Big Issue Vendor

How Street Cat Bob helped a homelessness charity survive

Michael Angus, Director of the Barons Court Project pays tribute and thinks back to when the hero cat made an appearance to raise cash for their work supporting people on low incomes

James Bowen and Street Cat Bob will always hold a special place in the hearts of Barons Court Project, Hammersmith and Fulham’s only day centre and they have been very good friends to us.

Just over three years ago we held an event, An Evening with James and Street Cat Bob, at Hammersmith and Fulham Town Hall. We had never done an event before, but we managed to get the use of the hall for free and planned, what we hoped, would be a fantastic evening. We were not sure if anyone would come but once tickets went on sale they went like hot cakes!

On a hot June night as we got to the town hall to set up, several hours before the event, we met a fan who was first in the queue; she had travelled from Boston, USA. As it got nearer to the time to open the doors I was staggered to see the queues from the doors across a courtyard and snaking down the high street. By the time the guests were seated we had people who had travelled from across the UK, thirteen European countries, Japan, New York, Chicago, California and even Argentina. In amongst the 550 people were about 30 of our regular guests, most of whom were sleeping rough, it was so good they were able to come to and hear James’ story.

We were supported by two lovely young men, Luke and Ash, who knew of James and Bob, and form a band called Burbank Official, they were fantastic entertaining the crowds as they entered the hall.

Rhianna Dhillon – radio film critic and one of James’ favourite interviewers – had agreed to host the event and interview James. She did an amazing job bringing out the story that everyone had come to hear. James also took questions from the audience and there was a presentation from Barons Court Project. We were joined by not one but several mayors from boroughs across London – they call themselves The Chain Gang.

Of course Bob stole the show. For much of the evening he sat regally on a cushion on top of a chair and watched, I think with some bemusement,  all those who came that night. Every now and then he would enjoy a treat and he upstaged all of us who spoke. He wore his trademark scarf, was presented with many more and of course he and James did his signature high five!

The book signing at the end of the Question and Answer slot took over two hours to complete, but no one seemed to mind, they were getting to know one another, one of the loveliest things about the event was the friendships that formed that evening and continue today.

James and Bob have raised thousands of pounds for Barons Court Project and our work with people who are homeless or living with mental health conditions, we were having a tough year and the events they did help us to survive. We are indebted to them both and to all who came to the events.

We are deeply sorry about Bob’s passing but hope he is at peace and we will of course continue to be good friends to James.

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