James founded Changing Faces in 1992 based on his own experience of living with disfigurement

About James Partridge

James Partridge is the Founder and former Chief Executive of Changing Faces (he stepped down in September 2017).

When he was 18, James was severely burned in a car fire that changed his face, and his life, forever.

After a period of recovery in intensive care, he spent a gruelling ‘gap year’ in hospital having reconstructive surgery for the 40% burns to his face and body, before going up to Oxford as planned.  Every vacation and the whole of his third year were then sacrificed to the surgeon’s knife, before he graduated in politics, philosophy and economics in 1975.  He embarked on a Masters in Demography at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, which led on to academic appointments in health economics at St Thomas’ Hospital and at Guy’s Hospital, London.

In 1979, he exchanged academia for farming and a teaching post in A-level economics, in Guernsey, where his wife, Caroline, was born and brought up.

James was determined that the unique insights gained during his prolonged recovery should be put to positive use, so early mornings in the milking parlour were interspersed with periods of writing, culminating in the publication by Penguin of his book Changing Faces, the Challenge of Facial Disfigurement in 1990.

The warm response to this led him to relinquish life as a dairy farmer to found Changing Faces in 1992 to pass on the lessons learned, and to work for the rights and inclusion of people with facial and body disfigurements.

The charity has, from the outset, been underpinned and informed by academic evidence and research.  It partnered the University of the West of England, Bristol, in setting up the first Centre for Appearance Research in 1998, which is now a fully-fledged research centre with 28 attached academics. The University recognised James’ contribution to academic research by granting him an Honorary Doctorate of Science in 1999.

As well as directing Changing Faces, James has served on many committees and panels bringing disability, human rights, user, consumer and lay perspectives to bear on a range of subjects.  He is also a founding partner of Dining with a Difference, which aims to challenge and change the way chief executives and directors of private and public organisations address disability as a strategic business issue.  Over the years Dining has made a major impact on the thinking of organisations such as the Royal Mail, Barclays and Jobcentre Plus.

James writes and presents widely on disfigurement, disability, inclusion and social entrepreneurship in the UK and internationally.  

He is recognised as a charismatic speaker and influential advocate and has taken part in many documentaries, panel discussions and media interviews; In a ground-breaking move in November 2009, James was a guest newsreader for a week on Five News, – the first person with a disfigurement ever to do so worldwide – an appearance designed to foster acceptance and inclusion of people with disfigurements in society.

James is an Associate of the Business Disability Forum and Business Disability International, and holds various honorary posts including on Ambitious about Autism’s Development and Public Affairs Committee.  He served on the Department of Health’s National Burn Care Group, the Appraisal Committee of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE), the Chief Medical Officer’s Expert Panel on Cosmetic Surgery, and chaired the Department for Work and Pensions’ Employer Engagement Steering Group.

Now with grown-up children and as a doting grandfather, James divides his time between London and Guernsey, where he is Trustee and Director of the Guernsey Community Foundation.

He was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 2005 and has Honorary Doctorates from both of the Universities in Bristol, his birthplace.  In March 2010 he won the Third Sector award for Most Admired Charity Chief Executive 2010 and in October 2010 The Beacon Prize for Leadership.


  • Winner – Directory of Social Change Lifetime Achievement Award 2012, by public vote
  • Winner – Britain’s most admired Charity Chief Executive for 2010
  • Winner – Beacon Prize for Leadership, 2010
  • Honorary Fellowship, Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Dental Faculty, 2005
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science, University of Bristol, 2005
  • Order of the British Empire for services to disabled people, 2002
  • Honorary Doctorate of Science, University of the West of England, 1999

Current positions

  • Honorary member, Royal Society of Portrait Painters
  • Member of Faculty: School for Social Entrepreneurs
  • Associate, Employers’ Forum on Disability
  • Member, Department of Health National Network for Burn Care
  • Member, Centre for Appearance Research Steering Committee
  • Founding partner, Dining with a Difference- changing how business addresses disability

Recent past positions

  • Chair: Department for Work and Pensions Employer Engagement Steering Group
  • Chair: Government Office for London Equality Committee
  • Member: Panel on Leadership and Race Equality in the NHS
  • Member: National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence Appraisal Committee.