James is passionate about the power of formal speech to change young people’s lives, as it did his. His involvement with the ESU began through the public speaking competition and his local branch; he was named ‘Young Member of the Year’ in 1997. He went on to hold several scholarships and awards, including member of the England Debating Team and British Debate Squad, winner of the John Smith Memorial Mace for England and Wales, and Capitol Hill intern.
He became a member of staff in 2002, founding the ‘Discover Your Voice’ programme along the way, and leaving as Head of Speech and Debate and Deputy Director of Education in 2009. He was a member, later chairman, of the board of directors of the World Schools Debating Championships from 2008 to 2014. In 2009 he was part of the start-up team of educational and volunteering charity City Year UK, which he left as Director of Strategy in 2017 to found and lead the Full-Time Social Action Alliance.
He is currently Director of Development at Historic Houses and the editor of Historic House magazine. James has been a member of the Independent Monitoring Board of HMP Brixton, a primary school governor, a trustee of Learning Plus UK, and a committee member of the Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust. He is currently a trustee of National Debate Team, which runs the England and Wales schools debating teams.