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Jazz Shaper: Lord John Bird MBE

Posted on 03 June 2023

Lord John Bird MBE was born into poverty and brought up in care.

Elliot Moss

Welcome to the Jazz Shapers Podcast from Mishcon de Reya.  What you are about to hear was originally broadcast on Jazz FM however the music has been cut due to rights issues.   

Welcome to Jazz Shapers, bringing the pioneers of the business world together with the musicians shaping jazz, soul and blues.  For this final Jazz Shapers of the season we have a special Encore edition.  We welcome back a past Business Shaper, John, Lord Bird MBE, Founder and Editor in Chief of The Big Issue Group, the street paper and social enterprise helping people in poverty to earn, learn and thrive.  John last joined me back in 2014 and I can tell you my youngest child is incredibly excited that I’m meeting him again today.  Born into poverty and experiencing as a child, homelessness and time in care, adversity continued in John’s teens as he served time in a young offenders’ institution for stealing but there he learned to read, write and the basics of printing which would lead to him starting his own printing and publishing business and to launch in 1991, The Big Issue, a street paper aiming to decriminalise the homeless by, as he says, ‘creating a way for people to earn money without getting into trouble’.  Now an activist, publisher and crossbench member of the House of Lords, Lord Bird is the driving force behind The Big Issue Group, which as well as the world’s most successful street magazine, also runs Big Issue Invest, a social investment arm that’s invested £400 million into over 500 social enterprises, and Big Issue Recruit, a specialist recruitment service, and more to boot by the way.  Nine years have passed since I met you.  It’s great to see you.  You look exactly like the same.

John Bird

Thank you.

Elliot Moss

I’ve been told to say that.

John Bird

Yes, and I was told to say that you don’t.  There you are.  You’re looking old and haggard.

Elliot Moss

I feel old and haggard.  It’s been a tough old road.

John Bird

You must have more children or something.

Elliot Moss

I’ve got loads more children.  In nine years for you, what’s changed?  What’s better now than when I met you?

John Bird

I think I could honestly say I’m more assured of what I need to do and what I should do and what I’m doing.  I, in between meeting you last time, I’m now in the House of Lords, which I had been volunteering, because you volunteer as a life peer, I’m a crossbencher so I’m not politically appointed, nor has anybody, I haven’t put a shedload of money in any of the political party’s coffers, I applied and in 2014 they were sending me letters to say, ‘next year, we might consider you’ and actually, the year afterwards, I then was considered.  The reason I was applying for getting into the House of Lords is it largely started off with being cheesed off with people say, ‘John Bird, you’re such a brilliant person because you can think outside the box’ and people kept saying that and saying that and saying that and I thought in the end, one middle of the night once, I thought the only reason that they’re saying that is because the box isn’t working, so actually Government which should be a mechanism for bringing social transformation, social equality for the eradication of poverty and all that, was just doing a pretty half-assed job.  So I thought I’ve got to get in there because I want to dismantle poverty, I’m sick and tired of watching the world getting too hyperventilated over making the poor a bit more comfortable.  80% of all the money that’s spent on poverty, is spent on emergency and coping.  Nothing, or very little, on prevention and cure.  So that was the reason I went into the House of Lords, so the big difference is, I’m in the House of Lords, I’ve been in six, nearly seven years and it is like pulling teeth.  The vast majority of people in the House of Lords that I work with and know are honourable and straightforward, there are people I don’t meet and I don’t know, so there’s probably a coterie of probably 300 of us who kind of work together and all that stuff but I am the only one who, in my opinion, knows that there’s no point in carrying on unless we dismantle poverty.  And in fact, I was involved in the BBC film, First Year of the Lords, or A Year in the Lords, and I imagined taking out of my pocket a flick-knife and I went up to the reporter and I said when they asked me what I went into Parliament for, I said, ‘To slit the throat of poverty’, and it didn’t make the final cut or whatever it was but I’m really driven to always you know saying does this bring us anywhere nearer to ridding the world of poverty and not simply just moving the deckchairs so to speak, ameliorating the lives of the disenfranchised.

