Lynne Smith, 45, outside Sainsbury’s, Union Street, Birmingham

“Before I was a vendor I was quite shy. Now I’ve got the biggest gob in Birmingham”

I started selling the magazine more than a few years ago now. An outreach worker saw me sitting around in my sleeping bag in the street and encouraged me to think about The Big Issue. Things have very much taken a turn for the better since then. I’m very happy selling, chatting to customers. It’s given me a real sense of purpose.

I fell into life on the streets after I split up with my partner. After that I fell apart, lost my home and started drinking heavily. It became a lost decade, really. But The Big Issue helped me make a big change, got me thinking about my future again. And I’ve been clean and sober for six-and-a-half years now.

I fell into life on the streets after I split up with my partner. It became a lost decade, really

It took me a while to adjust to being a vendor because I was quite shy for a while. Now I’ve probably got the biggest gob in Birmingham.

As well as my regular pitch in the city centre, I’ve been given a corporate placement with Mondelez, the owner of Cadbury. On Wednesdays I sell the magazine inside their offices, further along the road from Cadbury World. Everyone there is really nice and it’s nice to be inside where it’s warm one day a week.

I grew up nearby in the Selly Oak area near the old Cadbury’s factory and it was a big part of life in the area. I could see the factory from my window and I remember that if you came home from school and opened your window about half past four in the afternoon, you’d get that powerful smell of chocolate. A wonderful smell.

Things are going well for me. I’ve got a small flat and I’m managing to pay the bills. I’m in touch with family again and I feel like I’m more together than I’ve been in a long time. I really like to come home and listen to music on YouTube. I’m a big fan of rock and reggae – I like AC/DC, Black Sabbath, Bob Marley, Jesse Royal and some good pop stuff like Robbie Williams.

My son’s in a rock band now, and it’s fantastic to see him play and have a passion for music as well. Music’s a special thing to have in your life. I feel like I’ve taken some big steps forward in recent years and I’d just like to keep it all going. I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity The Big Issue has given me.

My favourite place… The Isle of Arran. I used to go on holiday there when I hadn’t been anywhere outside of Birmingham. I thought it was peaceful and beautiful and I’d love to go back there again.

My favourite album… On a Storyteller’s Night by a Birmingham band called Magnum. A little-known classic.

On my pitch… I’m outside Sainsbury’s, Union Street, Birmingham, 9am to 4pm, daily

Photo: Nikki Cooper


Sainsbury's Local, Union Street, Birmingham, United Kingdom