James & Bob are my favourite Londoners. Meet them here:
James Bowen was born in Surrey in March, 1979. Following his parents’ divorce, he moved to Australia with his mother and stepfather. Home life was tense and, because the family moved frequently, Bowen was unsettled at school. He was bullied, and began sniffing glue while still in education, becoming a self-confessed "tearaway kid" who would later be diagnosed with ADHD, schizophrenia and manic depression. In 1997 he returned to the UK and lived with his half-sister, but this arrangement did not last; in time, he became homeless and began sleeping on the streets. From this point, Bowen spent almost 10 years either sleeping rough or staying briefly in charity-run shelters; it was during this time that he began to use heroin in an attempt to escape the realities of homelessness.
In Spring 2007, Bowen was enrolled on a methadone programme, busking in Covent Garden, and living in sheltered accommodation in Tottenham, London. One evening he returned home to find a ginger cat in the hallway of his building. Assuming it belonged to another resident, he simply returned to his flat. When the cat was still there the following day, and the day after that, Bowen became concerned and discovered the cat was wearing no collar or ID tag, and had an infected wound on his leg. Bowen checked with other residents to see if the stray belonged to any of them, and when none of them claimed ownership of the animal Bowen decided to help the cat himself.
He took the cat to a nearby veterinary surgery run by an animal charity, which provided antibiotics to treat the infected wound. In order to make sure he received the full two-week course of medication, Bowen decided to take him in for a time while he continued to look for the stray’s owner. When he couldn’t find any information, he released the cat back on to the street, hoping he’d find his own way home. Instead, he began to follow Bowen around, even following him onto the bus when he left to go busking. Concerned that the cat had nowhere else to go, Bowen took him in on a permanent basis, naming him Bob after a character from the television drama Twin Peaks.
Since Bob seemed keen to accompany Bowen to work, he constructed a harness from shoelaces and began to bring him along to his regular spots in Covent Garden and Piccadilly, travelling in the window seat of the number 73 bus. The public reaction was positive and the pair became popular, their visibility increasing still further when Bowen began selling The Big Issue. The public began uploading videos of Bowen and Bob to YouTube, and tourists would visit Covent Garden to see them. During this time, Bowen decided to withdraw the methadone treatment. He credits his success to Bob, saying "I believe it came down to this little man. He came and asked me for help, and he needed me more than I needed to abuse my own body. He is what I wake up for every day now... he’s definitely given me the right direction to live my life."
A number of books have been published about Bowen and Bob:
In time, Bowen and Bob’s public appearances attracted the attention of the Islington Tribune, which first published his story in September 2010. This was read by Mary Pachnos, the literary agent responsible for the UK rights to John Grogan’s Marley and Me, who introduced Bowen to the writer Garry Jenkins. The pair produced an outline for a book which Pachnos used to secure a book deal with the publishers Hodder & Stoughton. Since its publication the book has sold over 1 million copies in the UK alone, and has been translated into 30 languages and spent over 76 weeks at the top of the Sunday Times’ bestseller list in both its hardback and paperback format. A Street Cat Named Bob: And How He Saved My Life was published in the USA on 30 July 2013 and entered the New York Times best-seller list at No 7.
The World According To Bob continues the story of Bowen and Bob's lives on the street, including the period leading up to their meeting with his agent Mary Pachnos. It was released on 4 July 2013 and was also a number one book on The Sunday Times' bestseller list.
A Gift from Bob is a short story about Bowen and Bob's final Christmas on the streets together. According to publishers Hodder & Stoughton, the book reveals "how Bob helped James through one of his toughest times - providing strength, friendship and inspiration but also teaching him important lessons about the true meaning of Christmas along the way." It was published on 9 October 2014 and reached No 8 on the Sunday Times best-seller list.
(Thank you Wikipedia!)
In 2016 the first film about James & Bob was released. The story is based on the fist book 'A Street Cat Named Bob'. Watch the trailer.
You can follow them on Facebook: James Bowen & Street Cat Bob