Elliot Moss

And politics gets a tough gig, right, and you’re in it now and you’re right, you have to be inside the system to affect it, I would argue and you’ve came to the same conclusion.  Has it gone beyond the words, John?  Have you been able to make progress and if so, give me an example where you go, ‘I changed something and it’s better’.

John Bird

Well, one of the first things we did was a Creditworthiness Bill, which actually did not get on the statute books, so it didn’t become law but it did change things and it changed the argument.  Sometimes you have an argument in Parliament where you forward a private members bill and it doesn’t go anywhere but it ups the game, it ups the discussion, it broadens the discussion outside of Parliament as well as inside Parliament, so we had a, we had this Creditworthiness Bill and it was all based on a terrible reality that if you have got a mortgage, then your credit worthiness is greater than if you are a rent payer.  Now you could be paying your rent abstemiously for year after year after year and the credit agencies would not award you credit because of that and therefore it was a kind of class divide between the renters and the mortgage holders, so we reran that.  It ran into a few problems, one of the problems was that you had to surrender your rent details to a third party, i.e. to a credit agency, so if you go into Carphone Warehouse and you want to buy something, you’ve got to tell them why would we lend to you because you’ve got to fill in all those forms, so there was a problem like that, there was quite a number of people who were not happy about people surrendering rent details, who had a bad rent record.  I was saying all along, look, they’re not going to do that, you’re not going to go into Carphone Warehouse and say look, I haven’t paid my rent for three months, can I have that thing.  So, there was a kind of boneheaded, I think a bit of an ideological divide but the thing was, it led The Treasury to create a competition to find what’s called a fintech solution to that and that is what actually came out.  So we got The Treasury to spend I think in the region of about £3 million to run this fintech and there has been a fintech solution.  So it’s actually pushed the whole argument forward.  It’s not entirely resolved but now more and more credit agencies will look and say so, you’re a renter, give us your details.

Elliot Moss

So, whip change is on the way?

John Bird

Yeah.  Now that’s the other interesting thing and I’m sorry to go on here, the Government’s going to get rid of the Vagrancy Act.  Now the thing about the Vagrancy Act, it’s been around since 1824, which as you know is almost two hundred years, next year it’s two hundred years, and the thing is that it has been ignored for decades and every now and then it’s used, so people get very hyperventilated because there’s something on the statute books that said you can’t do something.  If it gets ignored then why worry about it?  And I’ve said to the Government yesterday, if you’re going to take the next year before you actually bring in the ending of the Vagrancy Act, why don’t you just tell all the magistrates ‘ignore it, ignore it’.  This is what happened in 1963.  In 1963, capital punishment really ended, even though it was still on the statute books, so for two years they would not execute anybody and then two years later, when the Labour Government got in, in 1964, they brought in the law and so the law caught up with reality.

Elliot Moss

John, Lord Bird is my Business Shaper, he’s the Founder of The Big Issue, the Editor in Chief.  Editor at Large, you can kind of yourself what like actually. 

John Bird

I could.  Well, somebody did say to me that the only reason I started a paper, a publication, was to get published because nobody would publish any of my crap.  So that was very, that was my ex-wife, she said, ‘You only started this because no one else would publish anything’.

Elliot Moss

But you know what platforms are interesting though aren’t they and, in a way, you learned the hard way that you, you needed a voice and you found your way through that and I guess, on one level she, your ex-wife, was kind of joking but on another level, that’s exactly what The Big Issue gave you.

John Bird

Yes.  Well, it gave me the, I was the first person to have a voice but I insisted at the same time we throw that voice out to as many, many homeless people and people in temporary accommodation as possible.  And I’ve always been really, really privileged by the fact that I, in the early days when I was very hands-on, you know we used to run an academy of young artists, old artists, boozy artists, broken artists, broken writers, people who were getting out of poverty, getting out of need, and I think that’s the academy was a wonderful concept of just bringing people on and though, you know it comes and goes because unfortunately, you know people do move on, people die, people get arrested or whatever, they move to other countries, it’s an inconsistency.

