A WELL-KNOWN Big Issue seller on Tavistock high street is leaving the town after seeing his income slashed.

Neil Stout has been adopted by the town as a familiar and well-liked figure standing come rain or sun in his red Big Issue coat.

However, Neil says although he has made many friends and feels at home in the town, the number of magazines he sells has fallen by about two-thirds since after covid.

He has also been forced to move temporary accommodation four times this year, which has forced his hand.

“It’s a big shame I have to leave Tavistock, but the town’s not as busy as it used to be, a combination of the cost of living and costs going up for businesses, and some have closed.”

“I’ve also been through a really stressful time with covid obviously cutting the sales of my mag and then my mum dying suddenly. I was looked after by a few people during covid and when I was in shock after my mum died. There’s some really kind people here. Shopkeepers and other people buy me hot drinks when I’m out in the cold and wet and when it was my birthday they bought me cards.

“However, I refuse to give into depression and self-pity over the setbacks. I won’t claim benefits and I get up every day whatever the weather. Selling Big Issue has kept the black thoughts away and talking to people of all backgrounds cheers me up and keeps me going.”

Neil, who often entertains people in the town centre pubs by playing his guitar, has been offered a licensed vendor spot to sell the Big Issue in Exmouth: “The people of Tavistock have taken me to their hearts and I will miss people. But I’m also optimistic and look forward to a new beginning. “

Local Geoff Lakeman said:”Neil’s a friendly chap. Good to talk to. He’s a fantastic ambassador for Tavistock. We’ll miss him.”

Another resident Sandra Philips said: “I enjoy talking to Neil. It’s a big shame he’s leaving us. When I first used the Swahili for hello he understood. We get on well.”