Darrin Lavery, Bournemouth Library

Darrin just got a smartphone to process card transactions – which means he won't be missing out on any sales

I was a street beggar back in Dublin, quite a successful one too, but I decided I’d rather do something constructive with my life now. So I’m putting all my efforts into selling The Big Issue. I’ve only been doing it for three months and I absolutely love it, I adore it. I meet so many nice people, so many friendly people. I’ve already got people coming back to me every week, and I’m friendly with the restaurant by my pitch – they call me Paddy the Irishman. 

It was 2011 when I came over here from Ireland. I’d had a heroin problem for seven years, so I came over to get help in a psychiatric hospital. Three years and eight months I spent there and I’ve been medicated ever since. The medication helps me to function as a human being. My mentality is getting better, I’m seeing more friendly faces, people say hello to me all the time. I’m feeling good. 

I want to say thank you to the psychiatric hospital, St Andrew’s in Northampton. They made a man of me and got me all fixed up. I owe my life to them. It’s the only thing that could have helped me after the drugs messed me up. If I could give some advice to my younger self, it would be: don’t have a desire for the wrong things in life, like alcohol and drugs. Don’t go chasing them like I did for 30 years.

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This morning I got my first smartphone, I’ve only had it for three hours! I missed the whole of the pandemic – it started two months after I went inside, and finished right when I came out – but everyone uses cards to pay for things now, don’t they? So The Big Issue got me set up with a smartphone, an O2 account and a Zettle by PayPal so I can process card payments. I was missing out on a lot of sales because people were saying they didn’t have any cash. But now they can buy the magazine from me with their cards, once I’ve figured out how to use it!

I also want to say thank you to The Big Issue for giving me a chance to sell here in Bournemouth. Every Monday I buy a little tin of beer and I sit down and read what’s in the magazine so I have an idea of what to say to the customers. It’s got a lot of interesting books and arts stuff, it’s a very interesting magazine. It’s worth every penny. Selling The Big Issue helped me get on with society, helped me be more vocal, having people trust me and put trust in me with finances. I’m going to develop my life around selling the mag now, I’ll be selling these mags till I drop dead. I reckon I’ve got ’til I’m 83, I don’t know why but that’s how long I think I’ve got.

I’ve been on my own now for the last six months, doing my own thing, making my own friends and getting on with it. I’m currently living in a hostel, it’s one step up from living on the streets but I’m loving it. I’ve got my freedom, no one’s breathing down my neck, and I don’t need to be supported by someone all the time. 

It’s a bit difficult not being able to cook my own food – I have to wait for the soup kitchens to open to get a hot meal, but I’m feeling stronger as a human being. I’ve got no family here in England, but I’ve got four daughters and two sons back in Ireland. In the future, I want to settle down into a nice cottage, a brick cottage in Salthill, this coastal place in Galway, and get myself a little doggy to keep me company. That’s the dream. 

Interview: Evie Breese

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Bournemouth Library, The Triangle, Bournemouth, UK