James Partridge

James Partridge

Founder and Chief Executive of Changing Faces

James Partridge was severely burned in a car fire in December 1970 at the age of 18. 40% of his body was injured – his face, left hand and right leg especially so.

He spent his gap year in a burns unit, emerging after the first of many plastic surgery operations to take up his place at Oxford University in the autumn of 1971 to study Politics, Philosophy and Economics. During the next five years, his face was gradually and very skilfully rebuilt and he started to regain his self-esteem and learn how to face the world with a disfigurement, supported brilliantly by his family and friends but bereft of professional help.

After gaining a post-graduate MSc, he got his first serious job as a Health Economist in 1976 That year, he married Caroline Schofield, from Guernsey, and they decided to move back to the island to take over a derelict dairy farm – and grow organic vegetables! For the next 13 years, they established a 70-head dairy herd of Guernseys – the vegetables did not prove economically viable – and they and their three young children became embedded in the island.

In the late ’80s, following the major fires at Bradford City Football club, King’s Cross underground station and the Piper Alpha oil rig, James was invited by Penguin Books to write a ‘do-it-yourself guide to living with a disfigurement. Consulting 60 friends and all known sources of information, the book ‘Changing Faces: the Challenge of Facial Disfigurement’ was published in April 1990 – to warm reception.

During one TV interview with Gloria Hunniford, he met Nichola Rumsey, a psychologist and co-author with Ray Bull of ‘The Social Psychology of Facial Appearance’ (Springer Verlag, 1988) – which James had never heard of! In subsequent lengthy discussions with Nichola, he discovered that her book’s conclusions were virtually identical to his despite coming from two totally different and distinct directions.

In May 1992, James, with the help of Nichola and many friends in medicine and business, set up a UK charity, called Changing Faces, chaired by Sir Campbell Adamson. Its goals were to develop a new model for meeting psycho-social needs arising from disfigurement from any cause, and, in the long-run, to challenge/inform public attitudes. It would be underpinned by academic research led by Nichola, then, as now, a psychologist at the University of the West of England in Bristol.

Over the next 16 years, Changing Faces has grown into the UK’s leading disfigurement charity, based in London, and has a small but influential presence internationally too. It is now a £1.3m pa organisation supporting and representing the interest of people with disfigurements to the face, hands and body (whether from birth, accidents, cancer, paralysis or skin conditions) to enable them to experience a better and fairer future.

James was appointed an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Birthday Honours in June 2002 for services to disabled people. He has also been given Honorary Doctor of Science degrees by both Universities in Bristol, his family’s home: UWE in 1999 and the Bristol University in 2005 when he was also awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.

A recognised public face, he has been involved with major documentaries on TV and radio and is a respected voice on equality, disability and disfigurement in the UK and internationally. Most recently, he was heavily involved in debates about face transplantation and was interviewed for Society Guardian and on Midweek on BBC Radio 4 by Libby Purvis.

He and his wife divide their time between London and Guernsey.


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