One Year On: Michael Palin Reflects on a Busy First Year in the Role as RGS-IBG President, Which Has Involved Fundraising, Successful Lectures-And Naturally a Little Travelling

Article excerpt

At the beginning of June, I completed my first year as president of the Society. Almost exactly a month earlier, on a balmy tropical night in Hong Kong, I went to bed knowing that the target of 860,000 [pounds sterling] we'd set for the President's Appeal had become a sudden and miraculous reality. Thanks to many generous contributions from the membership and charitable trusts, we had seen steady progress during the year, but no-one, I think, quite expected the tremendous response at the Grand Auction of 28 May, organised jointly by the Society in London and our Hong Kong branch.

Seduced, for instance, by the prospect of joining Sir David Attenborough for a visit to the RGS archive, Joanna Lumley for an after-theatre dinner, Paul Rose for a scuba-diving expedition, or hiring yours truly to speak to a school in the UK, wallets were opened with unprecedented generosity, and by the time I flew home, I was pretty sure we had reached our goal. My thanks to all those--particularly Rupert McCowen, James Riley and Sir David Tang and, of course, our hugely generous donors--who made the Hong Kong event possible, and fun.

As a result, scaffolding will be going up on the north face of Lowther Lodge this autumn, with a view to completing the work by Christmas. The creation of a new Members' Room should be underway in the spring and I hope that it will be up and running in time for the AGM in 2011.

The completion of the appeal coincided, rather neatly, with the publication of a well-researched, lavishly illustrated new history of Lowther Lodge entitled The Home Of Geography. Copies will be available for sale from the Society from 1 December, just in time for Christmas.

The success of the appeal in a comparatively short time, and in a difficult economic climate, is a clear indication of the respect and esteem for the Society that I have encountered, across the country, in my first year in office. …