Events, or specifically lectures, are probably the resource for which the RSA is best known. Whether it is the incredible collection of world leading speakers we have coming to John Adam Street; the innovative Animate series; or the range of events that take place outside London, as a Society we put together some incredible lectures. In our Networks team we are focussed on the active delivery of the Fellowship’s potential, and events and lectures offer one of the key means by which we can stimulate this activity.
Last week I attended the 2011 Angus Millar Lecture in Edinburgh. A staple of the RSA calendar in Scotland, supported by the legacy of a Scottish Fellow and the ongoing work of his family, it is always a well attended event, bring together a disparate audience. This year was no different. Chaired by our very own Matthew Taylor, it saw noted science writer Matt Ridley give a very provocative talk on the concept of Scientific Heresy. Taking the sensitive topic of climate change as his subject, he explored some of the ways in which heresy can turn out to be true, and truths (which should be viewed sceptically in science anyway) can be found to be empty. The questions came thick and fast, with debate continuing long after the event had finished, attendees eagerly questioning the ideas expressed.
But is there a point to lectures such as this? This may seem a rhetorical question, however given the range of organisations producing lectures at any given time, it could be argued that the RSA could focus its resources elsewhere. Lectures can be stimulating at the time, however it is action that is required if we are going to change the world for the better.
We are questioning creatures, animals preoccupied with the questions Why and How, and RSA lectures and events offer us a way to engage in this drive.
I believe that our lectures and events represent one of the key ways in which the RSA gives to society. They are watched and discussed across the world, as many as possible freely accessible from our website, with over 50 million viewers having engaged with them to date. Of course this requires access to the internet, yet it does offer opportunities for engaging with knowledge that might otherwise be unavailable. We do not charge fees and we do not limit the information – rather we offer it as a gift to the rest of humanity. And when attendees are able to make it to an event in person, they can share in the company of their fellow humans as we question the world around us.
And that is the key point – the RSA is fundamentally a human organisation, one focussed on the core strengths and drives of our species. We are questioning creatures, animals preoccupied with the questions Why and How, and RSA lectures and events offer us a way to engage in this drive.
So take a browse through our collection of lectures and conferences – you will be driven to broaden your own understanding by questioning the world around you, engaging in that most human of acts.
Jamie Cooke is Senior Networks Manager for Scotland, Ireland and NE England – follow him @JamieACooke