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Media Masters with Paul Blanchard welcome to media Masters series of one-to-one interviews with people at the top of the game by Lord John bird founder and editor-in-chief of The Big Issue launched in 1991 the Independent magazine is sold on the street by homeless people to help them out of poverty and has a circular 1000 forms part of the biggest group along with a charitable foundation and Investment arm which is cloud over 30 million pounds into social Enterprises and charities in the past 13 years John who learnt to read while in prison as a teenager is also found a chapter catcher magazine and social Enterprise dedicated to improving literacy is the first person with personal experience of poverty and homelessness dropped in a peerage and in 1995 was awarded the MBE for services to homeless people.
Thank you for joining me.
I mean what an incredibly inspirational story does anyone.
From washing dishes in the House of Lords 2 being a noble did House of Lords I don't think so but there are some interesting people when I came in I came in with four other people and Lady Baroness Baroness Watkins came in the same time as me she started life as a nurse coming from a council flat worked away.
I became a head nurse and ended up running Plymouth medical school, so she's a woman has been at the coalface and come from poverty and need and worked out so there's a wind of Change that's probably Over Taking the Lord's that they've got a kind of up their game and get rid of all these people or not concentrate too much on political appointees light Baroness Watkins I applied to go in so I was not it's not I'm not in the gift.
Anybody so I'm not there.
I'm crossbencher I filled in all the forms Tony Blair created something in 1999.
I think people here.
So you apply anybody can apply the hundreds of applications and a winner it down now it down and then choose a couple of people and I was one of them to getting up.
So you've got to have had a pretty amazing life and a lot to contribute to the upper Chambers really and you have to be very good at interviews.
I had to do two of them and I've never whenever I was interviewed for a job.
I didn't get the job.
I've never been interviewed for a job and got it the only time.
I've ever had a job which was in the back of the evening Standard or something like that or job through a major point.
I'm no good at interviews on this occasion.
I must have been good enough by field and all the forms.
I was very truthful and I try and be as truthful man.
Try and deny the incredible power of the work of the biggest shooting credible worldwide presents in 74 different countries we started something called the international network of 3 papers were working with people in in the Barry Austin in Brazil in the harbour of the town in Argentina working in Taiwan and China and in Tokyo and stuff like that and we're working in Africa and working in Europe all grown out of The Big Issue all grown out of the Peppermint foot lotion revolution.
I am the product of Anita Roddick peppermint foot lotion Revolution because in the 70s.
She created a series of shops called The Body Shop and her husband who was an old geezer I knew.
When I was 21 hiding from the police in Edinburgh this big nose Scotsman we became mates because we both had big broken noses didn't see him for 20 years.
He had morphed into a multi-millionaire.
I rang them up and he said are you one of those persons who climbs out the woodwork when somebody makes a shed load of money and I said yes, so it should come and see me so when we became friends again.
We didn't do an awful.
Lot then he was a New York's or a street paper being sold by a guy started talking to the guy and realise that he was a guy been in and out of the penitentiary all of his life was 54 if he went in again that throw the key away and instead of carrying on getting in trouble storytelling Street papercut Street news, so my wonderful invention the big issue is a rip-off plagiarism.
I love the idea of admitting.
I nicked it from an American publication.
I don't think anyone would condemn you for that given all the good you've done.
We we didn't go with them model because their model was full of homeless writing the number of people every time you put it behind us writing largely because Street news went through the roof for a couple of months or maybe even a year but people started with widely the vendors because they thought they kept reading the same desperate story so we thought it would be much better to produce a magazine that would appeal to the squatter and the financial gentleman in the city because the revolutionary nature of the big issue is the fact that it gives homeless people and people in need and bumblebee accommodating x homeless people it gives them the chance of making money which is legitimate and legal and doesn't get them into trouble with the police or the local authority.
Can you came up with the name the biggest you didn't you? I did that's largely because I'm a dream in fact this morning.
I woke up and I had a dream.
I mean not dreams kind of like between day and night you know all day and early morning and I'll come up this thing this morning and it was the Walled Garden poverty as a wall garden thing is all the big money spent on the wall, but not on the garden and I think I'm going to use that maybe I'll start a magazine called the wall.
Go and what we going to do is tear down the walls and bothered anyway one morning early in 1991.
