Our Vendors: Alan (Big Issue North, Prestwich, UK)

Next week, Big Issue North will take part in #VendorWeek, an international event celebrating the life-changing power of street papers.

Alan has sold Big Issue North outside Aldi supermarket in Prestwich, near Manchester, for five years. Ahead of #VendorWeek 2016, he talks about his experiences of homelessness and the support he receives from his customers.

Interview by Christian Lisseman, Big Issue North Photos by John Holt 

Alan sells Big Issue North in Preswich, Manchester. Photo: John HoltHow did you end up in Manchester?

I was living in Yorkshire. My kids had grown up and there were problems between me and my wife. So one day I just put two bags of clothes in the car and left. I picked a place on the map. It was Manchester, and I drove here and slept in the car for three weeks in the city centre. That was 17 years ago and I’ve been around ever since.

What happened when you came to Manchester?

Well, I couldn’t afford to keep the car, so I got rid of that and ended up living on the streets for three and a half years. I remember waking up one Christmas Day with snow on me. It’s not a nice situation to be in and I swore that when I did finally get a place of my own I’d never ever hit the streets again. I learnt about Big Issue North from a friend and I started selling it about five years ago.

Where do you live now?

I have a place in Clayton now. When I first started selling the magazine outside this store, the manager at the time knew someone who had bedsits for rent and he helped me get one without a deposit.

Why do you sell the magazine now?

I don’t sell it for the money. I mean, the money helps but it’s not the main reason I sell it. It’s for the company really. You get people from all walks of life who come here and chat.

Do you get a lot of support from local people?

Yes, everyone is really supportive. They all know my name. Actually, last year, somebody mentioned me on Facebook and put RIP underneath, so there were all these nice comments about me because people thought I had passed away. Then this couple came up to me when I was on my pitch and said: “You’re supposed to be dead!”

And didn’t you save someone’s life recently?

Somebody collapsed in the car park. I went over and resuscitated him and waited with him until the ambulance came. I’ve done first aid courses in the past so I knew what to do and it was just instinct really.

What do you do in your spare time?

Fishing. I absolutely love fishing and fish. I’ve got a pond in my garden which I dug myself. It’s got all kinds of fish in it and three plastic herons to keep the birds away.

What are your hopes for the future?

I’m 60 this year so I’m hoping to retire one day. Although, I think I’d still do Big Issue North anyway, because I just like the people here. I’ll stay here until I can’t do it anymore.

Have you got a message for your customers?

I can’t thank them enough. People have been so nice – the public and the staff at Aldi.

INSP publishes an international vendor story every week. Come back next Wednesday to read another story from one of the thousands of inspirational men and women who sell street papers.