About Me

I am 70. I was brought up in an orphanage and served time in a young offenders institution. During the turbulent and difficult times I often slept rough as one of London’s homeless. On reflection I was very much a part of the problems of society.

Eventually I realised that the only way to get out of the destructive circle into which I had grown up was to give myself a hand up rather than wait for others to give me a hand-out.

Settling down in my 20’s I began to hold down regular jobs in factories and eventually as a skilled printer. Never forgetting the hardship and problems of my youth and the ways in which similar deprivation afflicts  tens of thousands of others in similar positions on the bottom rungs of society.

Twenty-five years ago this year, using my experience of the print industry, I co-founded, with Gordon Roddick the now world-famous Big Issue.

The weekly magazine achieves its mass circulation through being sold on the streets of the UK and only by vendors who are homeless and vulnerably accommodated.

The deal is simple with the proceeds of each copy sold being split equally between the vendor and the publishers. Thus, reflecting my own philosophy, the deprived and under-privileged are given a hand-up through earning their money rather than waiting for the hand-out which may do little more than trap them in the homeless poverty from which many crave escape.

The Big Issue, or similar magazines, are now published in dozens of countries around the world – always with the same aims of helping those struggling for a break in society.

Although strictly non-political, I have been consulted by British Prime Ministers and Cabinet Ministers on how best to lift people out of poverty through harnessing their own energies.

As a new created cross-bench peer, Lord Bird of Nottinghill, I’ll continue to do this in the House of Lords.

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