The launch of British Georgian Society in July 2004, was attended by a few hundred guests including President Mikheil Saakashvili. British Georgian singer Keti Melua welcomed the Society’s birth with a Georgian song and Stephen Nash CMG, first British Ambassador to Georgia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, became our first chair.
BGS is now recognised as a charity by HMRC, and is run by a board of directors (below) with strong business, cultural and diplomatic connections. A wide variety of Georgia-related events have been organised on art, music, film, literature, archaeology, history, contemporary events and three major BGS Georgian film festivals have been held in London, in 2005, 2010 and 2013.
In its networking role, BGS focuses on Georgian culture, business development, diplomatic links, architectural heritage, humanitarian aid and human rights. An adviser from both the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Georgian Embassy are ex officio members of the board and the UK Ambassador in Georgia and the Georgian Ambassador here in the UK are our honorary presidents. Membership is open to all.
In 2016 the newly elected board decided to confer Honorary Membership in recognition of an outstanding role played in support of Anglo-Georgian relations. The first recipients are Alexander and Thora Bestavachvili, Bruce George, Derek Pickup, Donald Rayfield and Jonathan Djanogly MP
Patrons: President Margvelashvili of Georgia, The Rt Hon. the Lord Wallace of Saltaire PC, Denis Corboy and Stephen Nash CMG Order of Honour (Georgia)
Honorary Presidents: HE Tamar Beruchashvili Georgian Ambassador to the UK and HE Justin McKenzie Smith UK Ambassador to Georgia
Board of Directors
Tamara Lordkipanidze (Chair) set up two non-profit organisations in Georgia. In London she managed a charity, Consumer Unity Trust Society International, was on the board of British Overseas NGOs for Development, a member of an International Steering Committee of the 21st Century Trust (UK) and has been a CEO of Lambeth Savings and Credit Union. From 1984 to 1988 Tamara was in a national basketball team of Georgia. She provides consultancy services in financial services and economic development and is a founder of London’s Georgian Restaurant Tamada.
Craig Oliphant (Vice-Chair) is Senior Adviser at the London-based NGO Peaceful Change Initiative (PCi). Previously, worked for many years at the FCO where he was latterly Head, Eastern Research Group, working on Russia and Eastern European countries, with a particular focus on Georgia and South Caucasus. Other posts included that of Adviser to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, based in The Hague. Before that, Craig was senior lecturer at the Conflict Studies Research Centre, RMA Sandhurst.
Anthony Stobart (Vice-Chair) is a Chartered Accountant and Chartered Tax Adviser. He has been visiting Georgia since 2000, has a Georgian wife and speaks Georgian.
David Gigauri (Treasurer) is a London based banker at Gryphon Emerging Markets. Prior to joining Gryphon, he worked for the investment banking team at JP Morgan, BP and several real estate projects across London, Moscow and New York. David holds a BA from University College London (UCL) and an MSc (with merit) from the London School of Economics (LSE). In addition to English, he speaks Russian and Georgian. He is actively involved in numerous Georgia related organisations and initiatives in the UK.
Robert Scallon (Secretary) retired in 2007 from a career in banking and finance, which took him to many parts of the CIS, including Georgia. In addition to the British Georgian Society he is involved with other charities working in the region – FaRiG, HealthProm and BEARR Trust.
Keti Kalandadze (Communications) was born in Georgia, but has been a UK resident for the last fifteen years. She has taught Georgian at SOAS and the Ministry of Defence School of Languages, she also works as a translator and interpreter. Keti is chair of the charitable group Georgians Abroad Project (GAP), providing support to Georgians in need in Georgia or abroad. Her publications include 'Georgia through its Folktales' and 'Georgia through its Legends, Folklore and People'.
Natia Abramia started as a news reporter at the very first independent TV station in Tbilisi in 1994. For a decade she covered current affairs as a reporter and producer. In 2002 she joined Rustavi2 to present long form programmes and make documentaries about world conflicts. Since completing her MA in International Journalism at Cardiff University, Natia has been teaching Info Gathering, TV Production, Diversity and Conflict Reporting at the Georgian Institute of Public Affairs. In 2006 Natia joined the BBC, producing TV and Radio programmes and managing web and social media platforms in Russian and English. Currently she is a Broadcast Journalist/Multi-Platform Producer with the BBC’s biggest discussion platform - World Have Your Say. In 2013, along with her former students, Natia established Media Portali, an NGO that trains freelance and citizen journalists all over Georgia. Natia Abramia’s book ‘Culture Smart Georgia’ (published by Random House in 2012) guides readers through the customs, habits and work culture of Georgians.
