In memory of Dr. Rhydian Fôn James
Celebrating his Life and Achievements, 1984-2016
An academic, campaigner, blogger, orator and contributor, but to most of us – Rhydian’s contribution was to make this part of Wales, where he was born and raised as a Welshman, a better place to live and work for future generations. That demonstrated his core essence and priorities.
– Elen Thomas
Rhydian joined The Sustainability Lab team (or the Welsh Institute for Natural Resources, as it was at the time) at Bangor University in 2012 as a Research Associate on the Green Economy and Sustainable Development. After graduating with a degree in Mathematics from Warwick University in 2006, he went on to undertake political research (on well-being, sustainability and economic issues) whilst completing a Master’s Degree in Economics at Manchester University in 2008. He developed a growing interest in the role that geography plays in economics, and enrolled as a doctoral student at Aberystwyth University where he gained his Ph.D. for his work on the spatial geography of the economy in North West Wales in 2012.
Rhydian went on to research the potential convergence between green economics and geographical economics, the link between post-capitalism and green economics, ideas on re-creating capitalism, as well as the role of human geography on the economy (especially the Welsh language and connected culture on the economy in North West Wales).
Rhydian contributed to several Sustainability Lab projects, including the WISE Network, a project looking at the economic footprint of large industry in a rural area, and a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the National Eisteddfod to research the economic and social value of the Eisteddfod.
Rhydian was also an experienced political campaigner, primarily on social justice and human rights, with several articles published, including seminal pieces in the Guardian. Rhydian realised early on the impact that the Coalition Government’s welfare policy intentions could have on the lives of disabled people. As a result, he co-founded with Kaliya Franklin in 2010, The Broken of Britain, to campaign for the rights of disabled people.
Rhydian had more impact on the disability rights movement than most do in a lifetime. He led the way, changed how I thought, how others thought, connected people and showed us all how to use the political process.
– Kaliya Franklin, The Broken of Britain
He contributed to Plaid Cymru’s efforts locally in Bontnewydd, to the Regional Committee and the National Council. He undertook research work supporting the Member of Parliament, several Assembly Members and members of Gwynedd Council.
Unfortunately, Rhydian’s health deteriorated in 2015 and he died peacefully on January the 12th 2016. He was the beloved son of Ann and Hywel James and brother to Maya. It has been an enormous loss to us as colleagues; Rhydian will be remembered for his enthusiasm, wise words, strong principles and his friendship, his valuable academic contribution and all his important campaign work.
Rhydian’s ability to overcome constraints were part of his lifeblood – a quiet voice but far from invisible, a voice from the heart that touched the world with firm convictions and principles that coloured all his efforts.
– Gethin Evans
This is possibly the most difficult piece that I’ve ever had to write; a few words in memory of a brilliant young man, an astute academic with a sharp mind and a cheerful personality who’s left a huge gap in our lives.
My path crossed Rhydian’s thanks to his expertise in environmental and regional economics. He was only in his twenties but already using a wheelchair and working, health permitting from his home in Rhos Isaf, Caernarfon.
I was fortunate that he was able to agree to work as part of The Sustainability Lab’s team (as we are now known) and did so for a number of years. Without his expertise it would have been impossible for us to complete a number of projects including the KTP project with the National Eisteddfod. His intellect and analytical skills were huge assets and as Elinor notes in her tribute he was an excellent mentor, an inspiration and a close friend, to her specifically, but also to me and other team members.
Rhydian was much more than his disability but it is impossible to not mention how he battled bravely against the limits placed upon him by his own body and for the rights of people who live with disabilities of all sorts. As a result of knowing Rhydian and working with him I gained a brief insight into a life blighted by serious physical limitations and of the organisational skills and support required to accomplish the simplest of tasks that we all take so much for granted. We have to recognise the love and tireless support he received from his parents Hywel and Ann, who cared for him.
Our hope as a team is that this website in memory of Rhydian will grow to be a digital space for promoting a greater understanding of the needs of those who live with disabilities, both visible and invisible and enable us to show empathy and insist that everyone is treated fairly and given the opportunity to live life to their full capacity.
Rhydian’s greatest strength as an academic was his enthusiasm for supporting and helping others. A great economist and political thinker, few who had the pleasure of meeting him left without learning something new and interesting. Rhydian had a talent for making complex ideas relevant and relatable; showing us how economics relates to our day to day lives and work. It was this approach that made working together so enjoyable. Highly observant and engaging, Rhydian always offered a fresh perspective on current affairs and often changed my mind entirely on subjects with very little persuasion! I will remember Rhydian’s warmth and humour; he embraced challenges with a smile and helped others to do the same.
James, R F (2012). Where Model Meets Reality: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Economic Development in North West Wales. Aberystwyth University.
