'I Think Story Telling Is So Important': RGS-IBG President Michael Palin's Generosity as a Listener Has Enabled People from around the World to Share Their Stories on Screen. Now, He's Bringing These Conversations to the Society's Stage with 'Michael Meets ...' a Series of Occasional Talks He's Hosting

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'I THINK THAT we tend to demand instant answers and opinions about how the world works and what the problems are, but it's so complex,' Michael Palin says.

'I'm very wary of generalisations,' he continues. 'You can visit a country and find a village that has a completely different way of life to another, 5,000 feet [1,524 metres] higher up. I suppose I'm trying to see the bigger issues through the specific story of an individual, as a way of learning about situations some people might find themselves in.'

Musa Ibrahim, a 26-year-old Somali refugee from Bristol, certainly found himself in a unique situation as Michael's first guest in November. Taking centre stage at the Society's Ondaatjie Theatre, Muse shared with his host and a rapt audience a moving account of how he fled his war-tom home country to seek asylum in Britain.

'I wanted it to he as if we were sitting in a cafe, just having a chat,' Michael says. 'I didn't want to get overwhelmed by one particular issue. I just wanted Musa to be able to explain in his own words why he left Somalia, his efforts to acquire refugee status, and what happened in between. I hope he helped the audience to look beyond the headlines about immigration and consider the background to asylum-seekers' lives and to feel a curiosity, a desire for more information about how the system actually works and what we can do to make people like him feel a bit easier.'

As with his travel documentaries, Michael says that the idea of 'Michael meets ...' is 'not to deal with generalities such as culture, religion or politics', but with the lives of the singular people he has 'eavesdropped' on along the way.

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Michael was introduced to his next guest, Maan Barua, when filming the BBC Himalaya series along the Brahmaputra River in Assam, India. He's looking forward to having what he describes as the 'best kind of conversation': live, with no television cameras, internet or edits, something that everyone in the room can feel part of. …