Shropshire Star

Former county schoolboy's top role working for Meghan and Harry

A former Shropshire schoolboy has been appointed as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex's new right-hand man.

Former Chronicle reporter James Holt is pictured at the front line in Iraq

James Holt, who went to Mary Webb School in Pontesbury and Shrewsbury College sixth form, is the new executive director of the Archewell Foundation, Meghan and Harry's not-for-profit organisation to promote charitable works.

Mr Holt, a former reporter on the Shropshire Star and Shrewsbury Chronicle, succeeds Catherine St Laurent, who said she would continue to work for the couple in an advisory role.

He previously served as the couple's UK spokesman, and has also worked with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

He also worked as head of communications for Sir Nick Clegg during his term as deputy prime minister.

The 38-year-old, who grew up in Shrewsbury, joined as a trainee reporter with the Shropshire Star in 2004, having graduated with a BA in Journalism at Lincoln University. He went on to write for the Star's sister title, the Shrewsbury Chronicle, and during that time he spent six days embedded with the British Army in Basra.

Writing for both the Star and the Chronicle, he described coming under fire 10 times during his short stay, and learning about the deaths of two soldiers from Shropshire.

He won a national award for his reporting and also worked on the company's radio station, Severn Radio.

Former Shrewsbury Chronicle editor John Butterworth said he was delighted but not surprised that Mr Holt had done so well for himself.

"He was a likeable, hard-working member of the team at the Shrewsbury Chronicle, who showed great flair," he said.

"I'm really not that surprised that he has gone on to do very well for himself."

Mr Holt left the group in 2008 and took up a post as a press officer with the Liberal Democrats. In 2013 he became a media adviser to Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who was deputy prime minister in the Coalition government. The following year he was promoted to head of government communications at Downing Street, again working for the deputy PM.

He is also a trustee of the African Prisons Programme, which provides legal training for both staff and inmates at jails in Kenya and Uganda.

In 2018 he gave a talk to graduates at Shrewsbury College, and said his time there helped to define his interest in both journalism and politics.

“I genuinely don’t know where I got my love of politics and journalism from, but it was supercharged and defined here at college in Shrewsbury," he said.

“I’d been at school at Mary Webb in Pontesbury, and then came to college where people from all over the county came together. All with different experiences and ambitions. I got my first real taste of the vibrancy of what people can do and have to offer. I fell in love with politics, and debate, and argument, and learning.

“I was never academic in the purest sense, but I love learning from experience and from other people.”

Mr Holt's role will be to lead the Archewell Foundation’s mission to “uplift and unite communities through acts of compassion”.

He has worked for the Duke and Duchess for nearly five years, supporting their time at the Royal Foundation and as a key communications advisor to the couple’s philanthropic work.

He also played a major role in the launch and development of Travalyst, a not-for-profit organisation founded by the Duke in partnership with several leading companies in the travel industry to create a sustainable tourist sector which puts local communities first.

Additionally, Mr Holt also serves on the boards of UK-based charities Justice Defenders and Inspiring Girls.

Archewell was founded by The Duke and Duchess last year, and recently provided financial support to URL Media and the PressPad Charitable Foundation, which aims to encourage diversity in journalism.

It has also provided support for to organisations working in mental well being and social justice, Mind UK and black civil rights organisation Color of Change.

Miss St-Laurent, who is launching her own new social impact firm, supported by and working with Archewell, became the first executive director of Archewell when it was launched last year.

She was also the couple's chief of staff, and it is not yet clear who will replace her in that role.