I’m totally missing going out, doing The Big Issue. It’s definitely challenging times. It’s a little bit boring. But yesterday I started a new arts project so there’s something I can look forward to, trying to keep myself in good spirits.
I grew up in Germany, in an industrial area called Dortmund with the best soccer team in the world – Borussia Dortmund. I played a little bit of soccer, but I was more into watching them play. School was alright – I sailed through easily.
I had two older brothers, one that unfortunately passed away, before he made it to 50, with lung cancer. And both of my brothers had alcohol problems. The relationship cooled a little bit down; it’s not the closest family situation. Now, it’s probably an email once a year or so.
I came to Australia about 15 years ago, and I feel relatively well at home here in Brisbane – the weather is the absolute winner in my books. I’m living in a boarding house and I definitely get a bit more cabin fever during lockdown. There’s lots of us in here so it can get a little bit intense. We try to treat each other respectfully and there’s not much drama happening, but the lack of privacy is what makes not having your own space very difficult.
Before I came to Australia, I was in the corporate world, fixing computer systems for large corporations. But I got frustrated about the work because while it’s well paid, I had the impression that it’s rather being on the wrong side of history. Working for systems that aren’t really good for community. So I thought I’d rather work in areas which I think make more sense. I learned the Alexander technique. It’s basically teaching you to think differently about your movement in order to keep active and healthy, but it’s not easy to find enough clients to sustain yourself.
At the same time, I discovered this artform that I’ve been doing for more than 10 years, called tensegrity. It’s three-dimensional structures held together by tension. The Kurilpa Bridge in Brisbane is made with the same principle. It creates really interesting-looking objects.
“Do no harm” is my philosophy. I’m not good with hierarchies. I think we should organise in a way that’s agreeable and doesn’t force things onto people. So as long as we want to cooperate in one way or another, it should be up to us to make this happen. Which I like about The Big Issue, because there’s not many questions asked – it’s a very simple agreement and it makes you feel part of the community. It’s a win-win.
The Big Issue is how I make my living. So not being able to go out on the street makes it really challenging at the moment. While it’s not a luxury income, depending on how much work I put in, it’s enough to get by. And I think that working on the streets, while there might be very rarely unpleasant experiences, it reaffirms that we’re basically a good species – we’re okay as humans.
Lenny sells The Big Issue outside Avid Reader, West End, Brisbane.
Interview by Amy Hetherington.
Photo by Kylie Kluger.