Conversations with the unheard

Interview with Mr Russell Stevens outside Paddington station at 20:00 on 12/04/2010.

Hello Russell, thanks for agreeing to this interview

It’s not a problem, it’s not like I have to be somewhere else.

Is this where you’re going to spend tonight?

Yeah, got to take your spots early.

Isn’t it a little busy?

Right now it is, yeah! But it’ll die down… At least it’s warm. (smiles)

How do you manage in the winter?

Winter’s harder. Sometimes there’s space at the shelter down the road. If there isn’t then you just have to tough it out. There’s nothing to it. Just wrap up and sleep man.

Before we get into what life’s like out here, is it possible to tell us a little bit about you, you know! How old are you? Where are you from originally? Do you have any family?

(Laughing) Those are a lot of questions… I turn 38 tomorrow believe it or not!

Happy birthday!

(Laughs). I don’t know about that one… (A bit of silence). To answer your question, I’m from  Ware in Essex but I grew up in Bracknall, near Slough. Not that many people here know where that is.

I know where that is. I study near there; in Uxbridge.


Do still have family in Essex?

No! Not any more… My parents moved to Slough when my Nan died… There’s no one in essex.

How about slough?

Ai! (laughing) That my friend is one to be told over a pint … to someone twice your age.

Does it have something to do with why you are here?

(In the silence he lights a half smoked cigarette.)

Don’t worry, it’s fine if you don’t want to answer that. Again if it’s alright with you, could you possibly tell us how long you’ve been living on the street?

Coming up to five years now. (smiles)… It’s sort of on and off, they help you out then they leave you for a bit, then they help you out and leave you for a bit. It’s annoying, but you take the warmth when it comes man. So yeah, about five years.

If you don’t mind my asking, what did you do before the five years?

F*** all… It ain’t because I didn’t want to. It’s just, when you’ve been through what I’ve been through – with the old bill and that – no one wants to give you a chance. I suppose it’s me own doing; been in some sort of trouble since I was about your age.

At this point, a Police officer came and asked him to move. He was agitated by it and began to swear at the officer, who asked us to disperse. When we came back he was gone. We never finished the interview.

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