Francis’ love of jazz and Afro-American music began in the early 1970s. Originally schooled in the traditions of hand drumming under the tutelage of Ghanaian master drummers he performed, and occasionally recorded, as a percussionist with a wide range of jazz musicians, including John Stevens and his Dance Orchestra.
His interest in jazz has followed him through varying career changes. After working in Sotheby’s Modern British Picture Department in the 1970s, from 1980 he exhibited the work of contemporary painters in his home, tapping into the links and affinities between a group of mid-career British abstract artists and free jazz musicians. After working for the commercial arm of the BBC through the mid-80s, he decided to strike out on his own, and in 1987 established a pioneering art gallery in Clerkenwell, London, representing some artists who had become friends through his jazz connections. The Gallery steadily grew a good reputation for its commitment to painting and sculpture at a time when contemporary art was embracing a fashion for new media.
In 2003 he called time on his art-dealing career to focus his energies on developing a long-held research interest in 20th-century German social and cultural history. In 2008 he was awarded a doctorate from the University of Sussex, followed by a Visiting Fellowship by the Centre for British Studies at Berlin’s Humboldt University, enabling him to finish researching a book, published in 2013 on the post-war refugee crisis in Western Germany. His other passion is endurance running and competitive racing in ultra marathons, usually between 50 and 110 miles. He has been writing for Jazz Journal since 2011.