Vendor City Guide: Oxford

Steve Trigg (and his dog Charlie) have sold The Big Issue in Oxford for around seven years. Originally from Yorkshire, Steve moved to work at a local power station before a relationship breakdown led to homelessness. He says, “I ended up losing everything but I’ve built it back up again so it’s all good now. I work part-time in a pub and live off The Big Issue, pay my rent, buy my food, look after my dog and myself.”

Why I like living in Oxford

Oxford’s quite central. We’re only an hour from London, just over an hour from Birmingham, not far from the Cotswolds. You’d think it was a market town, the city centre is basically two streets. There is more to Oxford than the universities. The students are a bit crackers to be honest. They’re all rich, they’re all posh and it’s their first time away from mum and dad so they all go crazy. But they are nice people.

My favourite spot

My favourite place is Christ Church Meadow. Christ Church College is really nice to look at – that’s where they did the dining hall scenes in Harry Potter. It’s a lovely stretch to go walk your dog, it’s a happy place to be and it’s only a five-minute walk from the centre. You have the hustle and bustle of the city then you’ve got peace and quiet. And along the Thames you can walk for miles and miles and miles. This is my favourite time of year. I love spring. Everything’s coming to bloom, the trees are getting green. It’s not too hot, it’s not too cold, it’s perfect.

Big Issue vendor Steve Trigg and his canine companion Charlie. Credit: Olivia Hemingway

Helping the tourists

Most tourists are Chinese and Japanese. A few Australians, a few Americans. So many people say to me, where is the university? They think Oxford University is one building but actually there are 52 universities here. There’s one for every subject, every language, engineering, painting, everything you can think of, it’s here. There’s an open top bus that takes you round the city and there are quite a few free walking tours, which are good. A friend of mine, Lisa, runs Wander Oxford. She’s quite knowledgeable about the city.

The best museums

The Pitt Rivers Museum and The Museum of Natural History are really good. As soon as you walk in there’s a big T-Rex, and there’s things from all over the world – and it’s free. You can donate if you want, but you don’t have to.

Where to eat

There are loads of places to get food. You can pay a lot of money for food and there’s bargain basement. There are restaurants that do fine dining, there are lots of pubs. There are two Wetherspoon’s. They’ve done up the prison so there are quite a few posh cocktail bars, some nice places to eat and people can actually stay there in a hotel.

What Oxford needs to fix

Homelessness is really bad in Oxford at the minute. I blame it on the local connections policy. It screws up so many people. There are so many people who come to Oxford because they think it’s quite a rich city – and that isn’t the case. On the main street nearly every doorway at night is occupied by people rough sleeping. The council won’t help them and that really pisses me off to be honest. If you’re homeless, you’re homeless, no matter where you are.

Originally published in The Big Issue (UK)

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