Features writer Aniefiok Ekpoudom met up with the new face of Big Issue on campus, Simon. Previously a visible presence on the streets of Norwich, this year he has brought his unique style to UEA.
The last Big Issue vendor on campus, Martin, was well liked around the university. Did you ever meet him?
I knew both Steven (another former Big Issue seller on campus) and Martin, and I now look after Steve’s dog Poppy. It was Martin that taught me how to sell when I first started selling the Big Issue. He is doing fine and as far as I’m aware he has set up a guide dogs business.
Steve now has a full-time job on a building site, but I told him if he ever gets laid off for a long period over winter due to bad weather, I will step aside for him to come back and sell here.
Are you confident that you can fill his shoes?
Time will tell.
When did you start selling the Big Issue and why Norwich?
I started selling three years ago. Why Norwich? When you’ve travelled round the country you soon realise that Norwich is the nicest city in England. It definitely deserves the name “The fine city.” If you’ve been to the Midlands you’ll know what I’m talking about. What other city could I leave my stuff downstairs by Waterstones and know that it’s going to still be there when I get back?
Why is the Big Issue so important?
Without the Big Issue I would have nothing. I would either be on benefits or begging in a doorway. The Big Issue has given me everything.
Are you enjoying your time at the UEA so far?
It’s a lot quieter than I expected. There’s a lot of standing around in between lectures. When Martin came back, we ended up sat around in the bar, and at £2.40 a pint, it would have been rude not to!
I hear rumours of you rhyming in town. Is that something you’ll bring here?
Well in town it’s more open; you can really hit it with a few good lines. It’s so enclosed down there near Waterstones and the Paper Shop that if I started shouting they would probably tell me to shut up. I still do them but here it’s just a totally different atmosphere. Would you like to hear a couple of the rhymes?
Go for it.
When I was young I had the sense, I bought a Big Issue for 50p but now I’m going old and grey I sell the Big Issue for £2.40 a day! 21 years and still going strong, you know it makes sense and you can’t go wrong. Gather around and form a queue, come and buy a Big Issue!
Very good! Finally, what is the meaning of life?
Survival. Getting from A to B and trying to last as long as you can. I’ve totally changed my opinion since I became homeless because prior to that the meaning of life was to make as much money as I could.
My bank account was my scorecard but when I lost everything, I realised you don’t need three televisions. As long as you’ve got food in your stomach and a clean shirt to put on, you don’t need anything else.
Simon will be on campus on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 10 until 2:30. Go and say hello, have a chat and grab a copy of the Big Issue!