John Bird

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Founder of the Big Issue, John Bird MBE, was awarded an honorary fellowship by Goldsmiths in 2012.

As a publisher, self-employed printer, author, journalist, and entrepreneur; John Bird is best known as the founder and editor-in-chief of the the Big Issue.

Since 1991, the magazine has been helping rough homeless sleepers in London by giving individuals a real alternative to begging - as the magazine insists, buying the Big Issue is a hand up, not a handout. The Big Issue is sold in nine countries around the world and in 2004 was awarded the UN-Habitat Scroll of Honour Award.

John Bird was born in Notting Hill and found himself homeless for the first time aged five. During his youth, he spent several spells in prison where he learnt to read, write and the basics of printing. He attended Chelsea College of Art but became homeless again not long after. 

His controversial and outspoken criticism of successive government’s policies on homelessness has occasionally ruffled feathers in high places but has also seen him awarded an MBE for services to homeless people in the 1995 Queen’s Birthday Honours.

He has also been made a Baron of Notting Hill and in his maiden speech he declared "someone said to me, 'How did you get into the House of Lords?' and I said, 'By lying, cheating and stealing."

Bird's work is non-partisan and focuses on dismantling the root causes of poverty in the UK. His work emphasises the well-being of future generations, early intervention and prevention. In the House of Lords, he also speaks on social enterprise, social mobility, literacy and the Arts.