Martin Hawes, 57, Marks & Spencer, Regent Street, Swindon

"I’m interested in aeroplanes and jet engines. I like seeing how things work"

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I started selling The Big Issue a few days before Christmas. It’s been going well – I’ve been selling a lot and chatting to customers. Swindon has grown an awful lot over the past few decades but people are still friendly.

The Big Issue had the idea of being a “poverty-fighting machine” on the cover recently. I reckon Jeremy Corbyn is a poverty-fighting politician

My problems started back around 2010. I had a house, I had money, I was doing fine. But because of work and then changes to the welfare system, I began to struggle. I had been working at a Honda plant but I was laid off – I couldn’t keep working there, on the grounds of my medical problems.

Photo: Elizabeth Donovan

I went through the Atos tests the DWP insisted on and I had benefits cut back. My doctor wrote on my behalf about six times – but they didn’t care, they decided to override that. In July last year I was given a section 21 notice on my house. By September I was out of there. Things can spiral quickly. I’m not the only one who has gone through these things. The Tory government have a lot to answer for – many more people are struggling now than before the Tories got back in. The way the safety net is getting cut back, it’s like we’re going back to the 1930s.

I have become political. I like Jeremy Corbyn. The Big Issue had the idea of being a “poverty-fighting machine” on the cover recently. I reckon Corbyn is a poverty-fighting politician. It would be great if the country gave him a chance to change things. I’m trying to work to improve my own situation. Although things have been difficult and uncertain, I’m glad to have council accommodation now. Selling the magazine has helped me reconnect with people, as well as earn some money.

Photo: Elizabeth Donovan

There are some interesting places in the city – the Swindon Steam Railway Museum, for instance. I’m interested in aeroplanes and jet engines – I like seeing how things work. Britain has a long history of being great at engineering, of course, but that was before Thatcher put paid to the heavy industries across the country.

When I was younger I did quite a bit travelling – Dubai, Singapore, Thailand. People might not expect someone who has been to these places to be on the streets selling The Big Issue. But I suppose it shows it can happen to anyone. The main thing is how you adjust and try to cope with it all.

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My favourite place… The best place I ever went to was Ko Phi Phi Le, the beach in Thailand featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio film The Beach. But like he says in the film: “I still believe in paradise. But now at least I know it’s not some place you can look for. Because it’s not where you go – it’s how you feel for a moment in your life when you’re a part of something. And if you find that moment, it lasts forever.”

On my pitch… I’m outside Marks & Spencer on Regent Street in Swindon, 9am to 5pm

Regent Street, Swindon, United Kingdom