Big Issue Vendor

Meet Our Vendors

Martin Clarkson, 42, outside Co-op, Clifton, Bristol“I first became homeless when I lost my job, at a plastics factory in Plymouth”

Become a vendor

I’ve been selling the magazine in the Clifton area for the past few years. It’s a really nice part of the city – lots of big houses. Before that I sold the mag in Plymouth and Cardiff – I moved around a lot during my time sleeping rough.

I struggle some days. They put a car park next to the Co-operative, and it’s made it harder to sell magazines. But I just have to keep going – some nights I’ll stay until 9pm to sell enough mags to help me get by. I must say a massive thanks to all my regular customers who have stayed with me – they keep me going during the cold and the rain.

Things have been looking up. The Big Issue helped get me into a rough sleeper initiative, which led to a little supported accommodation flat. From there I recently moved into a flat on my own. It’s been a big step because a lot of the past 10 years have been spent sleeping in park bushes and tents.

The Big Issue helped get me into a rough sleeper initiative

It’s strange getting used to a roof over your head, after so long on the streets. Getting your head around all your bills is difficult at first. I did struggle actually but I think I’m getting on top of it now. Being able to go back at night, make myself my own cup of tea and sit down is a novelty that hasn’t worn off yet.

I first became homeless when I lost my job. I worked in a plastics factory in Plymouth – it was quite fun operating all the crane machinery, even if it was a bit repetitive. I lost my job in 2004, then I split up with my partner. It’s the classic story: you move in with someone but when things go pear-shaped, you have to move out and you have nowhere to go. Things spiralled from there.

DID YOU KNOW…

There are currently around 2,000 Big Issue sellers working hard on the streets each week.

But things are looking up now and I’m enjoying life in Bristol. My flat is in the Greenbank area in the north east. There’s a nice cemetery, which sort of acts as a park to stroll around in. There’s a place called the Mall Gardens down here in Clifton, near the River Avon. That’s a very nice place to sit down and relax.

I enjoy reading a lot. Recently I’ve read The Three Musketeers, and before that I finished Black Hawk Down. I like a good adventure story – a bit of action, a good plot. Terry Pratchett is great, I’ve read quite a few of his.

My favourite book… Mort by Terry Pratchett. He’s probably my favourite author, and Mort is his best book, the best of the Discworld series.

If I won the lottery… I’d give £10 to everyone who ever bought a magazine from me. Then I’d go on holiday to somewhere hot and sunny by the beach – somewhere in Spain, probably.

On my pitch… I’m on Princess Victoria St from 10am till 6pm (sometimes until 9pm).

Photo: Sean Malyon

The Co-operative Food, Whiteladies Road, Clifton
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