John Bird (entrepreneur)

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Bird at the launch of a Big Society initiative at 10 Downing Street

John Bird MBE (born 30 January 1946) is a British social entrepreneur. He is best known as the founder of The Big Issue, a magazine that is edited by professional journalists and sold by mainly male street vendors affected by homelessness.

Early life[edit]

John Bird was born in Notting Hill, London to a poor London Irish family. He became homeless at the age of five, resided in an orphanage between the ages of seven and ten, and went into prison in his teenage years.[why?] He slept rough on the streets of London and returned to prison in his late twenties.[why?][1]

The Big Issue and work with the homeless[edit]

In September 1991, Bird launched The Big Issue with Gordon Roddick and in November 1995 he launched The Big Issue Foundation to further aid the homeless.[2] He is currently on the Board of Directors for the company and the Board of Trustees for the foundation.[3] The Big Issue magazine started as a local London venture, but expanded with specific editions and services to other British cities, and then to other countries.

In 2001, with Big Issue Chairman Nigel Kershaw, Bird helped found The Big Issue Invest, a provider of finance for businesses with the aim of creating social change. Initially only dealing in loan finance, in 2009 The Big Issue Invest launched a social investment fund.

In June 1995, Bird was awarded the MBE for "services to homeless people"; and, in 2006, he received the Beacon Fellowship Prize for his energy and originality in raising awareness of homelessness and his support of homeless communities worldwide.[4]

Political aspirations[edit]

A member of the Workers Revolutionary Party in the 1970s,[5] in March 2007, Bird announced his intention to stand for election to the post of Mayor of London as an independent candidate.[6] In May 2007 he unveiled his election manifesto for the 2008 poll.[7]

In October 2007, Bird announced that he had decided not to stand for election, and was instead going to launch a movement that was "going to try and do what the CND did over the bomb, but over social injustice".[8]

In December 2007, Bird agreed with Westminster Council who declared that they were opposed to the presence of soup kitchens on the streets of London. He said:

We have to stop supplying people with the means of being emergency refugees on the streets... no one has ever got off the streets simply because they've been fed a good bowl of soup.[9]

In 2010, Bird helped to launch the writers website[citation needed]

In the early 21st century,[tone][clarification needed] Bird became a Social Enterprise Ambassador.[citation needed] Social enterprises use a business to address a social or environmental need. The Social Enterprise Ambassadors programme is led by the Social Enterprise Coalition and is supported by the Office of the Third Sector, part of the UK government's Cabinet Office.[citation needed]

Bird revealed in 2010 "My guilty secret is that I’m really a working class Tory. There, I’ve said it. I’d love to be a liberal because they’re the nice people but it’s really hard work – I can’t swallow their gullibility and I think their ideas are stupid. I’d love to be someone who wanders around in a kind of Utopian paradise seeing only the good in everybody but I just can’t. I support capital punishment for a start. I know this will destroy my reputation among middle-class liberals but I’m 64 now and I should be able to breathe a bit. Wearing the corsetry of liberalism means that every now and then you have to take it off."[10]

Honorary Doctorate[edit]

John Bird was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Business from Plymouth University in 2013.[11]


  1. ^ John Bird. How to change your life in 7 steps at the Wayback Machine (archived September 27, 2007). National Literacy Trust. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  2. ^ The Big Issue History. (2011-09-07). Retrieved on 2011-09-26.
  3. ^ Contact and trustees. Retrieved on 2011-09-26.
  4. ^ 2005/6 Beacon Prize Winners. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  5. ^ The big thing about the Big Issue. The Guardian, published May 1994
  6. ^ England Big Issue owner to run for mayor. BBC News (2007-03-22). Retrieved on 2011-09-26.
  7. ^ Big Issue owner unveils manifesto. BBC News (2007-05-01). Retrieved on 2011-09-26.
  8. ^ Big Issue founder targets poverty. BBC News (2007-10-18). Retrieved on 2011-09-26.
  9. ^ Should soup kitchens be banned?[dead link]
  10. ^ Express Yourself: Celebrities reveal their guilty pleasures. (2010-10-25). Retrieved on 2011-09-26.
  11. ^ John Bird MBE - Doctorate of Business 

External links[edit]