Elliot Moss

It’s hard to sustain on that level.  But just going back then to the ‘90s, what made you do something about it, John because there would have been a number of people in your, with your background who’d experienced what you’d experience, you just went that’s my life and I’ll keep my head down, I’ll earn a bit of money, I’ve found a path, I don’t have to be a criminal, I’ve got a home, you became an activist.  What was the thing that made you want to actually do something about the problem?

John Bird

Well, it really started when I was 21 because I was hiding from the police in Paris.  I used to hide in other cities in the UK but I started off by hiding in Paris because I’d done a number of you know small, relatively, criminal things and they were going to throw the book at me and I’d probably get two or three years inside because I had a criminal record that went back to the age of ten and I was 21 but so, I went off to Paris, loaded down with self-importance, I had the most terrible opinions about the world, I had been brought up to hate Black people, hate Jews, hate Indians, hate Arabs, hate French people, everybody, even to hate English because I was brought up in this, you know, kind of very weird Catholic Irish, Catholic family.  Now I’m not saying they’re all like that now but if you go back, there was a lot of racism, lot of antisemitism in the Catholic faith and you know, I was one of them, and I went there and I met a haute bourgeois Marxist who just kicked ten colours of crap out of me, intellectually, just kept saying, ‘You, you know this rubbish that you’re thinking’ and within a matter of months, I’d converted to being a Marxist, Engelsist, Leninist, Trotskyist, so I became in internationalist and I became a devout anti-racist, anti-antisemitic, all that stuff really and I felt I, suddenly at the age of 21, I felt I had grown a foot.  I thought my back was straight, I was straight and I became a kind of missionary type person which made me a bit of a pain to be with because I would always be lecturing people in pubs and all that about the evils of racism or the evils of you know social dislocation and I spent years in this revolutionary group.

Elliot Moss

And that foundation of the way you looked at the world is what informed actual, I mean it was the beginnings of actually doing something.

John Bird

Yeah.  So after many years of my anti-capitalism, Marxism, I realised that I didn’t really agree with most of the stuff that was going on and I wanted to be effective and there were people in the street, there were people dying in the street, there was people committing crimes in the street because they were poor and this was getting worse and worse and I wanted to do something.  But the real thing was a moment, I was on the train in Earls Court station and I was sitting there and suddenly, this person let out this enormous roar, this terrible feeling of absolute destitution and despair and I went out on the platform, I jumped out the train and there was this large Black guy sitting there, very dishevelled and he was in just absolute agony and I walked up towards him and then he got up and he just ran up the stairs, screaming and all that, and I thought I’ve got to do something and that was, uh, and up till then I had been in two minds as to whether I would do anything.  That was significant in terms of…

Elliot Moss

Making it and actually doing something about it.  Stay with me for much more from my Business Shaper today, this is Jazz Shapers Encore Special, it’s John, Lord Bird, Founder, Editor in Chief of The Big Issue and he will be back very, very shortly.       

All our former Business Shapers await you on the Jazz Shapers podcast and indeed you can hear this very programme again or Lord Bird’s first Jazz Shapers appearance back in 2014.  He’s returned, he’s here.  The Prodigal Son.  Or the Prodigal Father, whichever you want to be called, John, I don’t mind.  Lord Bird MBE, the Founder and Editor in Chief of The Big Issue Group, the street paper and social enterprise.   So it’s one thing wanting to do something and I see why and I see that path that came from, as you said, the intellectual awakening and all that, it’s another thing running a social enterprise, a business successfully.  Here we are thirty years later and it isn’t just the publication, there are a number of other businesses which I mentioned or what do you want to call them, ventures.  That takes some doing.  How have you managed to pull it off?

