Originally hailing from England’s North, James Darton’s creative path led him to Berlin in 2017.
Since then, Darton has been a prolific contributor for FvF, his colorful and insightful writing has introduced us to creatives in Berlin and London among other places, from the realms of art, design, music, and architecture.
His first commission, a profile of architect Simon Astridge, led him to becoming friends with his subject, a person he describes as “someone so thoughtful about their craft and wider subjects who I can also get completely out of my depth with on rum cocktails at a Caribbean food stall in Brixton.” His second piece for us, a profile of Amy Revier, he even calls “a contender for my favorite thing that I’ve ever had published.” Just recently, he spent a day with artist Ralph Steadman in the English countryside, capturing his subject’s undying love for music, and introduced us to the inspiring character that is musician and producer Nabihah Iqbal.
How would you describe yourself and your work in a few words?
I still haven’t fully mastered a way to describe “branding”, or “content strategy”, or “tone of voice” or any of those other horrible terms that I find myself saying aloud to confused-looking older relatives and family friends every year when I go home for Christmas. The writing I do is a bit of a luxury that I indulge in when the right pitch or commission appears. I wish it weren’t such a luxury—I find it more rewarding than any other type of work I do.
Tell us about where you’re from.
I was born in East London but I grew up in York from the age of about five, so I feel forever like I’m from the North. Towards the end of my teens though, I couldn’t wait to leave, get to London. I love it back in Yorkshire now. It’s a beautiful, warm place to return to, to think of as home. We drive out to the wild and windy moors for walks or to the grayscale beaches for fish and chips. In the bungalow the cat always sits on my lap, claws out, and covers me in hairs, and my mom always pesters me about my tax returns. I look forward to the way they both choose to express their love, even if it doesn’t always seem like it in the moment.
The romantic in me would say that it’s because in writing I’m constantly able to surprise and delight myself: through the people I get to meet and interview; through the way that a sentence will hurl itself onto the page in ways that I never expect. The cynic in me would say it’s because I’m from a mollycoddled-X-Factor generation that refuses to believe they should ever have to have a “real” job and being able to string a sentence together semi-coherently was my best shot at realizing this.
What does storytelling mean to you?
I guess all the obvious things, but also (increasingly and undoubtedly belatedly) it means recognizing the importance of listening. I’m a white CIS male raised and living in a world that is absolutely tailored to indulge any rambling, self-important story I think is worth telling. I’m constantly grateful to those who push me to really reconsider whether there is value in opening my mouth. I’m also aware that this is no extraordinary feat, but the bare minimum of what I could be doing. Storytelling can be so powerful; there is a responsibility in it that I am still grappling with.
Any other mediums that you’re into?
Music, from the ridiculous to the sublime and everything in-between will always resonate with me more than pretty much anything (I mourn my 800 records, currently trapped in London storage, every day). Films, likewise, almost as much.
What are you up to at the moment, personally and professionally?
Personal-fulfillment-stuff, pay-the-bills-stuff, despair-at-the-world-stuff, battle-the-blues-stuff, enrich-your-understanding-stuff. Never-enough-to-make-a-difference-stuff. The usual.
Why not, right? (This should probably be on a sign when you touch down at Schönefeld). I still exist interstitially between London and Berlin really, but I love it here so much. All the cliches about this city that I used to roll my eyes at: I adore now.
When are you happiest working?
When I’m writing in such a way where my mediocre typing skills can’t keep up with the thoughts streaming out, and I’m not looking at the clock in the top-right of my screen thinking about anything as grotesque as billable hours. I reckon about five per cent of such #content makes it out of my hard drive and into the wider world. Something I need to work on.
James’ stories for FvF
What are you doing when not writing/working on client projects?
Spending so much time in Berlin this year has been amazing, partly because of how much space it’s afforded me to re-engage with books. For the first time in a long time, and thanks to a dear friend I’ve made here, I’m falling in love all over again… with novels, poetry, philosophy, memoirs, biographies, etc, but in a completely different way. Otherwise: spending not quite enough time at exhibitions; spending a little too much time in bars. Getting embarrassingly proficient at the ‘sport’ of ten-pin bowling at the top of Alexa Shopping Centre (secretly I think this might be my true calling).
What’s next for you?
Long term: Maybe actually starting to write that novel that’s been percolating in my head for the last [X] years. Medium term: Redressing the balance between commissions I love and the more corporate/brand-led work that affords me the certain semi-vulgar lifestyle I can’t seem to tear myself away from.
For those curious to see who else we work with, take a scroll through our collection of contributor profiles.