Royal Society of Arts Celebrates its 270th Birthday - RSA

Royal Society of Arts Celebrates its 270th Birthday

Press release

Today the RSA celebrates its 270th birthday - kicking off a year of events, commemorative content and interventions in recognition of its place at the heart of society since the enlightenment, and its central role in driving societal change happen for 270 years.

On this landmark occasion, the RSA looks back on its progressive achievements that have helped create the society we live in today, and looks ahead with optimism as its regenerative Design for Life mission seeks to meet the challenges of the 21st century to enable people, places and the planet to flourish in harmony.

Over the course of its rich history, the RSA has been at the forefront of landmark change drawing on its role as a convener and innovator to make lasting change to society. Among a raft of historic innovations, the RSA took a central role in the organisation of the Great Exhibition in 1851; developed the first ever national public examinations; launched the Blue Plaque scheme; introduced the Student Design Awards, now in its 100th year and pioneered Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth initiative.

The RSA has also been the driving force behind thousands of innovations that have shaped society, including: the first personal laptop, solutions to prevent bank-note forgeries, and the creation of zero-waste pharmaceuticals.

Now in its 270th year, the RSA is now a global network of more than 31,000 Fellows who are today’s changemakers. The society remains at the forefront of public discussion, placing people, places and planet centrally in its work through its Design for Life mission to create a world where everyone can fulfil their potential and contribute to more resilient, rebalanced and regenerative futures.

Andy Haldane, Chief Executive of the RSA, said:

“The world, on some dimensions, has never seemed more divisive, darker or despairing. It is just for that reason that the RSA was created 270 years ago, and that is why it is even more important that we press ahead today”

Interventions include work to energise the UK’s creative industries in regions across the UK; leveraging data to better understand the influence of social connections on life opportunities; transforming how schools can foster a connection to nature and community through creativity; an unlocking the potential of UK cities to drive significant economic growth.

The organisation was founded on 22 March 1754, when 11 ‘noblemen, clergy, gentlemen and merchants’ gathered in Rawthmell’s coffee house in London’s Covent Garden to create the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce in Great Britain.

They were led by William Shipley, a painter and drawing master who wanted to make Britain a centre for intellectual advancements in the arts and sciences and met regularly to discuss societal and environmental issues that wider public institutions were not addressing and to investigate ways to bring people and ideas together to tackle them.

For more information about the 270th anniversary, the RSA’s Design for Life mission, and the rich legacy of social innovation and impact throughout its history, visit our website.


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About the RSA

We are the RSA. The royal society for arts, manufactures and commerce. Where world-leading ideas are turned into world-changing actions. We’re committed to a world where everyone can fulfil their potential and contribute to more resilient, rebalanced, and regenerative futures.

The RSA has been at the forefront of significant social impact for over 260 years. Our research and innovation work has changed the hearts and minds of generations of people. Central to all our work are our mission-aligned Fellows; a global network of innovators and changemakers who work collectively to enable people, places and the planet to flourish in harmony.

We invite you to be part of this change. Join our community. Together, we’ll unite people and ideas in collective action to unlock opportunities to regenerate our world.

Find out more at

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