John Bird

Well, I mean it all started actually when I was 21 and I met, when I came back from Paris and I was hiding from the police in Edinburgh, and I met a geezer called Gordon Roddick, in a pub, in Edinburgh, and we became mates and then I didn’t see him for twenty years and he had started The Body Shop with him and his wife, Anita Roddick.  And Gordon was in New York in 1990, walking through Manhattan and this guy came up and asked him to buy a street paper and he said, ‘Why are you selling it?’ and he said, ‘Because I’ve just come out the penitentiary and if I don’t earn money and if I go back to Brownsville, where I come from, I’m going to end up in crime and they’re going to throw the key away because I’ve been in out of the penitentiary and I’m 54 years of age’ etc.  So Gordon thought it was a brilliant idea because London at the time in 1990 or ’91 was full of probably 6, 7, 8000 homeless people sleeping in the West End, sleeping in Lincolns Inn Fields, sleeping in the Bullring down where the big Maxi cinema is now, sleeping along the Aldwych, hundreds and hundreds, I mean London was a linear dormitory of the dispossessed and failed.  So this was a kind of a need, there was a need Gordon saw to do something that could give homeless people an opportunity of earning their own money and maybe sorting themselves out, not getting involved with the police and all that.  So he came to me, after probably three or six months because he couldn’t get anybody interested in this and most of the homeless organisations were not in a position to actually give people the chance of making their own money because the charity laws then, and I think they’ve changed them, you could do everything for a homeless person but it was a question of you giving them, they couldn’t do anything for themselves, like make their own money, and so he came to me and he said, ‘Look, I want you to start it’ and I said, ‘well if I start it, I don’t want to start it as a charity’ because I’m, you know, I’m not a great believer in the power of charities, I’m a great believer in the power of giving people the chance of doing their own thing and so this is where, you know, a hand up, not a hand out, came into being and where we did that.  Now, I started with very blinkered eyes, I mean I was a very, very limited geezer, I was a youngster of 45 and I really didn’t know what I was doing.  I knew about printing and all that, I knew I wasn’t sentimental about homeless people, I didn’t cry when I saw them, I could be shocked but I would keep it to myself and I, you know, got together a team of people, one of them was my brother who was brilliant with homeless people because he just said you know, ‘I’m going to get you off the streets and we’re gonna do this for you’ and then I gradually brought in other people, I brought in a good editor, Jo Malabar, who became my first editor, a brilliant young woman.  I brought in other people who could write, Paul Sussman was one of them, the Late Paul Sussman, great geezer, who published a wonderful book, the first Big Issue book, which was Death by Spaghetti, which was absolutely wonderful, they’ve sold thousands of copies.  And then I met a bloke who was a printer like me and we started to be more business-like and we worked together on social brokers, which was finding people with a problem, finding people with a solution and finding people with money, so we began to lay the foundations. 

Elliot Moss

It’s organic, I mean a lot of this is organic and I want to turn to now and I’m going to pause there because I want to talk, I want you to tell me what the shape of the thing looks like now because it’s a much bigger thing and the turnovers bigger and it’s more complex but we’re going to hold that thought just for a moment. 

John, Lord Bird is my Business Shaper.  He is synonymous with The Big Issue.  We’re hearing, John, about how this thing organically came together then in the ‘90s.  I love the way, so I met this one and then I met that one and he was… I mean, it’s a proper community, it’s almost as if we were going back to a Marxist view, it would be the Paris commune in the 19th century but it kind of felt a bit like that but it’s a business as well and here we are thirty years later and it’s a group and you’ve got through Covid and you’ve got an investment arm and you’ve got the e-bikes arm and you’ve got the recruitment arm.  This is serious stuff and I think what you do very well is, you kind of you belie the rigour with which you apply your thought, you sort of, I think you’re very gentle with it, you hold it very lightly but the truth is, you’re a serious businessperson and you’ve got a serious business.

