Vendor City Guide: Cambridge

Interview by Steven MacKenzie

Lee Welham, 34, is from Great Yarmouth but after a family breakdown and moved to Cambridge for a fresh start. He has been selling The Big Issue outside The Round Church since the summer and is regularly surrounded by passing pedestrians who stop to listen to his Big Issue-inspired jokes.

Big Issue vendor Lee (Credit: The Big Issue (UK))

Why I like Cambridge
It’s the learning capital of the world. There’s so many places to see here, loads of good things – all the colleges, all the different cultures that are here. I’ve learned to say thank you in at least 25 languages. My favourite is Afrikaans. It’s pronounced ‘baie dankie’ but I remember it as ‘buy a donkey’.

The best history
Great breakthroughs happened here in Cambridge and there are plaques all over the place. There’s loads of history. Oliver Cromwell, the guy that tried to get rid of all the royal family, after they had his head on a spike at Westminster Hall they brought it back here and buried it at Sidney Sussex College.

My favourite park
Christ’s Pieces was voted the fifth best park in the UK. It’s lovely, they’ve got ready for Christmas now so as soon as it gets dark you’ve got all these beautiful lights. It’s so well groomed. The rubbish is pretty bad at four o’clock in the morning but the team of council workers that clean these places up, they genuinely do deserve a medal. Cambridge always looks nice for the tourists.

Best café
I get my tea from Bould Brothers Coffee. They’ve just got in Vanity Fair, they’re being talked about all over the world, this little tea shop near my pitch. They’re really nice to me. So are the staff at Toni & Guy if you need a haircut.

Photo by Devin Kleu on Unsplash

My favourite spot
Trinity Hall is one of my favourites because it’s the most prestigious college. It’s lovely. You can walk around and in the grounds is the Newton Apple Tree. It’s a direct descendant of the very apple tree that helped Isaac Newton figure gravity out.

Not in the guidebooks
Allama Muhammad Iqbal is credited as being the ‘spiritual father of Pakistan’. I didn’t know who he was at first but the amount of people who’ve asked: ‘Where’s Portugal Place? We want to go check this out’. All they do is look at the plaque but it’s somewhere they don’t advertise in brochures and leaflets.

Visit my pitch
My pitch is outside the Round Church. It’s the oldest round church in the UK, built in the 1130s. The reason it’s round is because you can’t hide a devil in the corner… Then after the crusades all churches had to be in the shape of a cross so when God looked down he could see the Christian cross. The old Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is brilliant. He comes to see me twice a week to ask me how I am.

Originally published by The Big Issue (UK)

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