Prince Charles buys a copy of The Big Issue from a vendor, 1998.

John Bird’s Big Issue

John Bird, who grew up homeless and made it into the House of Lords the unfashionable way, on running the London street newspaper The Big Issue

Lord John Bird, who became homeless at age five, in Notting Hill.

The Early Days

Since The Big Issue’s launch, in the early 90s, big-name Hollywood actors, including the press-shy Benedict Cumberbatch and Michael Sheen, have endorsed the publication or signed up as ambassadors, as have a number of politicians — Ed Miliband and David Lammy — and perhaps their most famous satirist, Armando Iannucci. The man who considers himself a “working-class Tory” has published exclusives from J. K. Rowling and talked the Archbishop of Canterbury into giving street sales a try.

George Michael graces the cover of The Big Issue, November 1996.
Selling The Big Issue on the streets of London.

Back in the House of Lords …

Bird chats with people here and there as he leads me onto the outdoor terrace of the House of Lords, where a sticky toffee pudding awaits him, and continues with his discourse on the issue nearest to his heart: the homeless.

Bird, left, Gordon Roddick, right, and members of the Big Issue staff at the newspaper’s launch, 1991.

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Adrian Margaret Brune

Adrian Margaret Brune

Adrian Margaret Brune is a native Oklahoman who lives, works, writes, runs and plays competitive tennis in London, UK.