Today I read the news that my friend, colleague and mentor, Dr James Partridge OBE died on Sunday.
I am very sad and shocked. A world without James is a lesser place, but he leaves behind an enormous legacy. I send all my love to James’ family, friends and colleagues.
James was a pioneer in changing the perception of people with facial differences. He also helped instill confidence and break the shame for people with facial differences.
He was also a husband, father, brother and ‘grand dog’.
James was the founder and CEO of Changing Faces – a UK organisation that supports people who have facial differences and disfigurements, and their families; and provides educative resources to schools, workplaces and media. It also provides guidance and training to advocates.
James was involved in a car accident when he was 18, which caused extensive burns to his face and body.
During his time at Changing Faces, James read the midday news on fronted the lunchtime bulletin for a week on Channel 5 in an attempt to try to break down prejudice.
He and the Changing Faces team also ran a campaign featuring people with facial differences and disfigurements in the London Underground.
He stepped down as Changing Faces CEO in 2017.
James went on found Face Equality International – an alliance of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), charities and support groups which are working at national, regional or international levels to promote the campaign for ‘face equality’.
In May 2020, James and the Face Equality International team developed an international media standard for reporting on facial differences, and for our inclusion in the media.
James received many awards, including an OBE in 2002.
I first came across James and Changing Faces in 2011. I was taken by his work, and we chatted via email until I met him at the Appearance Matters conference and the Changing Faces office in the UK in 2012.
I read his first book and his articles, and I regularly refer people to Changing Faces’ resources – particularly within the Ichthyosis community.
We kept in touch online and I had hoped to meet him again at Appearance Matters this year,, but it’s been postponed due to Covid. I had hoped to see him next year. The last emails we exchanged were about his book, Face It. Face It is a memoir, a self-help manual and a manifesto for change.
James asked me to write a piece in the book, and also to endorse it. It was an honour to do so. I received it in the mail last month. I am so sorry I didn’t get a chance to take a photo of me with the book and send it to James sooner.
I had received an early copy of the book in March, and as I read it, I fist pumped so many times. James made so many impactful and relatable statements around how it feels to be discriminated against because of a facial difference, his expectations for the way the media reports on and includes people with facial differences, and also the inclusion of stories from a number of other advocates who have facial differences.
While reading Face It, I messaged a friend, who also has a facial difference, telling them about how valuable this book will be. In my endorsement I wrote:
“FACE IT: Facial Disfigurement and My Fight for Face Equality is an excellent resource for people with facial differences, and for people without. James Partridge has used his personal situation to better the world – helping people with facial differences be seen, be accepted, be free from discrimination and love ourselves. This book will change lives – I am all the better for finding James and Changing Faces, and I know readers will feel the same.”
James is a reason I do the work I do. He has provided me with a wealth of information, knowledge and experience, and invaluable support and friendship. His work helped me understand and articulate my own experiences of having a facial difference. I found James when I was beginning to explore my own relationship to my facial difference and also when I started learning about disability rights and politics. Meeting him made me feel understood.
More broadly, James has created two brilliant organisations and fostered a movement that has reduced stigma around facial difference, and also that calls out discrimination in the media and on the street. He has mentored leaders in the facial difference movement. He has also created a community – together we are stronger and braver.
James, I will miss you. Thank you for teaching me so much, and for your friendship. Thank you for working so hard to achieve face equality. You’ve changed the world for me and many, many others.
You can read a tribute to James from Face Equality International here
James’ family have requested for donations in his memory to be made to Face Equality International. Cheques made out to Face Equality International may be sent to: Le petit fief au Bret, Les Aubrets, ,St Martin, GY4 6EX