Just before we started and was struggling what to call it and I had this dream about 4 in the morning the biggest whilst I came into work and one person loved it guy for children to help me start the biggest ship and
Musician fantastic musician he was the only one I liked it and everybody else that sounds like a cliché.
I said everybody know it should the British British yes, I came up with the title and it took her.
I mean it must a lot commitment at the Beginning because I mean you will soon lose in 25 rounded body shop foundation money every month yeah, well that was unfortunate but it was necessary because I didn't know what I was doing when Gordon after the end of the first year he said to me you know how much I spent on you in in the in the last year and I said no I'm not counting you remember how much you said it would cost to start the biggest ship and I said yeah.
He has a 30000 and he said you know how much I spent on you in the first year.
I should know it's a £300 so I stopped and I thought I said what's a naughty mums.
Can you laugh you said to me you got well actually previous to that would be losing £25,000 15020 thousand the reason for that was because the more magazines we sold the poor and we became because we were advised by a load of advertising companies that the way of making the money from the magazine was not the street.
So put the street solo and make your money out of the advertising so we met if you do, I will not mention advertising companies said they would advertise and none of them then not one of them, so I'm models shocked shocked two pieces, so we were building the vendors 10p for a magazine that was costing 23 pence to make so what happened was we got more and more busy.
We were everybody was they were making film.
Television over the world more and more working with more and more homeless people and we got to tune 1992.
We've been running for six months nine months ago and said to me you got three months in that three months if you don't break even I'm pulling the plug so losing 25000 month.
I went back to the office.
I said to quite a number of people.
I'm sorry you're gonna have to go about that was tough because most of them was students and they were actually not even students.
They were preparing on the way to go to the university, so I probably have to go earlier.
I think we got rid of two people and they weren't particularly good at the job and all the rest.
I think was about 6 students and needs two people so I was paying very young people to do the magazine so they left.
So that juice money then I said to the vendors.
I'm sorry you're selling it for 50p.
Let's keep it a 50p but now instead of paying 10p you have to pay 20 cos you're making quids you know you're getting 50p plus and they went nuts I tried to burn the van down and all that I said we're going to go and Stratton you do what you want mate.
So we double the price to the homeless and we moved using the same team removed from a monthly to fortnightly then I from an A3 publication on this kind of very expensive paper to a news print magazine A4 and went from 23 pence a copy to 10p and by the time.
We got to her first birthday, which was September 1992 with broken even and wins.
Of £1500 we've been in and out a profit ever since sometimes we done well sometimes not so well sometime we do a lot of things which you make money out of anyway and it was Gordon put a gun to my head and saying you do this.
I love to I love challenge.
I love them.
I love the fact that Gordon stuck by me every don't employ John bird is a nutter is an ex homeless extract sleeping drunk.
He's argumentative he fights with people and Gordon really believed in me.
I was astonished.
I've never known anybody believe it me and he believed in me so here.
We are so by the end of the first year that state the moment wasn't the pivot when you realise you've got a viable proposition hear that you've got something that could work well brilliant thing was it was the civilised.
The civilizing the people on the street, so you have a load of largely to people started with very very drunk very very aggressive and all that sort of stuff then the public started talking to them and buying from them and recognising them as human beings and not just simply a drunkard sits by the ATM which working not begging and well the public people sent me can't you you're so good at changing this business.
I didn't do it properly the public recognise them if you're a bigger and I've been a bigger and I can tell you the first thing that goes out the window was the truth and you always have to make it sound as though you're almost at Death doorstep, but if you're selling The Big Issue you have to say hi and occasionally people try and use the same old story but they are nearly always saying to you look I'm going to go and improving my life so for the first time the public could.
To the disenfranchised and the public alternative social workers.
I am not joking.
I'm in the Lord's and I meet every Lord has always got a bigger story most of them positive some of them negative and they all have a favourite big issue vendor and it's quite incredible the public we gave the chance of the public to me.
That's all we do but there's also inherent dignity to it.
Isn't it? It's not just the absence of begging it said transfer someone to pick themselves up by their own bootstraps and lots of people buy into that.
I think people love the challenge that homeless people take out when they start selling The Big Issue but love the fact that the homeless themselves homeless person is saying I want to do this.
I've just been speaking to a vendor who I've known for 15 years and I said to him that I say all the time I said why have you not moved on he said look I was a row.
