How coronavirus inspired Street Cat Bob fans to raise cash for The Big Issue

Fans of Street Cat Bob and his owner James Bowen, whose incredible story was made into a books and even a film, have clubbed together to support Big Issue vendors through this tough time

A tight-knit group of Street Cat Bob enthusiasts have joined forces to raise more than £430 and counting to help The Big Issue keep supporting vendors while they’re temporarily unable to sell on the streets.

Hailing from all over the UK, the group are megafans of James Bowen and his companion Bob the cat. The pair’s remarkable tale of homelessness and recovery from addiction is one of The Big Issue’s biggest success stories – with the duo going from selling the magazine to capturing the imagination of the nation with a series of bestselling books and even a feature film.

A Facebook page for ‘Bobites’ has attracted more than 3,500 members, some of whom branched off to take part in the 2.6 Challenge designed to raise money for charity. The initiative was launched in light of the London Marathon’s cancellation, encouraging Brits to do any challenge linked to the numbers 2.6 or 26 and direct donations to a charity of their choosing.

Nicola Cookson, a civil servant in Killingworth, North Tyneside, took part in the fundraiser. She told The Big Issue: “For anybody reading the book, it just changes your whole attitude. Whether that’s about homelessness, addiction and even The Big Issue. I didn’t know much about The Big Issue until I read the book.”

Bobites have a history of doing their bit to support The Big Issue, whether through sleep-outs or volunteering for other fundraising events.

“One of the admins was supposed to be doing the London Marathon,” Cookson added. “But then the 2.6 Challenge was launched and one of our members suggested some of us do a challenge and donate to The Big Issue.” More than 20 people got involved.

Nicola took her children for a walk 2.6 miles away from home and another 2.6 miles back. Others took up different challenges; some went on 2.6 mile-long cycles, took their dogs for a walk of that length or rode bikes for 26 minutes. Others with mobility issues wrote 260 words about their work and Facetimed loved ones for 26 minutes.

Cookson said: “We set a target of £260 since we’re a small group. Now we’ve smahed that, we’re at more than £430 and it’s growing. We’ll keep it going until May 3 then give the money to The Big Issue.

“It was great because it didn’t have to be something strenuous or something physical. And it was a bit of fun as well!”

The Bobites also fundraise for small animal charities throughout the year and have been known to send each other postcards through the mail with encouraging messages written on them.

“It’s such a lovely friendly group,” said Cookson. “It promotes positivity and everyone supports each other.”

The Bobites’ generous donation will make it possible for The Big Issue to make sure our vendors are taken care of with cash, supermarket vouchers, electricity top-ups and other essentials during the Covid-19 crisis.

We’re keeping track of all the good people doing good across the UK as the nation tries to navigate the public health crisis – find out what others are doing here.