Meet Our Vendors

Ricky Bell, 44, DerbyI used to be paranoid, but selling The Big Issue has made me more confident

Become a vendor

Some time ago one of my friends in Nottingham was selling The Big Issue and he told me I could sell it too if I wanted. I was sofa-surfing at the time and I used to work, but it wasn’t full-time – just a bit here and there. I started doing voluntary work too, behind the counter at The Big Issue office. I like helping the homeless and people who have disabilities because my sister is physically and mentally disabled. That kind of work means a lot to me.

The Big Issue is amazing. It’s helped me loads. I used to be paranoid going out because I got panic attacks, but selling The Big Issue and meeting people has made me more confident. On my very first day I think I lasted about 10 minutes and then I had to go and sit somewhere cos I was sweating really bad. It takes a little while to get used to it. I always say please and thank you but sometimes people don’t really acknowledge that you’re there. It’s like you’re invisible. But you smile and be polite.

I was living in a tent but about three months ago I got a one-bedroom flat

I spent some time in prison and when I came out The Big Issue helped me with housing and getting back on my feet again. As well as sofa-surfing I was living in a tent but about three months ago I got a one-bedroom flat. There’s nothing in it really, but you take time to build your flat up. It’s brilliant. I was used to being on the streets and when I first got the flat I couldn’t get to sleep cos it was a bit hard being in a room and not outside. I’ve got used to it now though.

I’m trying to get a job but I want to get my flat sorted first. It’s like I’ve got a ladder and you’re building up some steps. The first one is to sort myself out, the second is to get a flat. Third, get my flat sorted then fourth get a job and build up from there. I’ve got a full and clean driving licence so I’m after trying to get a van job because I love driving.

My childhood was pretty bad. I can’t remember my mum and dad ever being together, but my dad remarried and it just wasn’t nice. I had hand-me-downs from my stepbrothers and I was bullied at school. It was horrible. I’m seeing a counsellor at the moment because I’m a manic depressive. I’ve felt, not suicidal, but close to it. Talking to myself a lot and just sitting alone. It was so depressing I’d cry myself to sleep.

I’m getting there slowly now. It’s like half and half cos I’ve got my flat and I feel closer to 100 per cent, where I can go and get a job and pay my bills. I haven’t been away anywhere this summer, I’d like to but it’s all expensive. I love fishing and camping. Being outdoors is just so nice and if I can be beside a river I just love the sound of water.

DID YOU KNOW…

Last year, 27,000 people worldwide earned an income selling street papers, making a total of £23.4 million.

I’m looking for a dog at the moment, a pup so I can train it up. I used to have dog called Zara but she passed away. I like boxers, and staffs are nice. So are Japanese Akitas, but they’re expensive. Zara was a staff-labrador cross. She was soft as anything. I didn’t have to put her on the lead, she was always beside me. I had her for 15 years. I got her when she was one year old after she got beat up by the bloke who had her before. I hate people who hit animals. It’s sad – they’re your best friend.

Interview: Sarah Reid

Photo: Richard Gardner

The Derby Ram Statue, East Street, Derby
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