John Bird

I would not exaggerate by skills as a businessman, for the principal reason that I might come up with ideas but what I’ve managed to do is almost to build a kind of community of people who come up with ideas and in some ways, I’m a bit like Steve Jobs, not in having the money or the massive success but in the sense that he often said you know people would do something and he’d look at it and he’d say, ‘I don’t like it’ and they’d say, ‘So, what don’t you like about it?’ and he says, ‘Well I’m not so sure’ and ‘Have you got any idea what I can do?’ and he said, ‘No, just go away and do it again’.  So, that is a kind of, if you can do that with people who half expect it then you can begin to perfect things.  So in a way, what we’ve managed to do in The Big Issue is always remember it’s the vendor that is the basis of the whole of this wonderful transaction, the vendor out there selling on the street, so we always recommend to people, if you want to help The Big Issue, go and buy a copy of The Big Issue, take a copy of The Big Issue, read it, leave it on a train, give it to somebody else, whatever, but read it, read the contents…

Elliot Moss

It’s a really good read still.  I mentioned that my daughter was excited, Iris, my youngest, and she was literally giggling with excitement because on our local high street, West End Lane in West Hampstead, there’s a lovely, different people that come, we buy it, we read it and it’s properly written, you’ve maintained that integrity of a good read.

John Bird

Yeah.  Well actually I think, I think it’s almost got better since Covid.  Covid was a reversal of fortune in many, many ways but it was the last time we ever, where we all turned back into being a very simple community, wasn’t it, I mean everybody was pulling together, even in the village I live in, there were people coming and trying to give me spuds because, you know, I’m an old age pensioner, I mean even though, you know, I’m over the age…

Elliot Moss

You look 37. 

John Bird

I look 37, thank you.

Elliot Moss

Welcome.

John Bird

But the thing was, there were everybody was out and we were all, locally, and we were all trying to find out who, who was lacking so that something could be done.  Now that’s the spirit that we need to rekindle and I think the magazine has got better and better.  I thought one of the best issues we had recently was the Charles issue, which was about the Coronation because it didn’t slag him off, it didn’t say what you know what you, we wanted to be constructive so we talked about Poundsbury, you know that place that he built down in the countryside, we looked at their involvement in trying to get rid of the housing crisis, so we talked about the housing crisis and we talked about what can be expected from the Charles III reign and what we would like to see, so it was a very positive issue and I’m really pleased.  So, what we’ve got is, we’ve got these thousands of ambassadors out on the street and most of them are doing a pretty good job.  And then we have alerted everybody that we’re there for social inclusion, social opportunity and all that, so we have created this enormous and very successful social investment business, grown out of social brokers and so Big Issue Invest looks very carefully at helping people and gets the money to do it, so if you were to look at a map of the United Kingdom, there is not many places that have not been touched by The Big Issue, either through selling or through the investment.  We’ve invested in 500, over 500 social businesses and business throughout the UK, so we’re doing what I have always wanted to do, which is to say that if there are people anywhere in Britain, whatever the conditions, whether it’s mental health, whether it’s physical health, whether it’s the fact that they can’t work, whether they’ve left the prison, left the care service, I would like to think that there are people like me and like our organisation who are filling the hole often left by Government but at the same time, trying to teach the Government to do a much better job so we have to create this alliance with the Government and show the Government how to look after people who need help and need sustenance and are themselves in a desperate situation.

Elliot Moss

And we’re going to come back full circle to politics and Lord Bird’s role as the Co-Chair of the APPG, the All Party Parliamentary Group, which is called the business response to social crisis.  That’s all coming up in my final chat with Lord Bird and we’ve also got a Brazilian classic from Gilberto Gil.  Don’t go anywhere.

Just for a few more minutes, I’m with Lord Bird, John Bird, for my Jazz Shapers Encore Special.  We started with activism, we started with politics and here we are.  You’ve been in the Lords now for a number of years, you’ve taken on the role of saying, ‘’m going to slit the throat of poverty’.  Right, I’m going to get it and we’re going to sort this out and you’re working through the system, the Marxist has become part of the system because you have to do that or I’m saying though, the person that was interested in all of that when you were much younger.  Tell me a bit about what that looks like and what you’re trying to achieve through this APPG.

