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GA York District Branch

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Branch Chair and Secretary: Liz Brown

Annual Membership of the York & District Branch is £10 with a concessionary rate of £5 available to students. Individual lectures for non members cost £3 and £2 for students.

Lectures are held at Bootham School, Bootham, York by kind permission of the Head.

Use this link to attend virtual lectures.


Upcoming events

2023/24 programme

To find all up and coming branch events take a look at the GA Networking Calendar.


Previous events

January 2020

World Wise Quiz

On Tuesday 28th January 8 schools from across York competed in the World Wise Quiz. Competing schools were, Archbishop Holgate School, Bootham School, Milthorpe Academy, The Mount School, Huntington School, Fulford school, Manor School and Tadcaster Grammar School. After 8 very varied rounds the results stood at Manor School in third place, Fulford School as runners up and Huntington School as the winners.

Many thanks to Bootham School for hosting the event and their kitchens for providing refreshments and also to Luke Gilliver for his technical support. Lastly thanks go to the York Branch team of Liz Brown, Carol Cook, Rose Cook and Anne Partridge. Great quizzing all round!

Natural Flood Management

On Tuesday 21st January Professor Colin Brown from the Department of Environment and Environment at the University of York gave a fascinating lecture on natural flood management. After an overview of the problems we face nationally in terms of flood risk Colin explained the principles of natural flood management (NFM) and how he and his colleagues have been testing the efficacy of such schemes in a 10 year experiment on Water friendly Farming based in a lowland farm setting in Leicestershire. Whilst exploring flood risk it became clear that there are many co-benefits to the strategies which farmers had been asked to employ such as interception ponds and bunded ditches. Bringing us back closer to home he described the range of NFM projects currently underway throughout Yorkshire before concluding with a comprehensive SWOT analysis of these approaches.

There followed some great questions which demonstrated the quality of the lecture and the interest of the audience.

Water friendly farming PowerPoint download

October 2019

Super Volcanoes or, something even scarier than Brexit?!

The York and District Branch of the GA hosted the renown Geophysicist Bill McGuire, Emeritis Professor at UCL to talk about the threat of Super Volcano eruptions using the 1815 Tambora eruption as an example of the global fall-out of such an event. Many people have heard of the effects of ash on the sunsets in Europe following the eruption of Krakatoa in 1886 but few know about the more worrying impact of sulphur dioxide aerosol in the atmosphere. After Tambora this caused huge climatic disruption, famine in Europe and social unrest as food prices soared and crops failed.

A bleak picture indeed and one that is almost certain to happen at some time, the ones to watch at the moment both reside in South America with Laguna del Maule in Chile inflating with magma at a worrying rate of 6 cm a year. The audience, which was over 100 strong, were treated to an whirlwind tour of super volcano threat and it certainly took our minds off other worries, as Bill pointed out our reactive, rather than proactive, politicians are definitely putting their heads in the sand about this inevitable risk.

Find out more about these issues and more here

June 2019

Adventure in the arctic!

Despite the terrible weather on the evening of Tuesday 11th June the York and District Geographical Association lecture attracted an enthusiastic audience who thoroughly enjoyed Alex Hibbert’s stimulating and through provoking lecture on his expedition to the high arctic in Greenland. Over the course of several months Alex and his team learned to drive dog sledges, which have no brakes at all! They travelled well over 1000 miles on the sledges and made it up onto a piedmont glacier which is a feat never attempted before.

We were all enraptured by Alex’s tales of his dog teams and the local community in what proved to be a superbly educational and entertaining evening.

Alex is a published author and his latest book, provocatively entitled ‘Polar eskimo’ is out now.

January 2019

Mapping the blank – or how a geographer is helping provide humanitarian aid in Uganda

On 22 January the York and District Branch of the Geographical Association hosted Dr Jonny Huck from the University of Manchester. The 60-strong audience were treated to an absolutely inspiring lecture. Jonny began by taking us through the history of map making and how cartographers used to fill the spaces they didn’t have accurate data for with drawings and text or just made up things – check out the Mountains of Kong which appeared on African maps until 1928 but do not even exist!

This lead us into his work in Uganda where he and his team are using cutting-edge mapping techniques, which anyone can get involved with, to map an area where the outlawed group the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) mutilated over 400,000 people in a prolonged civil war. By mapping where people live Jonny and his team have been able to start getting medical assistance, prosthetics, trauma counselling and theatre-based education workshops about disability to communities which have been forgotten by most of the world.

The power of maps and the unique way that Jonny’s team are combining man-power with machine learning to help speed up mapping the blanks in Uganda for such powerful good inspired us all. If you want to get involved and help with the mapping follow this link.

