If you’re a Londoner and use Highbury and Islington tube station regularly, you might have noticed Tim Wright.
He’s a surprisingly upbeat homeless man who sells anything his local fan base donates – from massage tools to bicycles, in a pop-up stall outside the Barclays Bank opposite the tube station. I think Tim is a beautiful person, his determination shines out through his mischievous blue eyes and handsome smile.
I used to see him a lot when I lived in Islington and we’d always have a chat, but until tonight I hadn’t seen him for couple of years. As I walked out of the tube our eyes met and he greeted me like an old friend, we even hugged (dreadlocks and all). He told me about the expensive bike he’d been given by a kind stranger who was leaving town. Tim was trying to decide whether to keep it or sell it, apparently it was worth £400. I asked him what he’d do with the money – he replied that he’d get a hostel for a month.
As I was about to leave he said that seeing me after such a long time had made his day, and I was moved almost to tears. Seeing that I was touched, he proudly told me that someone had made a documentary about him and that I’d find it on Vimeo. I promised to watch it and share it on my Facebook page, which seemed to make him even jollier. I cycled home with my mind racing, thinking wow if this is good perhaps I could set up a fundraising page and help him get a hostel for a whole year!
I got home and watched the video immediately. It is a very amusing and a very sad twelve minutes. His start to life was one of the worst you can imagine. His mother was raped and Tim was the result. Despite everything, it’s his sense of humour that really gets you, as well as a profound sense that he’s completely comfortable with his troubling story. Then the filmmakers show him smoking crack in a public toilet.
I thought you bastards – there goes Tim’s fundraising campaign. Wouldn’t we all be smoking a bit of something in Tim’s situation? The reality is that a glass of fizz is an acceptable escape and crack is not. Why did Tim let them film that? I was confused. The film shows the truth, which is of course its job. So why am I annoyed? May-be I just want Tim to be an unblemished hero, demonstrating triumph over tragedy for the sake of my own fundraising trip to glory.
It left me wondering what has more value, the uncomfortable truth or a persuasive story that could change a life for the better. I’m not sure it’s the film that will get Tim off the streets long-term, but if you see him say hello and tell him what you think about his film. You could give him something worth something for his stall, or just a pound or two towards a hostel for the night. A bed only costs £5.