Rhydian had a top-class academic mind and was a wonderful collaborator. We both enjoyed the work we shared reconceptualising the economy away from profit and accumulation and towards sufficiency and localisation. His insights were always invaluable and his creative thinking helped me extend and expand my understanding of what a bioregional approach to economic life might mean.
– Molly Scott Cato, MEP
James, R F, Cato, M Scott (2014). A bioregional economy: A green and post-capitalist alternative to an economy of accumulation. Local Economy 0(0): 1-8
James, R F, Cato, M Scott (2014). From resilient regions to bioregions: an exploration of green post-Keynesianism
James, R F, Cato, M Scott (in preparation). Canmol Dy Fro, A Thrig Yno – North West Wales as a Bioregional Economy.
James, R F, Midmore P, Thomas D (2012). Public sector size and peripherality. Spatial Economic Analysis 7(4): 447-460
James, R F, Midmore P, Thomas D (2013), ‘Ground truths’ and scenarios: Examining and testing regional policy in North West Wales. Local Economy 28(6): 643–662
I admired his extensive understanding, his academic ability and prodigious productivity, and always enjoyed his company and our varied and interesting conversations.
– Professor Dennis Thomas, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Aberystwyth University
Broken of Britain
Broken of Britain (2011). Written Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights on Independent Living. Implementation of the right of disabled people to independent living: written evidence, pp.364-371. Joint Committee on Human Rights
Broken of Britain et al (2011). Welfare reform bill will punish disabled people and the poor [open letter to Disability Minister Maria Miller]. The Guardian
Campbell SJ, et al (2012). Responsible reform: a report on the proposed changes to Disability Living Allowance: diary of a benefit scrounger. S.J. Campbell et al.
Gentleman , A (2011). Disability protesters go on a remote offensive. The Guardian
James, R F (2011). Independent View: the Broken of Britain campaign against Welfare Reform Bill. Liberal Democrat Voice
James, R F (2011). Migration to ESA: Written evidence submitted by Rhydian Fôn James. Session 2010-12, ESA 46. Work and Pensions Committee, HM ParliamentJames, R F (2012). Lobbying House of Lords to Stop Time-Limited ESA. R F James
Marsh, S (2016). And RIP Rhydian Fôn James. Diary of a Benefit Scrounger
McGovern, S (2010). Rhydian Fôn James. BombasticSpastic
Trevisan, F (2016). Disability Rights Advocacy Online: Voice, Empowerment and Global Connectivity. Routledge
Bodden, T (2011). Arfon MP Hywel Williams blasts Disability Living Allowance reform. Daily Post
James, R F (2008). Fair Local Taxation for a New Wales. Cambria Magazine
James, R F (2009). Welsh Language LCO – a plea for sanity. Cambria Magazine
James, R F (2011). Wales is opposing DLA reform. CarerWatch Blog
Plaid Cymru (2011). UK Government penalises disabled claimants. Plaid Cymru
It was inspiring to read his campaigning work – his articles in The Guardian on the Disabled Living Allowance … To achieve so much – and his PhD – while coping with such complex and debilitating impairment is humbling.
– Professor Luke Clements, Law and Social Justice, Leeds University.
James, R F (2010). Harrington report on incapacity testing is too simplistic. The Guardian
James, R F (2010). Spending review: A fight on their hands. The Guardian
James, R F (2010). We want to work – but government would rather cut costs than help us. The Guardian
James, R F (2010). Why should I again prove my disability to satisfy George Osborne? The Guardian
James, R F (2011). Welfare reform bill will punish disabled people and the poor. The Guardian
The Rhydian Fôn James Fund
Rhydian had a neurological degenerative condition which affected his eyesight in the late stages of his life. His disability did not define him and he continually looked for new and innovative ways to progress his academic and political interests.
Rhydian sadly passed away at the young age of 31 on the 12th January 2016 – the overwhelming tributes and support the North Wales Society for the Blind received in his memory has allowed us to establish a grant making fund in his memory.
The Rhydian Fôn James Grant Fund was established to help provide equipment and training and financial assistance to allow blind and partially sighted people (over 16 years of age) fair and equal access to education and training.
The fund hopes to support blind and partially sighted people in North Wales to further their education or gain employment by funding or contributing towards the cost of specialist equipment, training and assessments.
The Society hopes that the fund will go on to empower and enable future generations of people who are blind and partially sighted to reach their goals and fulfil their aspirations whatever they may be.
Further details on the Grant Fund, including qualifying criteria and application form can be found at The North Wales Society for the Blind website website or alternatively call 01248 353604 or e-mail Steven.
Bioregions | Green economics | Gwynedd economy | Broken of Britain | Regional economics | Social justice | Human rights | Disability Living Allowance reform | Welfare Reform Bill | The North Wales Society for the Blind | Rhydian Fôn James Fund