I used to steal cars ice to break into places.
I did all sorts of things like that.
I got into trouble after trouble after trouble since I started The Big Issue 15 years ago.
I have as you say dignity.
I have a sense of well-being.
I have a steady income.
I've now got somewhere to live and I've got a girlfriend.
I mean it is now he's kind of 50s but what's interesting is that he would not have had a life if it wasn't for somebody saying well with you.
I will hold your hand will help you up if you fall down will try and pick you up again, but the point is you have to do it yourself you have to do it and will always be as long as you need us the day.
You don't need us.
Don't forget to tell us goodbye unfortunately has been too many of them and said goodbye and we don't know where they are some of them have died.
Moved on occasionally I meet some of them.
I was walking down the road couple of years ago.
Just walking down the road near the BBC and the car pulled over normal bloke.
I have this big Jaguar and slammed the door open engine still running rushed up to me.
I was going to hit me and you did it for me Norman Norman's big know when we're going to be.
No you didn't look like big Norman he looks bigger, but the other than is a lot healthier and he's an old and he had a job as a as a as a kind of hush river chauffeuring people here there and everywhere for a kind of courtesy things that people I suppose the funniest occasion was I was walking down Oxford Street and suddenly this very large tomato bumped into me and push me I turn around and it was in.
Tomatoes and came out and it was called bungalow Bill the reason for that.
Was you didn't have much upstairs.
You know the old story.
That's why he that was his name for an it.
He was working for a promotional business to do with diced tomatoes and tomato and loving it but he lasts for about 4 years and with stabilized him.
We got enough the gear that was a killer got me off the gear got in placed in in in education actually did some training some I don't know what kind of training but he was really nice when you meet that but overall you're there for people whatever they want to do.
You know they are living a life that they want to live a popular defenders.
You know would become on the streets something and I live in their village Milton Keynes and I see the
Vendors at Milton Keynes station and on the you know in the shopping centre or all the time and get to become like local faces and local celebrities.
Don't they ever was chatting to them? It's also I get prayers for things and I get thank for things and I'm not as modest as I'm not a skeezer.
I love my life done.
I'm I'm a brilliant.
I've helped a lot of people but I haven't done it without the aid of hundreds and thousands of homeless people over the years and hundreds thousands of members of the public who just adopted the vendors.
I mean obviously the vendors have done naughty things as I was amongst the people we work there.
We're always stop the naughty becoming regular, but the thing I love is the enthusiasm that the public have adopted.
Event but I think the public but I don't know if you're going to send it to homelessness if you have those problems then you gonna have some skeletons in the closet and some problems you have to work to the public can see that as part of the angels, are they not that anyone is no I think the other thing is the public realise that life is pretty perilous today for most people.
I mean most of us are not that far away.
You know that was it 3 or 4 paychecks away.
I don't know if it's ever been any different, but it just seems more perilous now.
I think the public more than anything.
I think they buy into somebody who was I was saying earlier is doing something rather than nothing or trying to win control of their lives.
I mean like you said a lot of my friends and people that out everyday to me of you have been turned out by their landlords you.
Not got my savings up as much as I'd like and if I fail a credit check and then suddenly they actually you know about having to sofa surf which is obviously form of homelessness.
I mean it just shows you just how precarious life sometime you can't say anything for granted will sofa surfing.
I mean I was a sofa surfing was great improvement on rough sleeping, but I tell you you to be doing it for a few weeks and you don't feel you belong anywhere and let's be honest if your sofa surfing you're not making friends and because you're there when maybe somebody be on their own or whatever I have Tuesday off loads of people in my time because I've said you know can I save yourself and I'll sail by in a people who relish helping other people but you don't want them 365 days of the year.
Is well-known now, but you know I mean back then when you founded the biggest and these things are quite rare a business that set out to do a social good because you spoke about the first about how you broke even but that's only metric.
I mean that the whole point of The Big Issue and what you trying to do is to transform lives and bring people out of poverty and homelessness well.
We say we are a business response to social and there was a particular reason for that when we started they were 501 homeless organisations in London alone 1991.
I didn't want to be 500.
I didn't start a charity I started a business.
So it's a business like any other business though.
We did have two articles of association in such a way that all the profits go back into the business.
We pay tax like any other business.
