It has been quite a journey for Street Cat Bob and his owner James Bowen – and The Big Issue has been with them every step of the way.
The pair rose to global fame after meeting in 2007 and becoming a star attraction on James’s Big Issue pitch outside Angel tube station in London’s Islington.
The remarkable story of how Bob saved James’s life has been turned into a hit series of books as well as two feature films. The latest, A Christmas Gift From Bob is out this week.
And throughout the 13 years since they first met up until Bob’s death on June 15, The Big Issue has been telling their story. No one, human or animal, has been on the cover of The Big Issue magazine more than Bob.
Here’s a rundown of Bob’s remarkable appearances on our cover.
Street Cat Bob popped up on the cover back in September 2011 as we celebrated our 20th anniversary and looked back on two decades of iconic magazine covers. Bob wouldn’t have to share the limelight on the front often but he was in good company on this occasion with Barack Obama, John Bird and Lady Gaga joining him in the ensemble. We looked forward to the next 20 years too. Spoilers: Bob would have a big part to play.
Bob would have to wait until 2014 to claim his first solo cover. By that stage he was a worldwide publishing sensation and working on his sixth book with owner James. While Bob was the face of the duo – James told us how his life had changed and how the huge volume of fan mail they received from around the world meant so much to them. Of course, Bob had his say, too.
It’s barely a Christmas at The Big Issue unless Bob has featured on the cover. That heart-warming tradition kicked off in 2014 when James took time out of penning his latest book to write an exclusive new piece for us in which he told of the Christmas on the streets that changed their world view.
The Street Cat Bob phenomenon was really swinging into gear by September 2015 when Bob posed in front of Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate for our cover. It was one of James and Bob’s first appearances in Europe and the former vendor told us about plans for a cat café and how Bob was brushing up on his acting skills for the pair’s upcoming film. Plenty more on that to come.
The reaction to every Bob cover is always incredible. That’s why, two months later in Christmas 2015, we turned the avalanche of photos that we received of Bobites and their cats into this remarkable cover. Greek genius Charis Tsevis painstakingly put all the pictures together to create a festive Bob. It was the ideal backdrop for Bob’s Christmas message as James looked back on the pair’s year and looked forward to 2016. It would be a big one for Bob.
Not content with being a movie star, a bestselling writer and James’s best pal, Bob tried his paw at editing the magazine in September 2016. He and James brought exclusive behind the scenes details from the set of the first movie, two months before it hit cinemas. They also look at the invaluable work animals do to help humans while Bob ran the rule over Hollywood’s other great cats.
We all know Bob is a hero pet, his life-saving intervention into James’ life had been well documented by the time this cover hit the streets in March 2017. And that made him the ideal poster-cat for readers’ super-furry stories of how their pets had helped them through hard times. It was a purr-fect match…
Meet Bob-zilla! He dwarfed kaiju on our cover to mark his visit to Japan. There were (almost) echoes of Beatlemania when Street Cat Bob arrived in Tokyo and James reckoned that the reaction was down to more than just feline love: it was about hope the that Bob brought with him to the Far East.
We revealed Bob’s new look in April 2018. To mark four years since Bob made his big front page splash on the cover of The Big Issue back and six since his pal James Bowen started sharing the story of the purrfect pair’s life-changing tail, we looked to the new animated series. And we revealed that Bob was putting his paws up to take a step back from life in the limelight.
With Bob adapting to his slower pace of life, James shared a few tips that zen-like Bob taught him over their decade together. It was pawsitively inspirational to kick off our Christmas run of magazines in 2018.
The festive tradition continued in December last year when Bob graced the magazine at Christmas once again. This time, James told us about how he and Bob had another rollercoaster year as he looked forward to the upcoming filmA Christmas Gift from Bob.
The Big Issue’s official tribute magazine to our favourite feline cam out just as vendors returned to the streets following the first UK-wide coronavirus lockdown. We received hundreds of messages about the impact Bob had on his devoted followers, and printed some that show he really did have a monumental, unbelievable impact on people’s lives.
In the midst of a global pandemic, Bob is back on the big screen – and also streaming to smaller screens until cinemas reopen. We went behind the scenes on the set of A Christmas Gift From Bob to stroke its star and chat to James Bowen, Luke Treadaway and other cast and crew. The message about kindness, compassion and keeping the hope through hopeless times is as essential as ever right now.
Big Issue vendors need your help now more than ever. More than 1,000 vendors are out of work because of the second lockdown in England. They can’t sell the magazine and they can’t rely on the income they need.
The Big Issue is helping our vendors with supermarket vouchers and gift payments but we need your help to do that.
Give your vendor a hand up and buy the magazine. Big Issue vendors are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. But, at the same time, they are micro-entrepreneurs. By supporting their business, you can help them overcome homelessness, financial instability and other social disadvantages that hold them back.