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'My name is Ann. I want to tell you how The Big Issue saved me'

This week's cover feature focuses on Ann Warke, a Big Issue vendor in Exeter. Through augmented reality, we bring her remarkable story off the pages

In October 2018 we featured Exeter Big Issue vendor Ann Warke in our weekly My Pitch section, where she explained how and why she started selling The Big Issue.

This week, we’re chuffed to place Ann on the cover of the magazine. Why? Her story is important, and needs to be told. Across Britain, the Universal Credit rollout is pushing families into poverty. Ann’s story is a prime example of that reality. It is an important story that we felt was worth repeating.

So we have done just that in this week’s My Pitch section. Ann is back again, but this time in video. We caught up with her just before Christmas to film her story and bring it to life like never before in augmented reality.

Here is Ann’s story in her own words:

I appeared on the My Pitch page back in October telling the story of how I’d lost my job and had to go on to Universal Credit. In the eight weeks that it took them to sort out my claim things spiralled out of control and I went into debt with everything – rent, electricity, everything you can think of. I think it’s absolutely the cruellest thing that they’ve done to people.

I got a really good comeback off my interview in the magazine. It had its own little rewards – from other Big Issue vendors and a few people who came up to me to say they’d seen my story, which was nice. Then after that I was interviewed by ITV and what came out of that was that a lot of people didn’t know that I buy my magazines before I sell them on. People have come up and said, ‘Well done, we didn’t know that about The Big Issue’.

I was one of the first people in Newton Abbot to go on Universal Credit and it screwed my life right over. Still to this day I’m in debt that I cannot ever get out of. Even if I worked another job I’d still struggle trying to get out of the debt that they put me into. Since I was last in the magazine nothing has changed around that unfortunately. My debt’s still the same. But being out here and selling The Big Issue has helped me. I have anxiety and depression but being out here speaking to people on a daily basis, you realise that a lot of people have the same type of problem. You’re not in that boat on your own. There are lots of people and they’re willing to have a chat. Once you’ve chatted to people it does make you feel better. It makes them feel better as well.

My pitch is here in Exeter, and everybody’s lovely. The shopkeepers and the other vendors as well, they’re fabulous people. You get to become part of the same community as these people who are in similar circumstances to you. They’re willing to be there to help you, to talk to you if you’ve got any woes. They’re definitely there to back you up.

I wanted to keep selling the magazine over Christmas while I was getting myself back together again. And I am getting myself back together. That’s all thanks to The Big Issue. It saved me from starving, basically. You don’t get to save up to go on a Caribbean holiday, but you do get to eat. Afterwards I don’t know what’s going to happen, I’ll have to wait and see. It’s not a huge amount of money that I’m earning but it lets me eat every day and I can have my heating on in winter. Some days are better than others and at Christmas I was able to buy a couple of presents for my grandchildren. I was chuffed to bits with that.

Read the full article in this week's Big Issue.
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