We don't go for freebies.
We pay VAT on weed.
Two things like that now the reason for that is because I want to show that a business response to a social crisis is a potential and possibility for getting people out of the sticky stuff that I'm not really a charitable person.
We have a charity which works highly commended Lee in a particular way it helps prepare people for stuff like that are supporting but you know even though I started the charity.
I know very little about charities.
I am much happier in a businessman, and as a business response to a social crisis, so we do our best to break even we do our best to do all the things that a business is what we're trying to do as a as a social enterprise is prove the model and when we started as you say people didn't talk about social Enterprises
We are probably the most famous social Enterprises in the UK will probably the largest social Enterprise in terms that were in the countries that we working we are a a loose Association lots of little Social Enterprises it's not all controlled by a central office, so there's no economic imperialism about it.
Let people go their own way and because of that.
We are I think much nearer to the ground.
I also say I keep reminding myself sometimes to their irritation.
We are here for the homeless.
Who's not here for us when a homeless person doesn't need anymore.
I hope they leave to hang around to keep anybody in in a job and I've often said to people you know Queen Elizabeth when she wanted to sit down.
She just sat.
And they had to be a chair behind I said I would love us metaphorically speaking to always be there behind the homeless person who wants to sit down.
I don't only minute metaphorically I want to be there for the homeless when whenever they need us if they fall down if they if they make mistakes if they do wrong people I want to be there afterwards it would be impossible for me to moralize about wrongdoing when I look at my own life and the stuff that so I'm very very in love with the idea of redemption of rehabilitation.
I'm with helping people to help themselves, but always on the basis that get it wrong you can come back now.
That is an attractive way of running a business is impossible.
When you got one of the largest workforces on the face of the Earth which come and go at their will how do you how do you make it work? We have made it work we have made work in such a way.
I work with some brilliant people brilliant editors.
I work with brilliant distribution.
I work with brilliant coalface workers who often face danger face threats and all that I work with brilliant homeless people are struggling to get out of thing I was so worked with people who don't quite get it leave or whatever but how do you do that and call it a business? I still don't know I would not have anybody said to me jump at Harvard University asked me to write a social business.
I said I wouldn't know where to begin.
How would I you know you have you have to you have to really all might have a science of it and I do.
It's going to suck it and see you tomorrow.
Which is worked pretty good science and it's become a global franchise have sold over 200 million copies of the magazine commercially at the Beginning well as I explained to you because we got the model wrong from the first day.
He was going to be a magazine crammed full of advertising almost like a free magazine, but not that free £50 worth a lot of money in 1991 almost giving away to the homeless at 10 p.m.
Because we got the model wrong when the advertising didn't come and a little bit of advertising came.
We kind of at the end of the first year made of it.
The all the emphasis was on survival not how magnificent and as I explained every paper we sold we got further to debt and because Gordon stuck with me.
We managed it if he hadn't if he'd lost if he got cold feet a little earlier.
It wouldn't work and if Anita and Gordon have not put together this in normally successful business and wouldn't have been the money to actually made the whole thing worse because you had to have deep pockets to do what we want to do Gordon somebody said to go and see you spend all that money was not a waste.
It's probably half of it was a waste of the only thing is I don't know which half it's a bit like what Lord lever said about advertising you said I spend £1000000 a year on advertising in half of it is rubbish unfortunately.
The same with what we try to do with the biggest room nobody nobody and done that thing nobody have been down that road when you're doing something for the first time you wasted enormous amount of time and effort and whatever you mentioned earlier that you know about Redemption can we go back to your childhood? I was reading that you know you you are homeless you were in Borstal you in an orphanage.
Obviously had a pretty tough starting life.
Yeah, but I was wonderful I was with students from the University of Cambridge because I live near Cambridge and this woman young woman she was only about 22 and she was interviewed for one of these College magazines and she very embarrassing you said all you know sorry, I've had such a privileged life and you've had such a hard-on.
I said look every.
What happened to me you know you turn it in a way because of purpose if somebody kicks you in the face and you fall down you learn a few things one of them as you don't hang around to be kept in the face and maybe learn to be able to do that to them.
I learnt to fight I learnt to stand up for myself.