York GA to Masaka Uganda report

Following a lecture at Bootham School to the York and District branch of the Geographical Association by Tom Bliss of the United Bank of Carbon, the branch very kindly raised a sum of £600, to be split 50/50 to support tree planting in the tropics and the UK. Download the report above to find out more about the project, and how this donation will benefit communities in York and Uganda.

March 2018

York and District Branch of the Geographical Association Sixth Form Conference

On Thursday 22 March Bootham school hosted the annual Sixth Form Conference for the York and District Branch of the Geographical Association. This year we had 87 attendees from 6 schools across Yorkshire, Bootham, The Mount, All Saints, Huntington, Barnard Castle and Pocklington.

The morning session saw Louise Butcher,who is a current exam marker and teaches at Fulford School,  give an excellent and informative session on how to approach the new A level exam questions and in the afternoon the question of ‘What makes place?’  was explored through the lens of York. David Fraser chief Executive of York Civic Trust, Steve Brown Managing Director of Make it York and Dr Annabel Jenkins and Professor Alisitair Boxall from York University’s  York City Environment Observatory (YCEO) project all contributed and students were left in no doubt that they do live in or close to ‘the best place to live in the UK’ but that this doesn’t happen by chance.

The whole afternoon could be summarised in the phrase coined by David Fraser that ‘change happens and it’s our job to ensure that the change that happens is the right change for York’. By doing this we will secure our city into the future, a city of heritage and high-tech, a UNESCO city of Media Arts, a place we all want to visit, live, work, study and do business in into the future.

Liz Brown – Chair of York and District GA

February 2018

Photo: Left – Liz Brown presenting Certificate of Outstanding Contribution to John Brown. Right – speaker Angela Mae Minas

On Thursday 8 February we were delighted to present a Certificate of Outstanding Contribution to John Brown. John has been a member of the GA for 61 years, joining in 1957. For the last 13 years he has been our vice-chair in York providing a wealth of wisdom and Geographical genius to our programme for which we are incredibly grateful.

Our speaker for the occasion was Angela Mae Minas from the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research based at Manchester University.

Angela has a background in science communication and has worked in the agricultural extension and education realm in south east Asia. She is currently completing a PhD investigating the challenges and opportunities for rice farmer in the Philippines and Vietnam of utilising rice straw for bioenergy. The insight she gave us into her practical research methodologies and the complex relationships between communities, individual, money lender and both local and national government was fascinating. As the global south will be one of the areas most affected by the effects of global warming it was heartening to see that practical adaptations and mitigations to combat climate change are being sought although in her conclusion Angela stressed the time pressures for change in the face of the unprecedented rate of climate change the Earth is experiencing.

Governing the Global Commons

On Thursday 18 January, 2018, the York Branch of the Geographical Association hosted Professor Philip Steinberg from the University of Durham. In a fascinating lecture we were taken through the global commons of the ocean, air and outer space and ,to a lesser extent,  Antarctica and given the opportunity to think about who can access the commons and for what purpose. Professor Steinberg reflected on the treaties which cover the governing of the global commons and explained why they are so important now and into the future. Always entertaining we learned the true definition of a pirate and enjoyed a critical dissection of a  Matt Damon speech from the film The Martian.

Geographical Association Sixth From Conference

Bootham School hosted the Sixth Form Geography Conference for the York and District Branch of the Geographical Association. Eight schools attended coming from as far away as Hornsea, Doncaster and Sherburn and in total there were over 100 in the audience.

Liz Brown, Chair of the branch and Head of Geography at Bootham delivered two sessions on the AQA examinations that the students will sit this summer including the issues evaluation exam which this year looks at the fascinating topic of migration of sub-Saharan Africans into Europe. This year was the final year in the current format due to changes in the exam specifications and we look forward to a new format for next year.

Mongolia to Hong Kong

Tthe York Branch of the Geographical Association and the Royal Geographical Society hosted a lecture from adventurer and film maker Leon McCarron. Leon captivated his audience with his story of English Literature graduate turned global adventurer as he reflected on his 3000 mile walk from Mongolia to Hong Kong with his travel companion Rob Lilwall. The lecture provided an amazing overview of a rapidly changing China as well as reminding us about the universal good nature of people and the potential we all have inside. Leon’s uplifting main message was to ‘live life adventurously’.

Picture is of Rob Lilwall and Leon McCarron

Nepal earthquake

The York and District Branch of the Geographical Association held its first evening lecture of the year. The 70 strong audience were treated to an exceptionally candid and revealing insight into the aftermath of a natural disaster as former solider Mark Brightwell told his personal account of the months following Nepal’s earthquake of 25 April 2015. Mark, a photographer and mountain leader, brought the reality of aid efforts to life and the number of questions from the audience is a testament to how fascinating his lecture was.

Mark has a gallery of photos which he is selling to help raise funds for Nepalese charities.

Download presentation (contains many more excellent photos of Nepal)

View Nepal earthquake resources page.

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