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Episode 25: With Lord John Bird

In our first podcast of 2021, Richard Dunne, The Harmony Project’s Director of Education, speaks to a very special guest – Lord John Bird, Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Big Issue, who in 2015 became a people’s peer in the House of Lords.

Richard is particularly interested in speaking to John about his current campaign around the Wellbeing of Future Generations Bill. The Bill aims to tackle some of the key social and environmental challenges of our time through long-term thinking and planning – which would include a reframing of our approach to education. Such a vision is strongly aligned with the Harmony Project’s approach to learning, and Richard is therefore keen to understand more about the philosophy behind it.

Throughout their conversation, John reflects upon his own personal development. He explains how a disruptive upbringing in Notting Hill – when it was still a very ‘unposh slum’ – ­led him down a destructive path. As a teenager, he spent time in and out of boys’ prisons, struggling with undiagnosed dyslexia and a general sense of anger and frustration. However, an unlikely encounter in prison with education, and particularly the arts and the environment, transformed his life.

His own experiences have led John to believe that ultimately, a good education is critical to successful life chances. ‘I don’t want to leave the next generation, and the generation after it, having to suffer the problems that I went through’, he explains. ‘This, to me, is about education.’ With the Future Generations Bill, he hopes to further improve education, and introduce a new kind of pedagogy – one which fosters children’s innate curiosity and passion for knowledge, and nurtures our environmental, social, cultural and economic wellbeing.

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John, The Lord Bird MBE was born into poverty and brought up in care. 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; and in Parliament, he focuses on poverty prevention, literacy and protecting the rights of future generations. @johnbirdswords