I learnt to stand up from we could I watched the the nasties in United boys prisons and then reformatories and I watch them and I learnt so much gentility kindness and generosity that comes from finding people weaker than yourself really hurt by the people in power so I learnt my contempt for power my contempt for the system in in the prison system it was a constructive content.
Because you want to change things I don't it's not a contempt like you're all bottoms and go away.
It is the contempt but I don't recognise that their power is so powerful.
It will stop me from doing what I want.
I was in the House of Lords today and we were debating the National Health Service and I jumped up to speak even though it wasn't my turn because there were other people who were talking about their short so tonight should have sat down but I'm not going to do that because the who I was told to give the opportunity to work for doctors at doctors will not hang on.
I don't accept your arguments were talking about nutrition and the fact that nutrition is a really big issue.
You know electrician and all sorts of things like that.
I wanted to raise the question.
Why is it that?
Brooks hospital near where I live 42% of the people who end up in that hospital end up there because of nutrition issues, so nearly half of them.
I've got nutritional around the city and all sorts of things and bad food and bad drinking and also why is it that when a doctor is trained for 7 years only one afternoon is given to nutrition in all that time about health service that approximates what we need is got to get nearer to the fact that our hospitals of being filled up with people who were crying out to be helped with regard to nutrition and among other things is the president it was digging up graves without knives and forks exactly because it if you look at the circle lifestyle diseases you know it's not just lunch.
It's also diabetes and hypertension morbid obesity diseases we give ourselves and the thing is if you if you have a load of people running something like the National Health Service who are doctors in doctors will mend you when you're ill, but who's going to prevent you from becoming out who won't be the doctor's until the doctor's learn that nutrition is something that you don't just spend half a day anyway.
I had a bit of a scurry in the House of Lords I'm telling you I'm not there to make friends.
I'm there to say the way the government runs the what the government does is the government is creating problems the Sugar Tax the salt tax or whatever you like to go all those things that you could do to change we got rid of smoking on buses and in public places we can do.
Normal things if we're running a government that is thinking collectively and sensibly but the problem is that there are too many people saying well, that's National Health Service to itself when we realised that most people who go into hospital.
I'll people there because of some social problem.
They're there because things have not worked out from them interestingly a friend of mine used to run some Thomas's Hospital which is just opposite Parliament on the other side of the river and he said to me 70% of the people in the A&E the people who failed school didn't do well at school, but using the A&E because that haven't got the chance.
We've never had they were had all the jobs.
I haven't done well in life.
They are not in a situation where they can move on their the working poor.
Terrible hang on don't know worked out the fact that when I was banged up.
It was all people who didn't do well at school.
So actually want to get rid of poverty you want to reduce crime attack the fact that we fail 35% of our children at school.
Didn't you learn to read and write in prison and I'm very pleased it was a ordinary screw and ordinary prison officer who gave me a book.
I was locked up in a cell on my own and I just left call I was on remand and the thing was that me and my mate had run away from an Approved School I kind of reformatory and smashed up a car 102 miles an hour in Romford no not Barking and we ended up there then taken to court and I was putting a boy's prison and kill them Secure Training units now.
Secure Training issues anyway, so I was there just in a room and the thing was a screw came in and he said you want a book boy and I went so you can't read certain works Aaron he said I'll get you a book here's a pencil underlining the words so the whole three days later.
He came back and looked at all the words you underline or not the big words.
There's a lot of them there then so immediately he realised the reason I could not understand was because the words that make the sentence the meaning of the sentence.
I'd like I'd pass me by but I could ring me read New York San Francisco Istanbul I could read the big words but I could not read the Little Bus because it's hard in our society that we don't we want to be tough on criminal.
Denying them the ability to rehabilitation training teaching them to read and write and the vote you know I mean what why should someone convicted of a crime Be Denied the right to vote there were a lot of people up for ever and throw away the key or when I lock people up and ultimately have to let them out in which case prison should be about Reform and rehabilitation not about punishment that doesn't help anyone go to prison as punishment not for punishment you take people out of circulation and there is a real good example.
That's a good example in a neighborhood where you got somebody who's televising the neighborhood or whatever and you remove them and and the people who lived at think thank god.
They are away for a year to year and you remove them and that's value that has a value, but the problem is what do you do with them? Then? They probably come out worse than they went in if you have?
