In January 2023 a loose photographic project concept took me and my camera to Shepherds Bush Market. I took this shot of Osman in his arch. After exchanging a few words with him I realised that although I liked the picture the story behind it was much more powerful. So, the idea of ‘Open Britain’ was sewn.
Osman was born in Osman Village, just outside Cairo. Yes, Osman Village. He is the first born of five. His father was a fruit and vegetable farmer whilst his mother looked after the family. He had a very happy childhood and used his fruit farming knowledge to build a successful import and export business in Cairo with over two hundred and fifty employees.
In 2013 a British Company put in a huge order of 16 shipping containers of fresh grapes worth $450,000. The terms of business were standard: 50% up front and 50% on delivery, but the UK company never paid the second 50%. Osman continued to work trying to regain the losses and not lay off his staff, but this meant borrowing both stock and money. In 2014 Osman sold his car for $5000 and came to the UK to start legal proceedings. Costs very soon swallowed that up. Hostel room turned to hostel dormitory and before he knew it Osman found himself homeless and sleeping on the streets.
Osman was picked up by Streetlink who sent him to the homeless charities The Passage, St Mungos and No Second Night Out. All of which he is hugely grateful to.
Back in Egypt the money lenders started to make threats to Osman’s family. Things started take effect on Osman’s mental health. For Osman, suicide seemed the only solution, not least because it would get the money lenders away from his family. Fortunately, Osman contacted the Westminsiter NHS Mental Health Team.
Finding his feet on the streets of London once again, Osman noticed the juice offering in London was poor. With not even a pound in his pocket he went to the charity Tern who gave him a loan of £5300 to start a juice stall in Shepherds Bush Market. After a lot of hard work Osman was able to upgrade the stall to a shop in one of the arches. Five years on Osman now not only sells his delicious juice from the market, but has a shop and a restaurant on the Goldhawk Road, a shop on the Portobello Road and has another opening soon in Victoria.
Whilst the Osman Empire grows, the company that owed him money went bankrupt. That money is gone. Osman is working on solving the situation in Egypt but in the meantime still gives 5% of all his profit to No Second Night Out.
Osman was given 'Human Rights' status. He has to renew this every two and half years and after ten years he will be given British citizenship. He loves it here. His favourite things are the British Bobby, the Double Decker Bus and, of course, his growing business but his heart is still with his family back in Egypt.