Meet Our Vendors

James Ring, 33, HSBC, Kingsbridge, Devon'This town's like a family and if you need anything then you only have to ask'

Become a vendor

I’ve been selling the magazine, off and on, since about 2008. I’ve sold all over England – I’ve done Plymouth, Norwich, London. I’ve done parts of Wales and Scotland too. With me, anywhere I lay my head is home. I’ve never been indoors really. I’ve just been going from town to town. I don’t really call anywhere home but I’ve been in Kingsbridge for a year and it’s the only place I’ve been where everyone speaks to you, it’s very welcoming.

I like moving around because it gives you that freedom and because I’m self-employed I don’t like anyone telling me what to do. I spend 40-50 hours a week selling the magazine and the more you sell the more you bring in, that’s the way I look at it. And that’s why I was well pissed off with lockdown because if I spend money I want to bring money in. I only have one day off usually so by the sixth or seventh day when we were off our pitches in March it was driving me nuts.

I spent lockdown in a tent playing mobile games most of the time, trying to pass the day away. I’m still in the tent now and I won’t ever go in to be honest with you. I don’t work with services so I didn’t get an offer to go indoors during the ‘Everyone In’ scheme. I felt safer on my own, I can’t catch the virus off anyone if I’m on my own.

I was in the newspaper about a week into lockdown. I had gone on the local Facebook page to ask if anybody had any work going while I was off my pitch. One of the locals, Viv, has her own business and messaged me to ask if I would like her to set up a GoFundMe account. I told her that would be fine and then I was gobsmacked when it raised £500! That was amazing but it went up to £2,500!

I’d really like to say thank you to all of Kingsbridge for that, especially Viv. My sales have been better the last few weeks than the four weeks before Christmas. They’ve really supported me both in lockdown and after, which was nice of them. It’s like a family and if you need anything then you only have to ask and someone will always be able to help you. Without them and the help that The Big Issue were giving I don’t know what would have happened. It tided me over until The Big Issue called me to say we were back on.

When I’m not on my pitch I love to walk. In lockdown I went from Plymouth down to Land’s End just walking. It makes me feel like I’m free, just me and the open worlds. That’s what I like about The Big Issue. If you want to go to another town then you just have to get in contact with them and tell them where you’re going and they can sort you out with a new badge. I’m a bit of a lone wolf.

I’m originally from Ashford in Kent. My old man was in the army and was posted in Plymouth. Moving there was probably why I quite like moving around – I don’t like being in one location too long. Some people choose to be this way and I want to go to Cornwall next. I keep going away from Plymouth but something always bring me back.

I was homeless when I was 16 – I’ve been homeless for eight years in my current stretch – and I even lied about my age to sell The Big Issue back then. The first time I was homeless was in London and it was an eye-opener. I’ve been back a few times and you see the same people who have been there for 20 and 30 years. Since then, I’ve been housed about three times for a couple of months and then I’ve gone back out. I think that once you have been homeless it is in you. But I wouldn’t change it.

Photos: Martyn Norsworthy

HSBC, Fore Street, Kingsbridge
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