James Bowen: “Bob was my best friend, my soul mate”

The Big Issue celebrates the life of Street Cat Bob with a special edition – now on sale on the streets across the UK – featuring tributes from James Bowen, Big Issue vendors and Bobites around the world

James Bowen pays an emotional tribute to his “best friend” Bob in a special edition of The Big Issue out now, dedicated to celebrating the life of Street Cat Bob, who sadly passed away last month.

The duo met in March 2007 – one human and one cat, two lost souls in search of love and hope and a future.

Over the next 13 years they were inseparable, with Bob joining James on his pitch in Islington selling The Big Issue, becoming local celebrities before their story reached a wider audience as an international publishing sensation and then a hit movie.

james and bob

James writes: “Bob became much more than a cat or mere companion to me. He was my best friend, my soul mate. My brother, almost. Two slightly broken souls, we transformed each other’s lives.

“To say he was loved is a gigantic understatement. The outpouring of emotion that followed the news of his death was immense. Almost all of the messages talked of how deeply Bob had touched their lives, how much joy he had brought them. How he had inspired them. Some left me shaking my head in wonder.”

We were inundated with hundreds of emails from fans around the world sharing stories of how their lives were changed by Bob – it would take an entire book to print them all but the ones we have space for make clear the impact Bob had on so many.

In the magazine, James also talks about his hopes for Bob’s lasting legacy, starting with his next mission: to help the Big Issue vendors who have recently returned to their pitches across the country.

Bob never failed me. I know he won’t let vendors down either

“This week they will go to work with Bob at their side once more, staring out – for the 11th time – from the cover of the magazine he helped me sell all those years ago outside Angel Tube station,” writes James.

“It is so fitting that it should be hitting the streets at this particular time. As the editor Paul McNamee wrote so eloquently a couple of weeks ago, Bob had become a symbol. ‘He represented a second chance and hope and never giving up on somebody, things that are hardwired into The Big Issue DNA.’

“That indomitable, irrepressible spirit has never been so badly needed. And I know that he will provide each and every vendor with a piece of it. He never failed me. I know he won’t let them down either.”

How you can buy a copy of this week’s Big Issue

Our tribute to Bob is available from Monday, 13 July. Please seek out your local vendor and buy a magazine from them. Like James and Bob all these years ago, they are working their way out of poverty and hoping for a brighter future. Purchasing a magazine helps them take another step on that journey.

If you do not have a vendor in your area – or if you live outside of the UK – then you can still support our vendors by ordering online from The Big Issue Shop or via our app, available from the App Store or Google Play.

We do not recommend ordering from third party sites wherever possible. This week we have been moving our stock of magazines around the country to make sure vendors have access to as many as they need. Any magazines left over will be available to order, so even if the website says they are sold out more will become available next week.

You can also get a copy in stores for the first time. Head to Sainsbury’s, McColl’s, Co-op, Asda or WH Smith to grab the latest issue.

The hardships our vendors were facing have become even harder in the wake of Covid-19. Proceeds from subscriptions, retail sales as well as online orders and our app, go towards supporting them at this difficult time.

Some of our vendors are still shielding from the virus so are unable to sell; others need extra assistance paying rent or utility bills. With your help (and Bob’s) we can keep on helping them.

If you have any questions, email editorial@bigissue.com