Educated them if you've not given the chance of improving their lives so therefore rehabilitation is nothing more than a sensible response to the problem, so that when they come out instead of coming out worse than they win it they come out better to leave then become a member of the community so obvious that you know how we not grasp this.
There's a society in 2019.
I think we've all grass but I think the real problem is when I was in the prison system it was a third of the size.
It is now.
We look up an enormous amount of people and one of the reasons.
We look up more on the Enormous amount of people is because people are committing crimes the reason they are committing crime.
You have to look at why is it that we have such a divided Society why do we have so many pluses and minuses? Why do we have a society which is honey equal in terms of?
Why is it that you can go to a comprehensive school and you can come out at the end of it and you would never think that somebody had been in that school, but I've learnt anything.
Why is it down investing our families and broken pram is like my family.
Why do we not invest in my family to keep my family together to give my father the chance of skills and abilities so instead of being just a labourer he could move on to other things which would then and Rich to find me you would become a higher tax payer all that kind of thing just doesn't exist because we are always doing with with the Silo thinking government government department education department Justice another government department Employment and other government department and none of them work across departments even though they tell you and the other.
They're always removing part of the budget and very very pleased because I trying to save money with regard to austerity which is another joke.
No government can afford austerity economy in the long run a lot of money the mission of The Big Issue group because he had the magazine but then use the social investment army started to you started to think about the defenders after they stop selling The Big Issue how they still need support beyond that I went to America I worked in an established Street papers trying to establish social businesses and it was an enormous experience when I lived in La for almost 3 years to 1/2 years and I met people had a problem.
I met people had a solution.
I met people had money but they didn't know each other and I thought to myself.
I could get leads together then.
I might be able to influence the output of somebody's life, so I started something or social brokers which green big issue invest very very simple.
It was establishing the problem establishing the solution if there was one and establishing the source of and putting them together so when I came back.
I realised also that there was another problem and that was I was actually highlight an interview with the times 10 years after the biggest you started so I came back in 2000.
I was there 97 to 2000 States MMI the 10th anniversary 911 actually happened the day that we had our 10th anniversary and the times interviewed me and said all right then John Byrne
10 years of doing what you doing what you going to do for the next 10 years 20 years and I said well you know what I spent 10-years mending broken clocks to what I'm going to do for the next 10 or 20 years if prevent clocks from breaking now.
I'm one of those persons who opens their mouth and their bottom rattles things.
I don't even know or have never thought I think that has blue hair looks like me know sometimes you funnier than people think you are not me what you're doing well.
So anyway, then what happened? We have the chance of doing some social investment but we didn't have the skills so I talk to somebody who was working in one of the biggest ship and I move them over a guy call Nigel Kershaw who now runs big issue invest and I moved them over largely because he had skills and
Financing you have to talk to people in the city.
He was you know smooth enough and there was no way I can do it.
I wouldn't even know but I wouldn't know one end of a phone from another so what happens if I'm in start thinking.
What are we doing? What are we doing? We're doing this emergency work on the streets well-being people to cope and sometimes securing them.
What's lacking another hang on.
What's lacking its prevention so I came up with this methodology once again overnight to leave early flash through my head and it was packed prevention emergency coping and cure an interesting while I was thinking about I met a very very posh young woman who had a shed load of money and she wanted to give it or use it I think her mother or father and dying and she wanted to spend a lot.
Couple 100000 and she said I want to spend it in in and around home as soon as I said, how do you want to spend it? She's what I don't know you tell me and then I've been doing this work prevention emergency coping a killer.
I don't well does she want to spend it on preventing people becoming homeless does she want to spend on emergency which was so good.
It would get people out of bonuses which she wanted to spend the money on coping a stabilizing people so that you can move them onto a P&O ship working so I said to a look you.
Have a choice.
Do you want to spend in prevention? Which is investing in social support helping families Stay Together knitting the family together.
So that if they fall on a hard time dad and mum don't get kicked out of their social housing or whatever.
What do you want a prevention? Do you want to do a round education so people coming out of prison? I've got a skill and ability and therefore don't get into trouble again.
So prevent them from falling into homelessness want to do emergency helping them come when they come out of prison come out of local authority care.
Are you there to help them? So they don't starve so they don't go to crime and prostitution want to work with coping stabilising.
Do you want to help them? Anyway, so I developed this whole methodology around being asked questions and then I thought that's where I want to be.
