James Bowen and Big Issue vendors welcomed into Parliament

'A Street Cat Named Bob' author James Bowen was among those invited by Lord Bird to an annual reception for successful organisations

The Big Issue has been a major innovator and influencer on social policy for over 25 years.

And to mark the achievements of the life-changing magazine and its founder Lord John Bird, a group of current and former Big Issue vendors were invited into Parliament last week.

James Bowen, the ex-vendor turned bestselling author of a Street Cat Names Bob, joined Lord Bird and Big Issue sellers at an evening reception held to celebrate the publication of The Parliamentary Review.

The group rubbed shoulder with some of the country’s leading political and business figures, sharing the entrepreneurial ideas behind The Big Issue that have helped thousands of homeless people overcome huge hurdles over the past quarter of a century.

Former vendors Sam and George with James Bowen, Lord Bird and current vendor Johnny

The Parliamentary review is a series of documents based around key policy areas, where organizations and individuals – including Bird and The Big Issue – share best practice as a means of inspiring others.

Big Issue employee Sam, a former vendor who now acts as a franchisee to other vendors in London’s Covent Garden area, said the organization remained a leader.

“There are many charities around that hand out soup and sandwiches, clothes and sleeping bags,” said the former vendor. “But only The Big Issue will give you a structured life and your self-respect back.”

The Big Issue will give you a structured life and your self-respect back

TalkRADIO presenter Julia Hartley-Brewer was on hand to commend Lord Bird, the guest of honor, and Communities Secretary Eric Pickles also made a speech.

Although the world’s most famous street cat Bob did not attend the shindig at Westminster, his owner recently took him on a fact-finding trip to Japan.

James Bowen and Bob visited the Tokyo offices of The Big Issue Japan, our sister magazine founded in 2003. The pair also appeared on TV show called Unbelievable to talk about their remarkable story – made into a major motion picture last year.

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