I became homeless about 10 years ago due to a relationship breakdown in my family and I was out on the streets of Newcastle at 18. I was in and out of work on the markets but I wanted to get myself a steady income. I got talking to a Big Issue vendor and he said, “Why don’t you give it a try?” I went to the office in Newcastle and I was out selling the same day. It was difficult. I didn’t know any banter, I wasn’t sure what to say to people. But once I got an understanding of how to sell it picked up.
After selling the magazine all over the country for a few years I moved to Birmingham on the spur of the moment, looking for an adventure. I was there for around two years but I got fed up and couldn’t get any work. I moved back up north for a bit and I got myself a flat. But about a year and a half ago I woke up one day and there had been a serious assault outside my front door. I opened the door and it was a crime scene. It left me feeling really on edge and I tried to get the council to move me, but they wouldn’t because Universal Credit had left me with massive rent arrears. I’d been told to claim the old housing benefit as well, so I did that. I did everything the council asked me to, but it turned out I was getting the wrong advice.
So a friend in London said, “Why don’t you come down for a couple of weeks?” I decided to get badged up again on The Big Issue and, I’m not kidding you, I walked into the London office after being away for eight years and one of the guys said, “Good to see you, Kris!” He remembered me just like that. It was amazing to be welcomed straight back. I started in Victoria but just after Christmas I thought I’d try Marylebone because I do the market on a Sunday. It’s been all right, it’s kept us ticking over. London is much faster paced. I greet everyone but people are so focused on getting where they’re going to they just walk past with their head down, switched off. It’s difficult to get used to. But the stall holders at the market are so generous. They help me out with food and give me some nice goodies at the end of the day so I want to thank them for that. If you’re well off the market is a good place – it’s so relaxed and chilled out.
I’ve got a room in a house out in Ealing Broadway, but it’s absolutely miles away from my pitch. I’m going to try to get some part-time theatre work, behind-the-scenes stuff. When a new musical comes to London there’s a company that provides crew to build the sets. One of the guys at my market pitch works for them so I’m trying to get an interview. I haven’t seen any of the West End shows but I’ve met some of the stars. A couple of years ago I met Sheridan Smith when I was selling the magazine outside the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. There had been loads of people waiting for her but they gave up, and we were about to go and get a bus as well when she came out the front and stood there having a pint and a cigarette. I asked her to sign a mag for me and she said she was more than happy to. She’s an absolute legend.
Photo: Louise Haywood-SchieferMelcombe Pl, Marylebone, London NW1 6JJ