A statue celebrating the life and legacy of Street Cat Bob will be unveiled on Islington Green in London on Thursday July 15.
The ginger tom cat rose to fame on the shoulders of Big Issue vendor James Bowen, becoming the subject of books and films that were global hits. But his loyal human companion James and millions of fans worldwide were left heartbroken when Bob passed away last June, at 14 years of age.
Now Bob will be immortalised in bronze just a stone’s throw from their old pitch at Angel Station, north London. The statue will sit on the green in front of the Waterstones bookshop where James first started writing down their uplifting story of love, loyalty, hope and redemption.
“The idea had been in the back of my mind, since the first book,” says Bowen, who has been moved by the emotional reaction to Bob’s death. “What would I do when Bob was no longer in the physical realm? It’s not something you like to think about. But other people discussed it with me and the idea of the statue had come about.
“Over 100,000 people have donated towards it. It’s been a worldwide effort of support.”
The incredible tale of how James found Bob injured and abandoned in 2007, took care of the young cat who in turn gave him a reason to get up each morning, and how they became inseparable, busking and selling The Big Issue on the streets of London, quickly became a bestseller.
The series of books published by Hodder and Stoughton, which began with A Street Cat Named Bob in 2012, have sold more than eight million copies in more than 40 languages and been adapted into two films starring Luke Treadaway as James opposite Bob (as himself). Bob was loved everywhere he went.
Bob certainly wasn’t like other cats. And I’m pleased to say that you can see his character in the statueJames Bowen
The new statue has been created by sculptor Tanya Russell and will be unveiled at a small ceremony attended by James Bowen.
Russell says: “I’ve been really overwhelmed by the amount of love there is for Bob and just how much James and Bob’s story means to everybody. It’s so powerful. So it’s important that people love this sculpture – it’s part of the memory of Bob.”
Happily, Bowen loves the new work. “Bob certainly wasn’t like other cats,” he says. “And I’m pleased to say that you can see his character in the statue.”
“Never has there been a cat so loved,” added Paul McNamee, editor of The Big Issue. “Not only by James and all of us at The Big Issue but millions of people around the world.
“It is, therefore, only right that Bob should be honoured in this way, close to where the story all began, by James’ Big Issue pitch in Islington. We applaud Bob’s loyal fan club and talented sculptor Tanya Russell for making it all possible.”
With restrictions on access to Islington Green for the unveiling ceremony, fans are urged to watch the event online.
“We’ll be broadcasting on Facebook, Twitch and YouTube,” says Bowen. “Everybody is going to be able to watch the presentation in real time and watch the slideshow that goes with it, to share in the memories I’m sharing. Just being a part of that livestream is just showing the love.
“I really have to say that if people are planning on attending, they should think twice. Because we do have restrictions and rules for a reason. Bob’s memorial is going to be there for life – so you can watch the live stream and visit at another time. Sorry, that’s my public service announcement there!”
But soon, everyone will be able to follow in Bob’s pawprints and enjoy a moment’s contemplation in the heart of Islington. Just as James Bowen and Bob once did.
“We used to go there every day,” says Bowen. “When we were selling the Big Issue in the afternoons, we would have lunch there. So it’s the perfect spot for him.”