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25 January 2013


"With the Christmas issue (Ed#421), I celebrated my 300th Big Issue edition as a vendor. I’m over the moon to make it this far. On 20 February it will be 12 years – I can’t believe it myself!
Before I started selling The Big Issue I did not know what I was going to do, and if I’d survive or not. Since I started selling, it’s been just unbelievable. It’s worked out well, big time. I’ve got back on my feet. Instead of being on the streets, I’ve got my own one-bedroom place, and my life has turned around. It’s been great.
I came from Queensland and moved down to Sydney when I was in Year 4. Then we went down to Young [a rural New South Wales town], but my parents threw me out of home after catching me smoking dope.
My dad’s got in contact with me now, which is really good. He knocked on my front door, which was a great surprise. He found me through the police station. I had been charged with ‘goods in custody’ for having a stolen pushbike – I bought it from a bloke who stole it. I didn’t know [that], but they put it on my record.
I’ve been down to Young over the last four years to see Dad on the farm. I still want nothing to do with my mum, who lives elsewhere in Young, but I get on well with my dad now.
I used to have a huge problem on the drink, but I’ve cut down on that now. Every time I used to drink I used to get really drunk and not know what I was doing at the end of the night when I got home. Not any more.
I’ve just started selling at Union Street in Pyrmont on Monday and Friday mornings, from 7.30 to about 9, for the morning peak. It’s been good there. I get all the pedestrians coming across at the lights. But my main pitch is on Glebe Point Road, near Bridge Road, every day. I get there about 9.30 in the morning, and finish at 2.30 in the arvo.
I want to give a mention to the Sonoma coffee shop near my pitch and to my local watering hole, the Ancient Briton Hotel, where I go for a beer after work. And to the Vinnies on Glebe Point Road – I find it handy for clothes, books, pictures. Most of the stuff I’ve got at home I got from Vinnies.
One of my mates, who’s been a regular since I started in Glebe, bought me a Galaxy Ace phone for Christmas. Brand new, outright. I use the free wifi – I can pick up the signal where I work, it’s free for anyone. I can use it for email, or to check the weather. I don’t have internet at home – I’d need a tablet or computer.
I’ve been loving photography – just on my phone. With my new phone I’ll be able to format my memory card, so that I can store even more photos. Of anything and everything.
I’ve been to the Bathurst 1000 the last four years – I love me V8s. Holden, all the way! Good luck [Jamie] Whincup and Lowndsey [Craig Lowndes], one and two next year. I’d love to meet them!"

Interview by Peter Ascot / Photograph by Peter Holcroft
James sells The Big Issue in Glebe and Pyrmont, Sydney