Colin, 70 Oxford St (11-1pm), and Home, Tony Wilson Place (1-6pm), Manchester

When he's not winning karaoke competitions or having plays written about him, Colin likes catching up with his regular customers on his two pitches

I’ve been selling The Big Issue in Manchester since 2010. Before that, I sold it for seven years in Birmingham. I moved to Birmingham from Manchester in 2000 to meet up with my dad, who I’d not seen for 23 years, and I ended up staying there. I lived in a Salvation Army hostel for eight or nine months, then found out where the Big Issue office was and signed up. 

I sold in the town centre for about 12 months, then asked about getting an out-of-town pitch, and sold in Acocks Green for about three or four years. I came back to Manchester in 2010 for personal reasons and I’ve sold the magazine here ever since. I’ve had a flat for 14 years now. It’s the longest I’ve ever stayed in one place. I love it. 

I like selling the magazine because it gets me out, meeting people. I’ve made a lot of friends and have a lot of regular customers. I sell about 80 magazines per week. When Noel Gallagher was on the cover, I sold about 100. Oasis are one of my favourite bands – and one of my karaoke choices. I won a X Factor-style karaoke competition with three judges in Birmingham years ago. I got £250, a crate of beer and two free tickets to a New Year’s Eve party. 

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I used to live in Blackpool and I try to visit for a weekend every year. Last year, one of my customers, Glen, raised some money for me to go. Last week, Glen came up to me. I’d told him that I’d put in for a loan for a bed and a cooker, and Glen said to me, “Have you sorted something?” I said, “No, I’m still waiting.” He said, “Well, I’ve got some good news for you. Someone’s donated you a double bed.” It’s supposed to be getting delivered sometime next week.

Then Glen said, “I’ve got some more good news for you. Someone has raised some money to get you a cooker – £250.” It’s unbelievable. It turns out it was through 500 Acts of Kindness, a fundraising group set up by Julie [Hesmondhalgh] who played Hayley Cropper on Coronation Street. She buys The Big Issue off me all the time! I should get the cooker sometime next week. I’m going to [charity shop] St. Ann’s and can probably get one from there for about £100, and I’m going to get a microwave as well for about £50. Glen said, “Well, if there’s anything left over, you can spend that on a trip to Blackpool,” so I’m going next weekend. 

Glen told me that the people who donated want to donate every year so I can go away for a couple of days every summer. I couldn’t believe it. 

I sell between [Manchester Metropolitan University’s] Number 70 and [arts centre] Home. A few years ago, there was a play on at Home and I was a character in it. Julie [Hesmondhalgh]’s husband, Ian Kershaw, came up to me and said, “Are you Colin who works outside Home? I’ve been asked to write a five-minute set for £200. If we go for a coffee and you tell me a bit about your life story for me to use, I’ll give you half of it.” 

I went to the first show, and the guy who played me came on stage with a Big Issue bib on and said, “My name’s Colin. I do the Big Issue outside Home. My favourite food is my mum’s gravy.” He was spot on. I was gobsmacked! 

I know a lot of famous people in Manchester. I chat with Andy Burnham all the time. He buys magazines off me. I’d like to say thank you to my customers for the support over the years. I hope you keep buying the magazine. 

Words: Brontë Schiltz

HOME, Manchester, Tony Wilson Place, Manchester, UK