I want to prevent people falling down.
I want to prevent the Next Generation biggest.
I don't want anymore British pandas.
I don't want Charlie who is 5 now when he gets to 20 in 15 years time on the drugs on the
Even on a methadone script going nowhere broken.
I don't want him falling into homelessness or crime or having to sell the big issue, so I was obsessed with pension and then I thought we have to do the best emergency work, so that when somebody pulls down we get them up quickly and we move them on so I developed this method and out of that.
I then thought to myself what I've got to do is I've got a stop behave as this beautiful butterfly outside of thinking out of the box people say I love that John Purdy thanks out of the box on a lovely guy.
I heard it too often you in peace.
So you know you're really good at listen.
You think you're a big thinker.
I really like you because you are such a great dancer and you realise well crap.
It looks what it means.
Is there not a great day and a great I've got the moves that you keep them so I kept getting these people saying to me you you think outside the then I thought to myself hang on if I'm thinking outside the box.
What's the box too and I realised the all of my work all of this invention this painting the next generation of big issue vendors could only be achieved by getting in the box and changing the box from within changing the government change the way they work their budgets create and transferable budgets that would float around that remove whatever the problem was so it might be in the police and you'd move it to the criminal justice what you can leave it on and all that sort of stuff you move education here you put more into education and so you could create a manual solution rather.
Stayed silent base thing that's really where I started to think that the important things we've got to do I actually get the box work and that's why I'm in the House of Lords chapter catcher Child Catcher is strange beastie.
It's so many things The Big Issue 28 years ago.
I've often thought about starting and magazines but I've concentrated on spreading all over the world and all that stuff.
I've concentrating on investment finance so I never really moved away from magazines and then I went into the booth for the brexit thing.
I'm not allowed to vote now that I'm in the Lord's.
I can't vote in the general election but I can vote in referendums and I went into the referendum I live in this.
Village in the middle of just just outside Cambridge and a wedding and I went with my wife and she said to me as we were about to enter the Booth I'm going to vote to remain largely, because you know I'm a carrot.
You know cos I was kind of the idea of the lot of prosperity in the good old days, but he saw the light to remain and I remain a remainer and then I left and I thought hang on.
I've just been through probably the biggest change in my life.
I missed the Second World War by 9 months.
I was born just after the Second World War there been all sorts of things have happened, but this was a seismic change I was there to vote against joining army were already members.
I voted against staying in 1985.
I lost and I voted to remain in 2016 and I lost and I thought to myself and I really know all the issues really thought my way into I don't use my brilliant educate self-education and all that stuff then I met people who to leave or to stay and I thought everyone what's in common with all the people.
I knew this isn't it doesn't cover everybody in the world, but it's only cover the people aren't you?
Set of anecdotes and they had the opinion of the Guardian of the opinion of the male of the opinion of the BBC on Sky or whatever and I realised course the what actually happened if we'd been through it's a normal threatening change or change whatever like the corner and I had no idea and they have no idea and I thought there's a magazine in this until three years later.
I meet a team as back right in the biggest young people people or students people who are hungry for ideas and hungry For Change I got together a group of people and we came up with the idea of a magazine that was called chapter catcher the dumbest magazine ever produced.
It does not give one piece of advice it is.
Chapters in a magazine where you open the magazine and you read a chapter and you say this is rubbish and then you move on this is rubbish that I like this the ideas of browser the idea is to get you to read deeper broader wider the problem is we learn to read and write and then we don't use them credible ability to read and write to read below the surface on what the newspapers tell us or what the media tells so what are well-known experts tell us so I was driven by the crisis around brexit and I am one of those persons who I'm still obsessed with the problems that brexit is prone up and it's not what I would have done but the really important thing is I needed a magazine.
That was intellectually challenging and the only way to challenge people's understanding is by giving them the chance of Reading beyond their own accepted areas and thinking most of our thinking must come from reading because I'm not a philosopher sitting in the garden thinking about the meaning alive.
I'm reading something and I'm giving an opinion to myself and maybe to others leaders are readers leaders are readers yeah, so I came up with this idea of chapter catcher what I'm in.
Love with is that is really been to prison libraries.
I'm very interested in using libraries and prisons where I think it's four or five copies go to every prison library in Britain that is about 140 presents it gets distributed to schools it gets distributed to book shops and it gets distributed everywhere.
