Mark Morgan, Poundland, Christchurch

Mark has been selling the magazine in the area for several years, but before that he was touring the country with a Victorian funfair

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Trust means a lot to me. The best thing about selling The Big Issue is the regular customers I’ve built up over the years. I do gardening jobs for some of them. That makes me feel better about myself. One of my customers, her mum is 93, and I’ve been over there to help care for her when the family goes on holiday. The other day I was mowing the lawn for one of my regulars. It’s nice to get a bit of extra cash, but it’s not all about the money. They’ve looked after me and I like doing  jobs to help them. It works both ways.  

I’ve been selling The Big Issue in Christchurch for three and a half years now, and for four-ish years in Bournemouth before that. Before moving down here I worked in a Victorian funfair for 10 years. We took the fair to Windsor Castle, Chatsworth House, all the stately homes. We met a lot of royals, we did Highclere Castle, where they film Downton Abbey. But it started going downhill when the new boss started running it. He wasn’t treating us well and stopped paying us, so me and my mate packed up and moved down here.  

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I’m still living with that same mate in a two-bedroom flat now. We’ve been having some problems with damp and we’re hoping to find somewhere more stable to rent, like a housing association. The mate that I live with, I’d just like to thank him for being around for so long. If it weren’t for having him, I think I’d be struggling a lot more. We’ve been friends for 20 years, he’s like my brother now. You don’t get to say thank you to people often in life, but having someone constant in your life makes a difference.  

Since Covid I’ve noticed that there are a lot more people begging on the streets. I don’t mind because people have got to do what they’ve got to do, but sometimes people associate them with vendors, but I’m working, not begging. People do say some horrible things sometimes. One man walked past me the other day and said under his breath “no better than insects that don’t deserve a place on this Earth”. It stays with you, that sort of comment. The way to answer them, I think, is to say: “Thank you sir, have a lovely day.” Kill them with kindness is what I say.  

I keep myself to myself because money is tight. I don’t go out very much. I used to love playing snooker but I don’t any more because of the money. Same with going to the cinema, it’s so expensive now. Back when I was 20 I was going out all the time with my mates, riding motorbikes. Those were the best days of my life. I was working as a cook at a hostel in Bristol, cooking for 140 people each day. If I could go back in time, I’d tell myself to stay there and keep doing that.  

I suffer from anxiety and depression now, so I find it difficult working around lots of people. I don’t socialise a lot, but selling The Big Issue gets me out talking to people. The Big Issue also gave me some Specsavers vouchers to get new glasses, and to get my ear syringed, they’re very helpful like that. They gave me a phone, too. These sorts of things really help at the moment.  

I’ve been really struggling to get sales recently. A lot of the high street has closed down. I could sell around 20 magazines at the market when it was humming on a Monday, but now I’m selling five or six a day, maybe 12 on a good day. I haven’t had many highlights this last year, but I want to say thank you so much to my regular customers for being so nice to me and so helpful. Just seeing my customers each day, that cheers me up. 

Interview: Evie Breese

Poundland, High Street, Christchurch, UK