Did “X Factor” U.K. contestant James Arthur, 24, exaggerate or possibly lie when he told the world that he was once a homeless teen runaway who was put in foster care because he had a horrible relationship with his parents? His mother, Shirley Ashworth, says that Arthur’s stories about being homeless and estranged from his parents just aren’t true.
Ashworth told the Evening Gazette (a newspaper in Arthur’s hometown area of Middlesbrough, England) that James was never homeless or estranged from his parents: “I think one little comment James made when put on the spot has been taken out of all proportion. His dad and I have had our differences in the past, but you don’t divorce your children and we’re all very close. His dad Neil is a great dad.”
Arthur gave a highly praised and much-talked-about audition on “The X Factor” U.K., in the episode that ITV1 televised on August 25, 2012. In the audition, he did a cover version of Tulisa’s song “Young,” with his own lyrics added to the song.
In a pre-audition interview that was televised, Arthur (whose parents broke up when he was a toddler) talked about his troubled teenage years, when he said he was a runaway who sometimes slept on the streets: “My mum and dad split up when I was very young and they didn’t have any sort of relationship with each other for my entire life. I went off the rails, especially at school. I used to get suspended, thrown out. I ended up sleeping rough sometimes, so I volunteered myself for foster care. I didn’t want to get involved in the arguing anymore. I just wanted to get away.”
James Arthur’s parents, Shirley Ashworth and Neil Arthur, were at the audition in a show of support for James, who said that the audition was the first time his parents had been together in 22 years. After his audition, his parents were shown hugging him and saying how proud they were of him.
After the audition was televised, James did an interview with the Daily Mail, in which he talked about being homeless and eventually putting himself in foster care: “I started sleeping rough when I was 15. I got kicked out of my mum’s house and I didn’t really care where I slept. I understand why she chucked me out because I was unbearable to live with. She couldn’t cope with me because I was so angry.
“I didn’t have a male role model and I couldn’t relate to her so I lashed out at her. I either crashed on someone’s couch or a park bench. I was a pretty tough kid, but I had to steal food a couple of times. I went to supermarkets like Sainsbury’s and filled up a plastic bag to try to steal enough food for the week.
“They did catch me once or twice, but they never called the police – just told me not to come back. My lowest point was when I was living with a family that I didn’t know and I would look at pictures of my sisters and I wanted to be around them. It was really hard not being able to see them.”
Ashworth told the Evening Gazette her version of James’ troubled teenage years: “James was a typical teenage lad and could be stroppy at times. There was probably one occasion where we fell out and he stayed on a friend’s sofa – how many parents of teenagers haven’t been through that? It’s not how it’s been perceived. He got into a little trouble at school at times, but no more than many other teenage boys. His whole family has supported him his entire life and we’re so, so proud of him.”
In the comments section for the article, an anonymous person using the name “Ditchburn” wrote: “I know he was never on the streets , if he’d had an argument he use to sleep at mine on my bedroom floor and cool off before returning home James was one of my best mates through school and out of school he always use to praise his mam and dad and always said he would be a somebody and look at him he’s doin great and good luck to him he deserves every bit of it !!!! Go on jam raff !”
James’ mother doesn’t appear to be criticizing him but she is making clarifications to what he has been telling the media, since she had nothing but loving praise for him in the interview.
She added: “He’s always there when people need him, he’s such a loving person. My mum had a stroke eight weeks ago – we almost lost her twice – and even though James had all the stress of his first audition, he was there for me and his nana all the way. That’s who James Arthur is.”
She also mentioned that she got James his first guitar at the age of 5, and he has been a prolific songwriter: “He’s been writing songs now furiously since he was about 15 – sometimes he’ll have three songs written by breakfast.”