John Bird – founder of The Big Issue – Click here to listen to his Roscoe Lecture given on Tuesday January 15th 2013

Roscoe Lecture by John Bird MBE, Founder and Editor in chief of The Big Issue. Click here to hear the lecture:

The 109th Roscoe Lecture – “The Necessity of Poverty” – took place at Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall on Tuesday January 15th at 6.00pm. It was be delivered by John Bird MBE, the founder of “The Big Issue”.

Background remarks by David Alton:

John Bird - founder of The Big Issue - delivers a Roscoe Lecture based on the title of his book "The Necessity of Poverty."

John Bird – founder of The Big Issue – delivers a Roscoe Lecture based on the title of his book “The Necessity of Poverty.”

I had intended to begin by remarking on the topicality of John’s appearance on BBC Question Time on Thursday last. However, a more poignant starting point is to mention the sadder and as John put it “the senseless” killing of two vendors of The Big Issue who died in Birmingham on Friday last. John recently said that “since the days when poverty was big in my life I have been asking many questions, Why? Why poverty?” And many other Whys? Those deaths perhaps add one more “why” to the list.

John Bird has just published a new book “The Necessity of Poverty” – from which this Roscoe Lecture takes its title. It’s what its author calls “a tough book because it asks tough questions about the process of giving, arguing that giving changes little in the lives of the poor. Using the words of The Big Issue: is it “a hand up, or a hand out?”

He says that “Governments have created a new class of people who are outside society: workless, broken, and lost to ambition and to social improvement.”

John Bird arrived at his conclusion through the university of adversity and the school of hard knocks.

Working Not Begging

Working Not Begging

He was born into a London Irish family in a slum-ridden part of Notting Hill just after World War II.

Homeless at five, in an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity between the ages of seven and ten, he began to fail over and over again in every area of his life.

He says that despite the contrast of pristine cleanliness with a damp hovel over-run with mice and rats, the generous portions of food, the clean beds and clean clothes could not make up for what he calls the “homieness” of our hovel. “There wasn’t a moment when I did not want to escape it and go back to the shivering under-fed coldness of poverty.”

After three years in an orphanage he was returned to a family home and he says “then the trouble began.”

From the age of ten onwards he was shoplifting, housebreaking and generally stealing whatever he could lay his hands on. Vandalism and arson were amongst the crimes he committed. “Not only was I poor but I added to the problems of my life by breaking the law.” He says that “For quite a few years I was one of those troubled people who come and go in the prison system.” Eventually, through work he got out of poverty and began raising a family.

How To Tackle Poverty - the big issue.

How To Tackle Poverty – the big issue.

In his late twenties, and after several prison sentences, John became involved in politics. He also fathered three children, became a printer, and successfully ran his own small business. At the age of 45, his many life experiences enabled him to start production of The Big Issue.

He also began to set out his approach to life – perhaps summed up in his assertion that “Governments have created a new class of people who are outside society: workless, broken, and lost to ambition and social improvement. Hovering around them”, he says, “are countless “supposed” defenders of the poor, who see nothing wrong in warehousing people in ghettos of inactivity.”

He remains optimistic but realistic, shaped by experience: “Having lived through poverty, and exited it through my faith and some education while in the prison system, I know that there are thousands of people who could have done the same.” He remains hostile, not to the people trapped in poverty but to the dependency culture which can simply leave them there. He says that the poor must “be given a chance to fly.

In June 1995 he was awarded the MBE for ‘services to homeless people’.

He is an Honorary Fellow of Liverpool John Moores University, a Visiting Professor at Lincoln University and a Doctor of Letters at the Oxford Brookes University. In 2003 he was chosen by the Queen as one of the Most Important Pioneers in Her Majesty’s Reign. In 2004 the United Nations awarded him the Scroll of Excellence for his international work in poverty. It was presented at the Habitat Celebration in Nairobi by the President of Kenya, at the Habitat Celebration in Nairobi. In the same year he also won a public vote by BBC London as London’s Living Legend.

This lecture (and previous lectures) will be available at:

A new category of Good Citizenship Awards will be launched at the lecture for young people who have overcome seemingly impossible odds and turned their lives around.

John Bird - founder of The Big Issue - 109th Roscoe Lecturer.

John Bird – founder of The Big Issue – 109th Roscoe Lecturer.

