With only a couple of weeks left of 2023, it’s the time of the year where we take a moment to reflect on the last 12 months at RSGS and everything our small charity has achieved...

As 2023 draws to a close, I want to thank all of our many volunteers, Members and collaborators for all their support during this past year. The last 12 months have been the usual mix of opportunities, challenges and distractions but with some real highlights, and I am pleased to say some signs of recovery.  There are still so many ways to reinforce the importance of geography in people’s lives; along with our extensive talks and events programme, we continue to input to national policy in a number of critical sectors.   Our education work has gone from strength to strength under the guidance of our Education Committee Char Alastair McConnell and RSGS Vice-Chair Kenneth Muir, and this will continue to be an important policy arena for us.  But with the signing of the MoU with University of Strathclyde, our Climate Solutions work has also moved onto another stage, and we remain hopeful this can continue to grow and expand.  We are sorry to see two staff leaving during 2023 – Ross, our first Deputy Chief Executive who left in the summer, and Linda our Finance Officer who stepped down this December. We wish them both the best with their endeavours.

We started the year off on a high when we hosted a sold-out event at Perth Concert Hall with the team from the Endurance 22 Expedition, who spoke about their discovery of Ernest Shackleton’s lost ship Endurance beneath the ice of the Weddell Sea. Not only was it fantastic to see over 1,000 people at the event, it also reminded us how enduring and inspiration the story of Shackleton remains to this day. 

Following this, we recognised that there was a demand for us to share our exclusive stories, images and collections of our former Secretary Ernest Shackleton with the public, which led to us hosting our first ever Discovery Days at our headquarters in Perth. The success of which prompted us to host another in September inspired by the 70th anniversary of the 1953 Everest expedition, where we shared rarely seen pieces from RSGS archives related to some of the greats of Everest and Himalayan exploration.

We also hosted our first ever exclusive tour of the Fair Maid’s House visitor centre, guided by RSGS volunteer Graham Ferguson who brilliantly shared his knowledge and passion of our history and mission.

2023 overall has been a busy and exciting year of events, with just some highlights including Rory Stewart, Lyse Doucet, Karen Darke and James Bluemel, and of course our annual Inspiring People talks programme which began again in September. Our 2023-24 programme has already seen some brilliant speakers and we have been pleased to see an increase in attendance across our Local Groups since beginning the face-to-face talks again last year.

We have worked quite extensively on education this year, after hosting an education conference at Dollar Academy in February where we brought together key individuals and organisations across the education sector to discuss how to maximise and promote the uptake of Geography. This led to a report being produced that outlined the key findings and recommendations from the conference. We are now hosting monthly webinars on educational reform to continue this discussion.

We have now hosted two meetings with our Young Geographer Committee which we set up following our Future Generations Fund appeal last year, who will be assisting us with some of our policy work, and also creating another edition of the Young Geographer magazine during 2024.

We presented a host of awards this year and welcomed an impressive list of Honorary Fellows and Medallists from leaders in the climate change arena to incredibly talented documentarians.

We continued to produce quarterly editions of our magazine The Geographer, starting with a magazine on meteorology in collaboration with the Royal Meteorological Society, one on earthquakes with a spotlight on the 2023 earthquakes in Turkey and Syria, one of Mashriq looking at aspects of just transition in the Middle East, and one on trees considering the future of forests and fragile landscapes.

Throughout the year we have continued our policy work, with advisory roles in topics as diverse as agriculture, transport, Arctic policy, university education, city and regional development.  And of course, we remain heavily involved in all thing’s climate change. We ran a second summit on the 10 big climate solutions that came out of the work in the dozen or so sector specific Climate Emergency Summits. Our Climate Solutions course is still seeing some great developments with it now having been translated into French Canadian and South American Spanish, and continue to host monthly Meet the Expert sessions with key voices from the climate sector.

In June, we partnered up with Access to Inspiration to record a series of podcasts to give leading perspectives on how we promote climate solutions and featured a number of brilliant guests including Co-Founder of Stop Ecocide Jojo Mehta, geopolymer expert Roisin Hyde, explorer Bertrand Piccard, and RSGS’s own President Professor Dame Anne Glover and former President Professor Iain Stewart.

We launched our Voices of the Earth appeal this year with the goal to help our brilliant Writer-in-Residence Jo Woolf publish a second book of stories related to RSGS’s past and present, featuring 50 more incredible people from the past 200 years.

And as of this month we have partnered up with Persie Distillery to create a limited edition ‘RSGS Explorer’s Gin’ in time for Christmas.

We are grateful to all the Board Members and volunteers who have helped throughout 2023 to keep the show on the road and to those of you who have supported us as Members and collaborators in all our endeavours.

We now look forward to what the new year will bring, not least of course hosting Professor Alice Roberts at the University of Strathclyde in January and continuing to work with our Young Geographer Committee.