Already a local celebrity in the west end of Glasgow, Scotland, Big Issue vendor Daniel Collins is now showing the city his creative side.
The former chef became a hit across social media and national news in January when he bought one of his regular customers a surprise breakfast to say thank you for their regular conversations.
Collins is clearly much in demand and for his latest project, he has been working with Scottish theater company A Moment’s Peace on their Common Ground project, for which the International Network of Street Papers is a media partner.
Alongside three other Glasgow vendors, Collins worked with playwright and theater-
maker Lewis Hetherington to produce
poetry as part of the nationwide conversation about land and housing in Scotland.
Collins says that his many hours on buses — as he has traveled to and from the place where he sells on Glasgow’s bustling Byres Road for the past five years — allow him to be inventive. “I am writing things in my head all the time. I love reading and music. I did really well at English at school.”
All four vendors responded to their own experience and perception of housing and homelessness through creative writing. With a natural turn of phrase and sharp Glasgow wit, Collins penned “Past, Present and Future,” a poem about community that covers stages of his life.
To accompany each piece of writing, Hetherington commissioned a photographer to create images representing Collins and his fellow vendors’ experiences through their work and creativity. The result was compelling. “The idea was that they worked with the photographer and myself to capture the heart of what their poem is about,” he said.
Hetherington adds that Collins’ poem and portrait have become intrinsic to Common Ground and played a key role in the project’s live-sharing events.
Also exhibited were creative pieces from primary school children on the island of Mull, older people who’ve experienced homelessness in Aberdeen and young people with learning disabilities in Dundee.
“The events stimulated an informal discussion and even action around land, housing and homelessness,” Hetherington says. “It’s an opportunity for people to realize that they have more autonomy than they think.”
With requests from cafés and galleries in Glasgow asking to display Collins’ poem and portrait, his local reputation doesn’t seem to be taking a dip anytime soon.
Having seen how far his creativity has reached, Collins has another artistic plan waiting in the wings. Being a massive graphic novel fan, he has ambitions to create his own short sketches with characters based on his real life experiences.
“Some of the things I read have quotes from Shakespeare and I wonder if I’d be able to do that,” he admits. “But I dream about it on the bus on the way home.”