Details of Alliance of Pro Life Students Drinks Evening and Launch Event in London January 16th

The Alliance of Pro Life Students are holding a Drinks Evening and Launch event in London on January 16th 2013

Tickets may be booked via the following link

The unborn child at 18 weeks

The unborn child at 18 weeks

 The event details are as follows:

 Date: 16th January 2013
Time: 7.30pm – 11pm
Speaker:  Lord David Alton
MC: Anne Howard
Venue: Thistle Hotel: Marble Arch, Bryanston Street W1H 7EH
Dress:  Cocktail Attire
Price: £25 or £15 concession (students, OAPs)

Where Love Does Not Exist: North Korea’s Prison Camps – Hear First Hand Testimony –


First Hand Testimony:

The All Party Group on North Korea will take evidence from two North Korean escapees, Heung-kwang Kim and Young il Kim, on Wednesday November 28th at 5.00pm in Committee Room G (situated by the House of Lords Gift Shop and Attlee Room), which is open to all and will be preceded by a private briefing at 4.30pm for MPs and Peers only which will be addressed by a representative of the North Korean Human rights Database Centre.

Maranatha lecture – Manchester – October 3rd

First MARANATHA LECTUREOn Renewal, Unity and Healing
Given by Professor Lord Alton of Liverpool,

Professor of Citizenship at Liverpool John Moores University

Wednesday October 3rd 2012 at 7.30pm.

Royal Northern College of Music Concert Hall , 124 Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9RD

Admission £5.00 per person (incl light refreshments) by prior booking on 0161 282 5523 0161 748 4858 or at
For further information: 0161 282 5523 or

Phyllis Bowman Memorial Service and National Lobby of Parliament Against Euthanasia – Tuesday July 3rd.

 A National Memorial Service and Mass in thanksgiving for the life and work of the late Phyllis Bowman DSG, the founder and director of Right To Life, will be held in Westminster Cathedral
on Tuesday July 3rd at 5.30 p.m. led by The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster. All are very welcome to attend.

 For those attending, we are asking that they try and make an appointment with their MP prior to the day and meet them either before or after they attend the service to ensure that their MP is briefed with our arguments against euthanasia (there is a Dignity in Dying lobby being held the following day, 4th July,
which is clearly intended to be a platform for launching a new initiative to legalise euthanasia).

 To find out more about the Memorial Service, to register your intention to attend, to obtain Phyllis Bowman Memorial Cards, to make a donation in memory of Phyllis or to download briefing notes and materials and information on lobbying your MP, please visit

or email or

 Or phone

Right To Life on 0208 992 7657 between 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday to Friday.

 Or Moira Billinge 0151 291 7728 (including priests wishing to concelebrate at the Memorial Mass).

Phyllis Bowman Memorial Service and Lobby of Parliament Please Pray for the continuing work of RIGHT TO LIFE

Invitation to a presentation on the persecution of Christian women in the world today – Committee Room 12, House of Commons on Tuesday May 15th at 5.30pm. See the following details:








11th May 2012





Re: Invitation to a presentation on the persecution of Christian women in the world today

Chaired by Professor the Lord Alton of Liverpool


House of Commons – Committee Room 12

Tuesday, 15th May 2012 5.30-6.30pm


“Religious freedom is the first of human rights since it expresses the fundamental

 reality of the human person.”                    Pope Benedict XVI – 9th January 2012


At a time of increasing oppression and persecution of Christians across the world, I am writing to invite you to a presentation and discussion of one overlooked dimension of that persecution – the impact on Christian women. If, as Christians, women are second-class citizens, as Christian women they are barely citizens at all.


The event, on Tuesday 15th May, includes:

  • First-hand accounts of women in Egypt and Pakistan with direct experience of persecution
  • Archbishop Joseph Coutts assessing the plight of Christian women in his native Pakistan
  • Bishop Joannes Zakaria assessing the plight of Christian women in his native Egypt


The event will also see the launch of Christians and the Struggle for Religious Freedom, a new report produced by the Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need. The dossier examines the importance of religious freedom and provides incident reports of recent acts of persecution including those targeting women. Copies of the report will be available at the event.


Countless reports by independent bodies have shown that Christians are the most persecuted religious group in the world. We need to establish a new consensus of rejection of such violations, and to make it a greater priority of our foreign policy to seek to prevent them. We would be delighted to count on your participation.


