I’ve been selling the magazine since 2008 and since coming back after lockdown it has been like starting again.
At the moment a lot of my regular customers are still working from home rather than in central London so they don’t come out any more. It’s about one third of the number of people who would normally be here.
I’m really missing them, although I’ve managed to see one or two of my usual customers, for the rest I have seen nothing. I’ve been barely selling any magazines – it’s been even worse than when I start selling the magazine.
So I am working really hard to bring in new customers and that means trying out different pitches. I see the one or two regulars on my pitch at White City at the start of the week and then that’s it until that day comes again the next week.
In between I have to move on to try to find more customers. I’ve been selling the magazine in Angel and Hackney and a few other places.
I don’t think that people trust the government because they are not following up on the test and trace stuff, I don’t think people believe that the government has the situation under control so they are staying away, and that is making it quiet for me. I don’t blame people really, they have to look after themselves, especially if the government don’t do it for them.
Like a lot of people I’ve been keeping a much closer eye on the news – I was out selling most of the time so I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but the lockdown has changed all that.
I managed to get a flat in 2012 in Hackney and I spent a lot of time there over the lockdown. It was great at first because normally I just get the weekend off and I work the rest of the time without a holiday. So I was grateful for the first few days off – but then I got four months of it!
It wasn’t too desperate on the financial side because of the help from The Big Issue. Not only did they help me with cash and supermarket vouchers, they also helped me to claim my pension. Jerri [Corbett, a Big Issue sales and outreach worker in London] was like my key worker – anything I had to do on the computer, she did for me. She helped me get my pension, which I was eligible to collect from 2019, but I thought that the longer I left it the more beneficial it would be for me. Because I couldn’t sell the magazine and I wasn’t earning anything, Jerri helped me to apply. Whenever I need to use the computer, the people in The Big Issue office are there for me.
Church is such a big part of my life and I used to go to the Frampton Park Baptist Church in Hackney every Sunday, but it is still closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The good thing about going to church to praise God is that, really, you can do that anywhere. It is just a building at the end of the day. Look at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park – artists from all over the world used to come there but now it’s a church. I have been able to keep in touch with some people from the church even without services. It’s not about the building – it’s what’s inside the heart that counts.
I’m still working hard on my pitch and I’m still playing music just like I did before the lockdown. After I returned to selling a woman asked me for a picture and I asked her why. She replied: “It’s because you make The Big Issue look good.” It was really nice!