I was shocked and saddened by the news of James’s untimely passing. We had known each other for over a decade, and I considered him an inspiration and a friend.
James was a selfless and tireless champion and pioneer for people with disfigurements, and the global campaign for Face Equality.
In 1992 he founded Changing Faces, which is still the UK’s leading charity supporting people with disfigurements today. After sustaining life-changing burns at age 18 in a car fire, James devoted his whole life to using his own experience of having facial disfigurement to benefit others.
James was a very special person in every way. I vividly remember when I first met James – at one of Changing Faces’ famous gala dinners. Whilst we were royally entertained by a number of our amazing patrons and supporters, the star of the show was undoubtedly James. His enormous presence and personality always shone through.
One characteristic of James’s personality that I always loved was his power of persuasion. James saw every “no”, every “not just now”, as little more than a challenge, in the most amusing and charming way! He always believed so passionately in what he was doing. And James’s belief, commitment, and dedication to fighting discrimination and prejudice, and offering first-class psychosocial support for people with disfigurements across the world, leaves behind a powerful legacy today.
Alongside developing Changing Faces wellbeing and skin camouflage services, his achievements include but are not limited to partnering with University of the West of England to create the internationally-acclaimed Centre for Appearance Research and setting up Outlook, a specialist support service.
Thanks to James, Changing Faces public profile also often far exceeded its actual size. Whether our regular media coverage, ground-breaking adverts on the London Underground to presenting the Channel Five news, James carried the message of Face Equality far and wide.
His flair for campaigning included successfully lobbying for legal protections for people with disfigurements in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Act 2010.
As Chair of Trustees at Changing Faces, I had the privilege to see James lead the charity, and then take his vision for Face Equality global, as he went on to found the international alliance, Face Equality International.
James was an inspirational, caring and tireless leader, a fact recognised by many. He was honoured by HM The Queen in 2002 with the Order of the British Empire for services to disabled people, 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 2010 James won the Third Sector award for Most Admired Charity Chief Executive and was also awarded The Beacon Prize for Leadership.
However, what I know meant the most to James, was the many thousands of people with disfigurements whose lives have been changed for the better thanks to his efforts. Those who have benefitted from our services, and who continue to look to Changing Faces to help them live the lives they want.
His loss will be felt deeply and there has already been an overwhelming response from our community who have shared their memories of James.
I hope you will join me in being thankful to James for building and leading Changing Faces. We owe it to his memory to carry on the campaign for Face Equality, and not to stop until facial discrimination becomes a thing of the past.
As James would say, “on, on”.
Share your memories
Many of our community have expressed a wish to publicly share their own tribute and memories of James. Please do share your memories on his memorial page.