The start of a new year is traditionally a time for reflection, but also an opportunity for making positive changes in our lives and within our communities. Following another difficult year, if you find yourself looking for something rewarding to do in 2022, why not consider volunteering for one of the Society’s regional committees?
Joining one of our regional committees is a great way to meet new people (virtually and in-person) and share your passion for geography. It can enrich your world knowledge, build valuable skills that can help with your career, and help to make important contributions to your local area through arranging events, reaching new audiences, and broadening horizons.
To find out more about our volunteers who make up our nine regional branches across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, we invited some of our regional committee members to share a bit about themselves and their involvement with the Society, their enthusiasm for the subject, and their advice for anyone looking to join their local committee.
“I have been a member of the Society for several years and always looked forward to the Monday night lectures in London. But the regional scene also appeared hugely interesting, with broad array of topics. I was keen to support activity in the area and help bring more geographical content to a wider audience.
Although I only recently joined the committee there is a strong undertaking to bring the work of the Society to the region. There is a clear appetite for relevant local and global stories, and people want to hear them without the need to travel great distances.
As a child I was fortunate enough to have been brought up overseas, and latterly to live and work abroad. It gave me a lifelong interest in the natural and economic world I live in. I also studied geography at university.
"Today I find a geographical perspective helps interpret many of the challenges we face, from pollution, disease and inequality to natural resources, climate change and geopolitics.
If you are interested in serving your local region, just make contact - you’ll find it very rewarding. I am currently helping to organise a talk in Oxford, with hopefully many more events to come in 2022.”
“Communicating with the broader public about the changes facing our natural and human worlds is tremendously important. The Society’s regional committees bring much energy to the communication of ideas and information about the wider world, and it is wonderful to be a part of this effort.
Our committee links our vibrant University of Southampton geography community with geographers across the region - many of whom find the Society a great way to keep in touch with current developments, both directly via events and also through networking. Meetings host a fascinating and diverse range of speakers, and (until COVID-19) they provide an opportunity for local social gatherings.
"Geography has a huge influence on our lives. It permeates so much of what we do as individuals and communities as well as events at national and global scales. It is by nature outward-looking and inclusive of other places and cultures—an outlook that is ever more important in this often-fractured world. It is not, then, merely an academic subject; rather, understanding geography is critical for our future wellbeing. In this regard, the Society’s regional committees provide a way to support all kinds of geographical outreach—we are only limited by our imagination!”
“After graduating from university and becoming an environmental consultant in the private sector, I wanted to stay in touch with academia and up-to-date research. I had visited the Society in London several times and attended events in my area, so I joined the South regional committee after being asked by the chair. As a committee member, I reach out to interesting speakers to share their knowledge and experiences.
What I enjoy most about being part of the regional committee is speaking with fellow committee members, organising events (not forgetting the annual Christmas quiz, which is not to be missed) and learning about new topics which are outside of my usual areas of interest.
"Geography is important to me because it gives a sense of perspective in life. Being part of the committee opens opportunities for networking with a range of people from university professors, keen local enthusiasts, and even international members. It’s a fantastic combination of academia, industry and volunteers all coming together to spread the wonders of geography!”
“I became involved in the Northwest committee after several years as a Fellow of the Society. I’m addicted to being outdoors and am passionate about landscapes - not just walking and camping out in the hills, but also the complexities of place, and decision making around landscape management.
It’s great to be on the committee as it’s a way to regularly discuss geographical issues - not just on my doorstep here in Cumbria, but globally - and to meet new people, hear about travel and expeditions, and be introduced to new ideas and research. It’s also a chance to contribute ideas for events and talks, and as I come from an arts and poetry background, I’m keen to help bring this element into our regional programme.
Why is geography important to me? It comes down to a better understanding of place and feeling more connected to the natural, living world. It also helps us to take account of the other-than-human elements of our shared environments. Geography is a subject that has many facets - everything falls within it.
"Coming together is vital too: with the pressing challenges of climate change and biodiversity decline, it feels vital to continue connecting, sharing knowledge, and working together. Getting more involved through volunteering, regularly meeting up and brainstorming with others through committee work feels really worthwhile.”
“The main reason for my interest in geography and subsequently the Society is that I enjoyed the teaching of my geography master at school. By 10 years of age there was little I did not know about Ordnance Survey maps, orienteering, or the Downs and the places of interest among them.
My housemaster, E.G.H. Kempson, also inspired us. He had climbed to Camp 2 on Everest in 1935 and on Friday afternoons took us to the Brecon Beacons - for us to find our routes back to Marlborough by Monday morning. Compasses (and sextants) were magic instruments, and a Swiss army knife was always - and still is - in my pocket and adventures followed as I became more independent.
After my Monday night lecture at Lowther Lodge 30 years ago (about my 5,500-mile Andes ride) I joined the East of England regional committee - and was hooked! Geographical magazine and the various speakers who came to our regional meetings fired my enthusiasm to do more to help the cause.
Since then we have heard from many well-known adventurers and explorers, experts and specialists in dozens of fields, correspondents, doyens of wildlife and self-sufficient wizards in extremely hostile environments. All in all a cross-section of human endeavour and success at various levels which continue to appeal to me. As a visitor to many countries I have found my accumulated geographical knowledge enhanced in the actuality. Thank you to the Society and the regional committee.”
“I joined the Society soon after my retirement from the Foreign Service in 2004, inspired by an interest in travel and the outside world, gained from a career spent largely overseas. Following a chat with the then secretary of the South region committee (also a former diplomat!), I was invited to become a member of the committee; and a year later was appointed joint chair. On the election of my fellow incumbent to the Council of the Society in 2020, I became and remain sole chair.
I have enjoyed discovering the wide range of themes that come under the broad heading of geography, including highly topical ones such as climate change and biodiversity. And the prestige enjoyed by the Society’s ‘brand’ has made it possible to secure high-calibre speakers in such fields to address our events.
To those considering joining their local regional committee, I would say “go for it!”. It’s not unduly onerous, the general expectation being for each committee member to organise one event a year; and – from my experience at least – it brings you into contact with some fascinating people who are recognised experts in their field, as well as providing insights into the work of the Society’s staff based in London – particularly the Events team.”
“As a committee member, one of the things I enjoy most is meeting and working with geographers locally. They are all from such a variety of backgrounds - academia, civil service, private sector consultancy - which expands my perspective of what geography is all about.
Through my work I am involved with the Society at a national level, but this is an opportunity to do something at grass roots level with members, and to bring some speakers from a ‘professional geographer’ background to our regional programme.
I have been fascinated by geography since I was a child and have spent a lot of my life around geography and geographical information in one way or another. It’s what the world is all about.
"There is very little which does not have a geographical aspect of some sort. It helps to interpret, and bring sense to, a confusing world and helps us feel we can understand it and hence make a difference.
If you are thinking about joining your local committee then I would say "Do it!". I am sure you will find it a worthwhile experience.”
Our regional committees are friendly and knowledgeable and are always happy to welcome new faces into their teams. So, if you’ve been inspired by our volunteers, have an idea for an event, or simply want to champion geography in your local region, find out more and apply.
See the upcoming events organised by our regional committees
Every year we support the Society’s 31 Research and Working Groups through the Research Groups grants scheme.
Application deadlines for many of the Society’s grants supporting fieldwork and research by undergraduate, masters and PhD students; teachers and schools; and early career and established researchers are fast approaching.
Every year our medals and awards recognise geographers who have made a significant contribution to geographical research, fieldwork, teaching, policymaking, and public engagement.
We are delighted to share our spring events programme, full of interesting topics, ideas, and insight.
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