“I love selling the Big Issue but I don’t think people realise what a hard job it is,” says 50-year-old Richard Mills, who sells The Big Issue in Gloucester, England.
Before selling a street paper, Richard was a roadie and guitar technician for 15 years, travelling the world and working on tour with big name rock stars like the Manic Street Preachers and Catatonia.
“I used to follow bands around on tour and a friend of mine had a company doing theatre work in Cambridge, unloading the trucks and fixing up big arenas for gigs,” he recalls.
“This led me into doing guitar technician work, and I worked on a self-employed basis for about 15 years. I was working with bands and performers like Manic Street Preachers, Catatonia and Paul Young.”
Richard became homeless about two and a half years ago after losing work.
Following a spell of sleeping on the streets and camping in tents, he finally found a place to stay thanks, he says, to “a man from round the corner, who worked at an estate agents, asked if I wanted to do a bit of flat sitting for him. And since then, I’ve been in a flat. It was a top offer.”
Richard now sells The Big Issue in his hometown. “I used to buy the Big Issue back when it first started, when it was a broadsheet and cost about 50p,” he says.
“A friend of mine suggested I try selling it, when I was in a night shelter about two and a half years ago.”
While being outdoors in all weather often proves to be a tough gig, Richard says it’s his customers who often keep him motivated. It turns out The Big Issue seller has become an inspiration to the community too.
“Selling the Big Issue is one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had to do, so I wouldn’t mind getting an easier one,” he says.
“But then, a woman came up to me the other day, when I was feeling really depressed, and said, ‘I see you out in all weathers – You’re a real source of inspiration to me.'”