Tony Wood, 58, Victoria Tube station, London

“Until you’ve lost everything and been homeless, it’s difficult to imagine what it’s really like”

I started selling the magazine earlier this year. I have some great customers and a lot of people here seem to appreciate the music I play. I’m a great fan of classical music, so I play that through my mobile phone and a little speaker. I find it acts as a great barrier-breaker.

Before selling The Big Issue, I’d been through a very strange and difficult time last year. I’d been working for a charity overseas and decided to come back to the UK, and returned home with almost nothing. Then the airline lost my luggage, so I lost my last bits of paperwork and belongings.

I went through a very strange and difficult time last year

I couldn’t establish any connection or get any help in Essex, where I’d last been living, so I came to London. I stayed for a short time in a night shelter, but I found it wasn’t really a place designed to help you get on into better accommodation. So I began sleeping rough and trying to make my own way forward by selling the magazine.

Until you’ve lost everything and been homeless it’s difficult to imagine what it’s really like. But I remain hopeful. I’m determined to do something to help others who face social exclusion, because far too many people are left on the outside of society looking in.

Although I’m still homeless, I’m now preparing to launch my own charity – The Outcast Foundation. I want to give excluded people opportunities to take part in society. I want it to foster relationships between excluded people and people in a position to help, to bring them together to talk about things on an equal footing.

Like The Big Issue’s founder John Bird, I want to address the root causes of poverty, rather than just putting a sticking plaster over problems and pretend they aren’t going to reoccur over and over again.

I want to give excluded people opportunities to take part in society

I’m hoping that the foundation will get its own festival next summer – the Outcast Festival. It will host music, art, film. Art can act as a great unifier, a way of helping people understand someone else’s perspective.

I feel like I’m launching my life again from nothing. It’s a very difficult thing to do, but it’s exciting too. I’m very grateful to The Big Issue for giving me a chance to do that, and to all my customers for their brilliant support.

My favourite music… Classical. I was a big fan of Radio 3 when I was younger. Beethoven is probably the greatest, most original and inventive composer of all time.

My inspiration… Muhammad Yunus, an economist from Bangladesh. He’s about giving poor and excluded people the chance to use their entrepreneurial spirit. Which is what The Big Issue is all about.

On my pitch… I’m at the Cardinal Place entrance from 8am until 7pm.

Photo: Louise Haywood-Schiefer

Victoria Station, Victoria Street, London, United Kingdom