Please let us know you are coming to the event by contacting John Pontifex at Aid to the Church in Need:  mobile: 07815 591427


I look forward to seeing you. With my very best wishes,

Professor the Lord David Alton of Liverpool




ACN News: Friday, 11th May 2012 – UK

With pictures of Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, and Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor, Egypt (© Aid to the Church in Need

Suffering of Christian women exposed


John Newton and John Pontifex


REVELATIONS about the scale of hate crimes against Christian women in Pakistan and Egypt are to be the subject of a meeting in parliament next week.

At the briefing in the House of Commons this coming Tuesday (15th May), MPs and Peers will hear how Christian women in countries marked by religious persecution experience kidnapping, violence, rape, and even have basics like water denied them.

Evidence of widespread discrimination against Christian women is highlighted in a number of new reports.

These include the Life on the Margins report by the Pakistani Catholic Church’s National Commission for Justice and Peace, and Catholic charity Aid to the Need (UK)’s new book, Christians and the Struggle for Religious Freedom, which will be launched at the event in parliament.

According to research, women are more likely to experience sexual harassment or rape because of their lower social status – which is due to both their religion and their gender.

One survey of women from minority religions in Pakistan revealed that 30 percent of those with jobs had experienced sexual harassment.

Other reports revealed how abductions of Coptic women in Egypt have increased, with 800 cases of Christians kidnapped and pressured to convert to Islam since 2009.

The Commons meeting will hear from Thomsena Anjum, originally from Pakistan’s Punjab province, who fled to the UK with her family after being shot at following a blasphemy allegation against her son.

Mrs Anjum, whose husband Stephen worked closely with assassinated Pakistan minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti, will say: “I am a witness to the plight of Christian women in rural areas – but also deeply saddened because of the atrocities they faced on a daily basis due to their religion.

“These hate crimes towards Christian women are increasing and do not seem to end. These crimes are unreported and unpunished.”

Mrs Anjum visited hundreds of Christian families in Punjab province as a district councillor and social worker in Faisalabad between 1998 and 2009.

Chaired by Lord David Alton of Liverpool, the meeting will also hear testimonies from Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi, Pakistan, and Coptic Catholic Bishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor, Egypt.

At the House of Commons meeting Aid to the Church in Need’s John Pontifex will outline the findings of research by the charity and other organisations.

He will say: “Taken as a whole, this research suggests that Christians in general are often treated at best as second class citizens and Christian women are treated as if they are barely citizens at all.”

ACN has compiled a briefing document specifically looking at the extent of persecution of Christian women in Egypt and Pakistan and highlighting the findings of key research into the subject.

Among those quoted in the briefing is Peter Jacob from Pakistan, one of the authors of the Life on the Margins report, who highlights the rape of Christian women.

He said “the number of attacks against women in Pakistan is four times higher than the cases that [are] reported” and many crimes “based on sex pass in silence”.

At the Commons meeting Mrs Anjum is set to describe other problems faced by Christian women – including how in many places they have been denied water after local Muslims claimed that wells would become ‘unclean’ if Christians touched them.

She said: “Christian women are the poorest of the poor in Pakistan and they are living with shame and suffering discrimination silently.”


  • Journalists and other interested parties are welcome to attend the meeting in the House of Commons on Tuesday 15th May. The meeting starts promptly at 5.30pm. Please arrive at St Stephen’s gate in plenty of time to allow for security and bring your invitation letter (sent out with this press release) with you.
  • Archbishop Joseph Coutts of Karachi and Archbishop Joannes Zakaria of Luxor, Egypt will also be Aid to the Church in Need’s guests at its Night of Witness event on Thursday 17th May.  For information about the event, visit


Pyongyang Literary Festival – House of Lords Launch and How To Help

A reception to launch The Pyongyang Literary Festival project was held on February 15th in the River Room of the Lord Speaker’s apartments at the House of Lords. This was under the auspices of the charity the Epiphany Trust. The event was addressed by Dr.James Kim, founder of Pyongyang University of Science and Technology, Professor Keith Hanley of Lancaster University, Dr.John Swenson-Wright of the University of Cambridge (Chairman of the PLF), David Lee (PLF Committee member), Lord Alton (PLF Patron)and the Lord Speaker, Baroness D’Souza.

Pictures of the event may be viewed at:

Further details at:

And how to support the event:

Oxford University Discussion On North Korea – Monday February 6th

Also – see