvation Army worker took Manuel with him to Rome where the bear visited The Colosseum. “Jim’s absolutely brilliant, he’s built up a rapport with everyone he meets and the fact that someone wanted to knit him a bear in the first place says it all.”

IMG_0350.JPG
Manuel's travels are unique sign of how close Jim is to his customers. It has been vital to his recovery from alcoholism

Jim was so chuffed with his customers’ efforts that he enlisted their help to create a calendar for Barbara to say thank you.

And the banter about Manuel has given Jim a unique relationship with his customers that has helped keep him sober.

Jim said: “It sounds stupid but it all started for laugh. And it’s nice when people do wee stupid things like that.”

Images: Danny Adams/Geoff and Sharon Bareham

Support the Big Issue

For over 30 years, the Big Issue has been committed to ending poverty in the UK. In 2024, our work is needed more than ever. Find out how you can support the Big Issue today.
Vendor martin Hawes

Recommended for you

View all
Rewilding is bringing creatures great and small back to UK – but a lack of funds is holding it back
Rewilding

Rewilding is bringing creatures great and small back to UK – but a lack of funds is holding it back

FOSO is the new FOMO: Why are we so afraid to switch off and be out of office?
Work

FOSO is the new FOMO: Why are we so afraid to switch off and be out of office?

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'
dwp pip/ disabled person
Disability benefits

Almost no recorded cases of disability benefit fraud despite DWP crackdown: 'PIP fraud is a non-issue'

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP
dwp jobcentre
Department for Work and Pensions

Deaf man awarded £50,000 after 'oppressive' and 'discriminatory' treatment by DWP

Most Popular

Read All
Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits
Renters: A mortgage lender's window advertising buy-to-let products
1.

Renters pay their landlords' buy-to-let mortgages, so they should get a share of the profits

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal
Pound coins on a piece of paper with disability living allowancve
2.

Exclusive: Disabled people are 'set up to fail' by the DWP in target-driven disability benefits system, whistleblowers reveal

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over
next dwp cost of living payment 2023
3.

Cost of living payment 2024: Where to get help now the scheme is over

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know
4.

Strike dates 2023: From train drivers to NHS doctors, here are the dates to know