John Bird

Well the thing about the APPG is it grows out of the statement that we made back in the launch of The Big Issue, which is we were not a charity, so we were not going to be giving handouts to homeless people because we didn’t think that that took ‘em anywhere.  You can give people handouts and they remain relying on your beneficence for longer and longer and longer, so we wanted to give people a hand up, so we said we are a business response to a social crisis, we are business-like in the way that we deal with the needs of people who are on the street and who are having all sorts of problems.  So that was it and we saw, over the years, over the last three decades, we saw an increasing amount of people setting up social enterprises because we also called ourselves a social enterprise and there weren’t many of us around and we found that actually, what we really needed to do was to fill a gap that exists and you could say it’s a gap that’s caused by many of the new ways you know like, so, so, a lot of the kind of acron… ESGs and all the others, what a lot of them do, they address the problems, I hope, of bringing businesses into being more green and more socially aware and those sorts of things but the thing is, there are many, many businesses who want to give jobs, you know Timpson’s is one of the greatest…

Elliot Moss

Sir John Timpson was a guest on the show.

John Bird

Yeah, I mean, wonderful geezer.

Elliot Moss

Lovely guy.

John Bird

And what they want to do is, they want to make a profit but at the same time, they want to make a dent in poverty, they want to do something to get people out of poverty, out of need and all that, so we’ve found that there was an increasing need for us to identify those businesses so that we could work with them, so that we could actually develop that rather than, the thing about social enterprises, they’re a bit like charities and I’m not knocking them, I’m just saying they are so controlled by all the kind of things that you have to do to be a social enterprise and to be a charity, you know all the rules because you have to make sure that they’re not ripping anybody off.  What we just wanted to do was deal with any business, any business that said we’re going be about creating work, we’re going to be about giving education, we’re going to be about supporting the local community, we’re going to be about giving people the chance to get socially mobile, out of poverty and all that stuff.  So, that’s what…

Elliot Moss

That’s why you’re doing. 

John Bird

That’s why we’re doing it.

Elliot Moss

It’s been great chatting to you.  We could talk for hours and thank you again for coming back.  Just before I ask you about your song choice and why you have chosen it, just one quick thing, after all these years, John, how does it feel to you now?  What does it, all the achievements as it were, being in the Lords, is that what the young man thought his life would look like when he was a young man?

John Bird

Yeah, I mean, well that bloke I knew was, you know, like with all us, I mean I’m 77 so I’ve had numerous life’s changes and all that.  I’m not quite sure who that person was on some occasions or what the motivations were because I think I was very self-destructive, got into a lot of fights, I’ve had three broken noses, got thrown out of pubs, parties and stuff like that, and was just a real  pain in the derriere and I’m not like that, you know, because I learned to love people because I was, because I’m a slum boy and you know, hunger and was in and out of the prison system and the youth offenders thing, I mean I had a lot of hate and I’ve certainly got rid of a lot of that but I would say that what still keeps me going is that I’m always meeting people with answers and my new Bill, which is coming through in the next Parliament, my new Bill is going to be to try and get the Government to create a Ministry of Poverty because poverty destroys, pollutes intention, so a government comes in, maybe Starmer comes in, who knows, he comes in, all the intentions, he will say exactly what Blair said because I remember it 30, 27 years ago, he will say we’re going to get rid of poverty, we’re going to do this and when it’s over, they’ll look back and say well, we did something and all that stuff but we’ve still got poverty.  So the National Health Service for instance, 50% of its budget is spent on trying to keep the poorest amongst us healthy.  So it’s actually almost a kind of poverty ministry, it’s almost a poverty NHS and you look at the school bill, 30% of the school bill is about dealing with poverty in the classroom.  You look at the prison bill, it’s 90% of people who come from poverty.  You look at the social security, it’s people, so nobody in these various departments know how to deal with poverty, so I want to create a Poverty Ministry and the leading person should be the Prime Minister.  The Prime Minister should be the minister, so he’s got two hats, being the Prime Minister and being the Minister of Poverty so that everybody takes it seriously and what we do is, we do something immaculate and brilliant, we bring all the answers that have come that are all out there in the world and put them all together because the political principles and the political abilities of the departments of Government to work are shot to pieces.

