Vincent Lewis, Saint Davids Road opposite Lloyds Bank, Cwmbran

Vincent enjoys selling the magazine, but he also has a dream to open his own fruit and veg business

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Where would I be if I wasn’t selling The Big Issue? Dead maybe. If I had gone that way I would almost certainly have been drinking heavily. I might have been in prison by now. I don’t know where I would be, in all honesty.

The Big Issue has changed my life. You get good and bad days, but it is definitely my backbone. I am more confident than I have ever been through selling The Big Issue. It has been amazing.

I sell the magazine every day and night, from my tent opposite the Lloyds Bank in Cwmbran. The Big Issue is my life. I don’t do a lot else to be honest. I do like rugby and football and play a game of pool now and then, but I keep myself to myself. 

It all started around eight years ago. I was on the street in Porthcawl and a man came along and asked me if I wanted breakfast. As you know in life, people say things and then they don’t come back. 

But this man gave me £50. I used that money to start selling The Big Issue. I didn’t know much about the magazine at the time. I just went and talked to them and asked if I could start selling The Big Issue, and they said yes. 

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So I started selling in Porthcawl. But one day about seven years ago, I came on the train to Cwmbran by pure accident and what happened there was very strange. I sat down and the security guard came over to me and said: “We don’t have the likes of you in this town.” About six minutes later, people started coming along to help me. They would bring me coffee and tea and someone even brought me a tent. 

And so, I stayed in Cwmbran and they let me keep on selling The Big Issue in my new pitch. No one had ever sold in Cwmbran before. I made up this pitch myself. It was hard because they didn’t know me and some people didn’t want me in town. But the support I get now is brilliant. I haven’t even got words to describe it. I have a real community. I don’t get any trouble from anyone. 

There are lots of sides to this town. There are people rushing about to do their shopping or taking their kids to the cinema, but lots of people stop to offer help or buy a magazine.

I was an alcoholic, but Big Issue helped me get off the drink. They helped me big time with that, because when I was selling the magazine I wouldn’t drink. Big Issue was a call for me in my life to get me off drink. 

They were excellent to me during the pandemic too. They helped me big time. And again, the people of Cwmbran were brilliant in helping me get food. They knew that I would need help. I think the pandemic has changed people. They have been amazing in supporting me, and Big Issue has kept on being brilliant.

It’s my dream to get a fruit and veg business going one day. I have done it once before, but I trusted people I shouldn’t have and my dad was dying of cancer so I lost it. I have had a lot of trauma in my life. My mother tragically died in a fire and my wife died too. 

There is only one future for me: selling The Big Issue and getting a fruit and veg shop going. There is nothing else. When anyone asks me what I want in life, I’ll tell them that’s what I want to do. I think it’s a goer. 

If I could give some advice, it would be to be polite. Please and thank you goes a long way. If you are kind to people, people are kind to you. We are all human and we have all got our own minds in life. We all make mistakes. You just have to figure out how you are going to get out of that situation. For me, that was The Big Issue. 

If I don’t open up a fruit and veg shop, I think I will be selling The Big Issue for the rest of my life.

Words: Isabella McRae

Saint Davids Road, Cwmbran, UK