We're still working on the
Model so at the moment, it's spending money to see how it grows we been running now for about 3 months, but I didn't understand is the I gave my I gave the head of one of the term I gave their head to a young woman.
Who is the editor Nicole villain? Who is a university in London and her friend who is a designer and they produce the best the most beautiful magazine.
I've ever seen it is the illustration of storytelling through chapters.
It is absolutely gorgeous and anybody opens it falls in love with the problem is we designed it is a bit like you know we designed the first Big Issue full of advertising we designed this magazine to be sold and bookshops the problem is bookshops.
Don't know how to solve.
Old books but they don't know so they put it on the shelf like everything else to me.
Just say so we've got to educate the Workshops and say look if you take this book magazine is to get people reading books football for your shop football for the libraries football for the community and to therefore we've got strange situation now.
We're having to grow it outside of hot Shots and then take it to the mops.
I have come up with a new model for subscriptions if you want to subscribe to Chapter catcher with love you giving us £25 a year it comes out four times a year give us your 25 then, what will do you tell us who your local bookshop is we will send half the money £12 52 the bookshop and every time it comes out will send.
Into the bookshop and you will go and pick it up because it's a social interaction is not a distant thing.
It's called a social subscribe.
I don't know anybody else It's Beginning to work with some of the book shops and it's really I'm only maybe 10 or 20, but it's really interesting what we got to say that book shops and libraries.
We got a use them.
I went on a demonstration to save our bookshops and libraries 3 years ago to do after I became lord and I spoke to some of the people and how often do you go to your local bookshop? How often do you go to your local library has eight out of ten said I didn't really have the time there were people upset about bookshops and libraries not realising that unless you use bookshops and I'm going to lose them.
What's been your proudest moment so far in this long journey.
I think the proudest moment is the fact that I can take people into the House of Lords who have had no light ever shown on them.
No no one's ever treated them as though there were a person of kindness and love and I've taken dozens and dozens of homeless people in am I giving them good food and I've given them opportunity to meet people to meet loads of baronesses and I found that really moving because see how it energizes them.
I think what the public did to the homeless through the big issue.
Is that they shine their light made them feel made the homes feel really bored? I'm always receiving selfies from vendors.
Who are we?
Customers and they are for some strange reason they've all got my phone number First assembly service is brilliant.
I want to do an exhibition of them absolutely brilliant and when I can people but I think if I'm perfectly honest.
I think the chance of staying up in the House of Lords and doing my maiden speech and admitting that are not have been there if it were not for the fact that I was a liar cheater and a thief and it was the British prison system educated me because the Catholic school.
I went to and the terrible circumstances of my life.
There was nobody there for me the British justice system too cold me talking to read and write to cold me taught me how to be to have printing skills too cold to be talking about gardening took me about trees.
Talk me about.
Scaffolding all the schools but I'm used to earn my living through the years.
We've got in the British prison system and I love the people are not with us anymore.
I just wish we could create another generation.
So that people like me who got into the grief would given the chance of a helping them.
So they can help others I don't think we have any other purpose in life other than to help those people who are more needed than ourselves interestingly.
I have many friends who have been through tragedies lost families and they always ask me what to do and I said to help somebody else.
Just go and help them and it's so interesting if you've had a tragedy if you had a lot if you had a break up the one thing you got to do is stop thinking about yourself start thinking about somebody else.
There was a guy who came to me one day of very very aggressive big ex-soldier and we had to throw him out of the biggest shoe because he was incredibly painful and wishing everybody at the way the next time I saw him he came up to me and said it was a Northerner sorry John Berger can't you do a solar favourite do something for somebody about it mate.
I said look there's a squaddie over an ex squaddie over there and it was over I said he's about to get arrested because he is urinating outside that Park why don't you going to sort him out and I walked away but two weeks later.
I met this guy in The Big Issue and he said to me I got that block of Billet what bloke and he told me I forgot all about it and it started to sort somebody else's life out that grew and became a member of our
We became one of the best stuff we've ever had largely because he recognised that is humanity's only manatee was being barred help because he was so wrapped up in his own troubles and problems so if you've had a reversal in life, don't think of yourself go out and help somebody else and by God will it change you that's one of the powers of the biggest you you're an inspiration.
Thank you for your time.
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