James Allerton, 42, outside Wilko, Ilkeston

James Allerton sells the magazine with his dog, Harlow for company. James has just been made captain of his local darts team, and is planning to sit exams this year for his SIA licence

I’ve been selling the magazine  for a couple of years now. I was living in Yorkshire and in a relationship when I was sent home from work early one day because I was feeling ill with my diabetes. Then when I got home she was in bed with my best mate. So I left her and I came over to Derby to find my sister but I couldn’t get hold of her, so I was in hostels around the city. Instead of going out robbing to get money, I knew about The Big Issue, so I got badged up.

It’s busy on my pitch, although sometimes it’s quiet. I’m starting to get new customers now alongside my regulars that always come, so it’s getting a lot better. I’ve got one customer who buys me a coffee, and sometimes she gets me a pasty as well. I’m always polite to people even if they don’t buy the magazine, I think next time they might buy one so I try to wish them a lovely day all the same. I’d like to say thanks to my customers for all the support and ask them to let friends and family know that it is a good magazine.

I like selling the mag. It gets me out meeting new people and I can take the dog out with me as well. He’s a cocker spaniel called Harlow and I’ve had him for about four weeks now. He’s just a puppy, 11 months old. He’s well-behaved on my pitch. He’ll sit there next to me, but when customers come up to make a fuss of him he gets a bit excited. I have people that come past with their dogs and he stands there playing with them. If it’s raining then I try not to take him out and my customers are asking where he is.

I’ve got my own flat in Ilkeston now. Selling The Big Issue helped me to get it last September. Every time I’ve been doing the magazine all the money has gone towards paying for rent and getting bits and bobs I need like plates, knives and forks, that sort of stuff. Without The Big Issue I probably would not have been able to do it.

Away from selling the magazine, I play darts at The Little Acorn pub – I was vice-captain for the season that’s just finished but I’ve just been promoted to captain. That’ll do me. We got to the semi-finals of the knockout cup last season though, so we were quite happy with that. I got into darts because of Phil ‘The Power’ Taylor. I watched him once and he’s from Stoke and a Stoke City fan like me, so I started following it. I thought to myself, “If I keep going like that, then I could probably get somewhere with it.” At the moment it’s not working out that way but I’ll keep practising – I’m hitting 100s and stuff like that, just got to get to them 120s and 140s.

As for Stoke, we were doing OK in the league [The Championship], but have slipped down a bit. I reckon we can get back to the Premier League next season. We’ve got the team, it’s just got to start working together a lot more.

While I was in Yorkshire I used to work in a hotel, on the bar and waiting. I’m looking into either getting back into that work in the future, or back to the course I was sitting before Covid. I couldn’t resit my exam for my SIA licence, which you need for security jobs. They are starting to do the courses again so I’m going to sit the exams I failed – the door supervisor, which I failed on one question and conflict management, which I failed on three questions. I’d like to get into that line of work this year – that’s my aim.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

wilko, Bath Street, Ilkeston, UK