Elliot Moss

Well, listen, you heard it here first, unless you’ve been saying to lots and lots of people, I lie…

John Bird

I say it to anybody who gives me a fiver.

Elliot Moss

Till you are blue in the face.  No, I gave you less than a fiver and you still said it.  Thank you so much for your time, it’s a brilliant vision and it must be right.  Just before I let you go though, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

John Bird

I’ve chosen an Erroll Garner song, you could choose any Erroll Garner.  I have never seen a leading jazz pianist or a leading jazz player, I never saw Thelonious Monk, too young for Dizzy Gillespie and all the others and all the people who inspired me when I was growing up.  When I was sleeping rough actually, that’s where I got to love Thelonious Monk and people like that and Art Blakey because I’d go into clubs and listen to all this music and it was wonderful.  But Erroll Garner is the only one I saw and I saw him at the Hammersmith Odeon a matter of weeks before, I went with a couple of mates of mine who were market traders and I was nearly 18 and it was absolutely brilliant to see Erroll Garner, great, great artist but I also have to say about a month later, the Beatles had their breakthrough concert at the Odeon and thousands of people then bought into the Beatles, so I was just before the Beatles hit Hammersmith Broadway. 

Elliot Moss

Erroll Garner with They Can’t Take That Away From Me, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, back for an Encore, John, Lord Bird.  He talked that visual, very powerful image of the homeless in London, the linear dormitory of the dispossessed and the failed and how that impacted him and what he wanted to do about it.  He talked about creating a community and The Big Issue Group that can come up with ideas.  That’s what they do and that’s what he tries to inculcate within all of them.  He talked about the power of giving people the chance of doing their own thing rather than giving them charity.  And finally, and I love this quote, he talked about how he has learned to love people and how that’s fundamentally changed what he is all about.  Absolutely fantastic stuff.  That’s it from Jazz Shapers, have a lovely weekend and have a lovely summer.

We hope you enjoyed that edition of Jazz Shapers.  You’ll find hundreds of more guests available for you to listen to in our archive, to find out more just search Jazz Shapers in iTunes or your favourite podcast platform or head over to Mishcon.com/JazzShapers.

His life journey has included spells as a prisoner, artist and printer. Now an activist, publisher and Crossbench member of the House of Lords, Lord Bird is the driving force behind The Big Issue Group, which includes the world's most successful street magazine, The Big Issue and its social investment arm, Big Issue Invest.  

Lord Bird is a business leader with an outstanding record of using enterprise as a force for social change in dismantling the root causes of poverty. In Parliament, he focuses on poverty and homelessness prevention. He is currently Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on ‘Business Response to Social Crises’ and has the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. 

Highlights

Government which should be a mechanism for bringing social transformation, social equality for the eradication of poverty, so I thought I’ve got to get in there. 

I want to dismantle poverty, I’m sick and tired of watching the world getting too hyperventilated over making the poor just a bit more comfortable.   

80% of all the money that’s spent on poverty, is spent on emergency and coping. Nothing, or very little, on prevention and cure. That was the reason I went into the House of Lords. 

Suddenly, at the age of 21, I became a kind of missionary type person which made me a bit of a pain to be with. 

I would always be lecturing people in pubs and all that about the evils of racism or the evils of you know social dislocation and I spent years in this revolutionary group. 

Somebody did say to me that the only reason I started a paper, was to get published because nobody would publish any of my crap.   

What we’ve managed to do in The Big Issue is always remember it’s the vendor that is the basis of the whole of this wonderful transaction, the vendor out there selling on the street. 

COVID-19 was a reversal of fortune in many ways but it was the last time ever where we all turned back into being a very simple community. 

What we just wanted to do was deal with any business that said we’re going be about creating work, We’re going to be about giving education, we’re going to be about supporting the local community. 

I was very self-destructive, I got into a lot of fights. I’ve had three broken noses, got thrown out of pubs, parties and stuff like that, and was just a real pain in the derriere. 

I learned to love people because I’m a slum boy - I was in and out of the prison system. I had a lot of hate and I’ve certainly got rid of a lot of that. 

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