Our next member is newly retired District Judge James Heyworth. James is also a reinvigorated woodwind player. It turns out that  I have untapped a whole host of judicial musicians, there may be more to come..


What instrument do you play

Clarinet Saxophone and Flute.

How long have you been playing and how did you find playing through your time studying law/early years of practice.

I started playing clarinet at the age of nine. My father was a semi professional sax player who had his own big band. My first performance at the age of nine was a disaster. We were on holiday in Scarborough. There was a resident band at the hotel. The leader recognised my father and invited him to play with them. My father offered me the opportunity to play clarinet with this band. I agreed to play ‘Stranger on the Shore’. This was the Acker Bilk number that was very popular at the time. It sounded terrible – I knew I was playing all the right notes. I could not understand why the band sounded out of tune. After this embarrassing session it was realised that the band had been given the music for ‘Strangers in the night’.

I went to a grammar school in Blackburn which had a great music department. I played in a classical recorder group, the school symphony orchestra, military band and dance band. These were very happy times. I played the occasional gig with local big bands and also in the pit orchestra of an amateur dramatic society. Christmas pantomimes were great fun.


I then left school to study law. My studies took over my life and I gave up playing. I was admitted as a solicitor in 1975. I became a partner in a Burnley based firm of solicitors. I became a deputy district judge in 1991 and a full time district judge in 1995. After almost 30 years in the job I retired in June 2020. I did not want to retire but retirement is compulsory when a judge reaches 70 years.


I did resume my playing when I bought myself a flute for my 60th birthday. I took lessons from a professional orchestral flautist. I joined a flute choir and played classical music. I used to get to court early to avoid the Liverpool rush hour traffic. Often I would arrive in the underground car park before the court was opened. James Galway once advised aspiring flautists to  play in a cathedral where the acoustics would make even a poor player sound good. I then realised that the concrete underground car park had brilliant acoustics and so I would practice in the car park before other judges and court staff would arrive. I always got a round of applause from the homeless man who camped in the court doorway.


My father had left me his tenor sax when he died in 1994. For some reason I found it upsetting and could not bring myself to open the sax case. I did eventual open it.  I took it to a professional restorer. The sax was a 1957 Selmer Mark VI- one of the best. I then took sax lessons from Andy Scott a lecturer at the Royal Northern College of Music. Andy is also a great composer. Jess Gillam played his composition “fujiko” when she was was a contestant in the Young Musician of the year.

Andy taught me the rudiments of jazz improvisation. I also joined the Liverpool Sax Club where Bob Whittaker gave jazz lessons and we would have jam sessions.



Who do you play with now?


I then joined BluFunk Syndicate a sixteen piece band based in Clitheroe. I played baritone sax and flute. After this band I joined ‘ Black and Gold’ a Soul and Motown band based in Chorley playing tenor sax. I also play with Crewe based “ The Godfathers of Soul”. I deputise with Preston based “The Feel Good Factor”.

In all these bands we play at wedding receptions, pubs, clubs and concert halls. I would have gigs most weekends.Then came the Covid 19 lockdown and all gigs were cancelled. I am now spending time trying to get to grips with the Bach Flute Sonatas – not on flute but on soprano sax.


Where do I find the time & do you think it affected your work in the law.

When I was in post I was dealing with Children and Care cases. This meant I would be working evenings and weekends with a lot of  reading and preparation. I could not practise as much as I would have liked to have done. I did find that playing did provide me with some much needed relaxation. Now that I am retired I can finally make some serious inroads into some serious study and practise.

Do you have any advice for lawyer/musicians or musician/lawyers out there?”

Musicians – practice every day – even if you can only find five minutes.

Lawyers – look after your mental health. Prepare your case thoroughly but don’t become a workaholic. Do as I say- not as I do.

Hear James play

Follow the link here.