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Simone Gill, Tesco Express, New George Street, Plymouth

Simone did an art A Level at school and for years worked as a tattoo artist before selling the magazine

It’s starting to get better on my pitch. A month or so ago it was a bit dire. Nobody was buying the magazine and I just had to stick at it. I think it’s partly due to people being away and partly because less people are on the street after Covid. People also just don’t have the money to buy extra things right now like The Big Issue. 

Earlier this week I ended up selling on my pitch for longer hours because I wanted to earn extra money to pay for electricity. I managed to do it and I was happy with that. But I think the next few months are going to be a struggle – everything has gone up already anyway. Most of the items that I buy regularly for the weekly shop have skyrocketed. It’s crazy. 

It’s about four years that I’ve been selling the magazine now. Like I say, it’s been a struggle at times but I do enjoy it. It gets me out of the house. I’m a disabled woman so I can’t work a regular job any more. I used to be able to but I’m getting older now. I’m 43 so it’s a bit tough on me. But I like the fact that I can choose the hours I work when I’m not feeling very well that day. I’ve got anxiety and depression so if I’m not feeling good I can’t face people. Sometimes I have to leave it and go out the day after. 

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I have quite a few regular customers and, because my pitch is at Tesco, they often ask me if I want any shopping and they are quite happy to go in to buy me something and bring it back, which helps a lot. I don’t really have any tactics to sell the magazine to my customers. I just say hello to people and ask if they want to buy a Big Issue. They approach me usually. A lot of my customers just like to stand with me and have a chat for 10-15 minutes. I enjoy that side of the job. Like I say, it gets me out of the house when my mental health can be quite tricky. Quite a few of my friends come to visit me and bring me a coffee. 

It was one of my friends who suggested selling the magazine in the first place. I was struggling with money at the time and they suggested it as a way to meet new people. I’ve been in Plymouth all my life and I know quite a few people around town now. I like that about living here. 

I used to be a tattoo artist before I started selling the magazine. I’ve always been into art and I did it at
A Level in school. I just like drawing and stuff like that, so I just decided to pick up a tattoo gun one day and never looked back. I used to work from home but I had to stop because I really couldn’t concentrate as much as I needed to. 

In the next few months I just want to focus on getting my flat sorted and I want to concentrate on my mental health. I’ve been in this flat since November last year. I was previously in a shared house but I didn’t like that very much, there was no privacy. I’ve been homeless before and that’s not good. I’ve sofa surfed and lived on friends’ couches. It’s an awkward situation. Having a stable home really helps with your mental health. 

I’d just like to say thank you to my customers. Thank you for the support over the years. You’ve really helped and hopefully I’ve helped other people as well. People just like to stop and chat sometimes and offload their problems. I don’t mind doing that.

Interview: Liam Geraghty

Tesco Express, New George Street, Plymouth, UK