Damian Davies, 35, Boots, Broadmead, Bristol

Big Issue vendor Damian Davies works day and night to sell the magazine in Bristol and has become a hit with theatre-goers

I started the year having to find a new pitch because the Marks & Spencer’s on my old pitch has closed. It’s been there at Broadmead in Bristol for 70 years but now it’s closing completely. I’ve been there for a couple of years and I feel like it’s going to ruin me because I will lose all my regulars, but I’m trying out my new pitch outside Boots.

Luckily I do have another pitch for the evenings, I also do the Hippodrome in the evenings and I’m not just selling the magazine while I’m there, I’m also helping people with advice to tell them where to go. It’s better than just doing The Big Issue because there can be as many as a couple of thousand people there on a night, and there is money in it. On the first night of every new show you can have your picture taken for free and I like doing that, it always looks pretty good. I do like selling the magazine at the Hippodrome, but it was quite hard in December when the panto was on as it was all kids rather than punters.

I’ve been selling the magazine on and off now for a few years and Covid has definitely had an impact, everyone has lost a couple of years. It was hard work generally before Christmas. Not a lot of people wanted to buy the magazine on my pitch because nobody has got any money and a lot of people have lost their job.

I was at least able to do some-thing for Christmas in 2021 because I did nothing in 2020. A mate and I put some money together to pay for a Christmas dinner.

The Big Issue has helped me out a lot at times when I haven’t been able to sell the magazine, the money they gave me was such a big help. It helped me make sure I was getting food, because I don’t get a lot of money. I don’t like begging and I’d much rather be doing The Big Issue than that. I’d much rather be out there selling The Big Issue than anything else really, at least it is some sort of work.

I’ve got a bit of a bad memory after a car crash in 2006. I died three times, I was in a coma and they said I wasn’t going to live. My step-family even came in to say their goodbyes. But I managed to pull through. I’m a lucky man to be alive.

I started selling the magazine initially because I didn’t want to be beg-ging. But then I moved away from Bristol to Weston-super-Mare because I got a job and a flat and a missus, but I lost all that in 2018. After that I came back to Bristol and started selling the magazine again.

I’ve lived in Bristol around eight years overall. I do love it here, most of the time it has lovely people and everyone is so polite. They treat you decently here and it is a lot better than Yeovil, where I’m from. It’s sad that I don’t see some of my regulars anymore, I do miss them.

Recently, I have been trying to get other work. I’ve been applying for a courier job on a bike just to try something different. I’ve always worked hard and I’ve got a CSCS card, a forklift licence, first aid, stores and warehouse experience but because I live in a hostel I can’t work at the moment, because if I do anything over 16 hours I have to pay for my own residence. I can’t afford that.

I’m hoping that 2022 will bring me a place to live, a job and a better life than I have got now.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Boots, Broadmead, Bristol, UK

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