Mark Dransfield, Co-op Food, Market Street, Hebden Bridge

Mark shares his pitch with a family of local geese who have come to know and trust him

I started selling the Big Issue 10 years ago, first in Leeds where I live, but I have been here since 2018. As soon as they asked me if I would like a pitch in Hebden Bridge, I said yes straight away and I was there the next day. I’d only been through the town before but everyone said they were nice people there and they are. 

But what I didn’t know was that I’d be sharing a pitch with a family of geese!  They live in the grounds of the church opposite, but at least two of them – Mr and Mrs – head across the road regularly to the Co-op car park. They’re usually here when I arrive but if not, I reprimand them for being late! 

A couple of months ago all seven of them were here and I walked them across the zebra crossing to be safe and a guy took a picture of us on his mobile – apparently it received more than 1,000 hits on his social media. The geese know me now because I look after them and I can get really close to them without them hissing at me. 

Your support changes lives. Find out how you can help us help more people by signing up for a subscription

Before I sold The Big Issue, I sold the Yorkshire Evening Post in Leeds for 12 years until they told me one Christmas Eve that I’d be finished the following March. Another of the lads at the EP had started selling The Big Issue so I went for an interview and after three months was given a pitch in Leeds city centre outside Marks & Spencer. 

I didn’t know too much about how it would work then but I was used to being a street man. Then I was allocated a pitch outside Morrisons at Rothwell, a half-hour cycle journey for me from where I live in Beeston, but after two Christmases there that’s when they asked me if I wanted to go to Hebden Bridge. 

It’s a much longer journey, it takes me around two hours if everything goes smoothly. I leave home at 6am for a 20-minute walk into Leeds to the bus station, then a bus to Halifax and another to Hebden. The last one should only take 15 minutes but a while ago when there were big roadworks it took me an hour. Then a month after they finished, there were terrible floods in Mytholmroyd, the next village to Hebden. 

I stand outside the shop and I’ll say “good morning” to people but I don’t like to be in their face and they appreciate that. I have a lot of regular customers, young and old, and talk to many of them. Sometimes I’m a bit of an agony aunt, other times I’ll look after their dog while they go shopping. Some of them will buy me a coffee.

There are some people I see doing the same things at the same time every day – they drive here, buy some milk or a paper and drive off again.  

But since Covid it’s been very hard, and I sell about 20 or so copies less than before. People are more careful about what they spend. 

I’ll be 60 on 2 April – I told my mum I didn’t want to come out on 1 April! – but I’ve no plans to stop selling The Big Issue or do anything else. I like to be doing something useful and they help by putting credit on my phone. 

I don’t have any family and I stay in a friend’s house in Beeston. When I’m not selling The Big Issue I like to keep tabs on the sports teams I support. I’m a Leeds United fan – I used to be a steward at Elland Road – and I support rugby league’s Huddersfield Giants. 

Interview: Lynne Greenwood

Co-op Food - Hebden Bridge, Market Street, Hebden Bridge, UK