Laurence Bristow-Smith was educated at the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne where he received a Doctorate for his work on the novelist and artist, Mervyn Peake. He spent four years in Morocco, teaching at the Université Mohammed V in Rabat. Returning to the UK, he joined the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, learnt Chinese at SOAS, and spent time in both Taiwan and China, where he was caught up in Tiananmen Square incident in 1989. During the 1990s, he headed the China Department in the Foreign Office and then worked in the decentralising, ex-socialist economies of Central and Eastern Europe, spending time in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. In 2000, he was posted to Norway; and in 2005 moved to Milan as Consul General and Director General for Trade and Investment. He left the Diplomatic Service in 2005, since when he has divided his time between acting as a international business consultant and running a guest house in Dumfries and Galloway.
At the age of twelve, a peripatetic music teacher came to Laurence's school to give a demonstration how to play brass instruments. It was a moment that changed his life. He was seized with a desire to learn to trombone. He played in his school orchestra and in the Kent Youth Orchestra under Bela de Csillery. His performing career did not last long, but the experience gave him a passion for music which has lasted ever since.
In the heady days of the 1970s, he ran discos and folk clubs in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. During his subsequent career, he was able to become involved with, and offer help and support to groups and artists as diverse as the Moroccan folk group Nass el Ghiwane, a Tibetan dance troupe, a Chinese opera company and the European Union Youth Orchestra. Together with the late Kenny Craddock, Laurence also wrote a stage musical, Spooner, and songs which have been recorded by artists including Liane Carroll and Fairport Convention.