Anthony Anderson, MA Oxon. Lived and worked in Italy & Greece, in Somerset for last 30 years. Worked in theatre in education. Author of documentaries for TV, biogs, oral histories etc. Much editing. Worked with Young Rustaveli Theatre Co. in Tbilisi. Edited Conflict in the Caucasus 1994. Author of Bread & Ashes, A Walk through the Mountains of Georgia (Jonathan Cape, 2003). On board of Farig (Friends of Academic Research in Georgia) and BGS ( British Georgian Society). Has taken groups to Georgia to look at Georgian Churches and explore the country.
Thomas de Waal is a non-resident senior associate with Carnegie Europe, specializing in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus region. From 2010-2015 he worked for the Carnegie Endowment in Washington DC. He is the author of numerous publications about the region. His most recent book is Great Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide (Oxford University Press, 2015). He is also the author of the authoritative book on the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, Black Garden: Armenia and Azerbaijan Through Peace and War (NYU Press, second edition 2013) and of The Caucasus: An Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2010). De Waal has worked extensively as a journalist and writer in the Caucasus and Black Sea region and in Russia, for the BBC, The Times and other outlets. He studied Russian and Modern Greek at Oxford University.
Maximilian Hess is a political risk analyst based in London, specialising in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Max's work on the region has been featured in a number of publications, including the Telegraph and The Moscow Times. He earned his BA from Franklin & Marshall College, Pennsylvania, and an MA from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His interests include the Georgian language, separatist movements, and European and Eurasian international relations.
Keti Japaridze is an art historian. Born in and educated in Tbilisi she was closely associated with the generation of artists who emerged at perestroika (the meate sartuli), writing essays, articles and catalogues and assisting with exhibitions. With her husband she wrote the Georgia section of the first edition of the Lonely Planet Guide to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. In 2000 she did postgraduate studies in London at Goldsmiths College and has been actively involved in organising Georgian cultural events in London, in particular as co-director of the 2010 London Georgian Film Festival, "Life through Cinema".
Donald MacLaren was HM Ambassador to Georgia from 2004 to 2007, his previous postings were Berlin, Moscow, Havana, Caracas and Kiev. He left the FCO in 2008 and has established a partnership, Perfect Pitch, teaching professionals how to speak persuasively.
Peter Nasmyth is author of "Georgia, in the Mountains of Poetry", "Walking in the Caucasus, Georgia" and a co-founder of Prospero’s Bookshop on Rustaveli Avenue in Tbilisi. He spends several months of each year in Georgia.
Jason Osborn is a composer and filmmaker who first visited Georgia in 1975 with his Georgian grandmother. He has scored over 200 TV documentaries including the first 10 series of Unreported World. His first documentary film as a director Songs of Georgia, was premiered at the Tbilisi International Film Festival in 2009. He was chair of BGS from 2010-2014 and is director of the London Georgian Film Festival.
Bella Radenovic-Tsulukidze was born in Georgia but spent most of her life abroad, where she has acted as an ambassador for Georgian culture. During her studies at Cambridge and the Courtauld she wrote many of her academic works on Georgian topics such as the representation of Queen Tamar in contemporary literature and arts (the findings of this research were presented at a BGS event in the Georgian embassy on 21 November 2014). She works as a researcher at Sotheby's, where she is in charge of researching and cataloging 20th century and contemporary Georgian art.
Ex-Officio members of the board:
Peter Dodge (Honorary Legal Adviser) is a barrister in independent practice and a member of Radcliffe Chambers in Lincoln’s Inn. Formerly an investment manager, he specialises in commercial Chancery work (in particular, matters involving property and finance). He travels regularly to Georgia and has visited many parts of the country including Adjara and Tusheti. He is especially interested in cultural and artistic links between the United Kingdom and Georgia.
Aka Morchildaze - George Akhvlediani (Cultural Adviser), born 1966, is a writer, journalist and author of about forty fiction and non-fiction books translated into German, English, Swedish, Italian and other languages. He has been awarded many prestigious Georgian literary and media prizes for his work.
Kakhi Kenkadze adviser to BGS on behalf of the Georgian Embassy
Sophie Middlemiss & Nicola Burgess on behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office