The launch of British Georgian Society in July 2004, was attended by a few hundred guests including then-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 were Thora Bestavachvili, Bruce George, Derek Pickup, Donald Rayfield and Jonathan Djanogly MP, and Sophie Katsarava MBE (former Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee in the Georgian Parliament).
The President of Georgia, The Rt Hon. the Lord Wallace of Saltaire PC, Denis Corboy and Stephen Nash CMG Order of Honour (Georgia)
HE Sophie Katsarava MBE Georgian Ambassador to the UK and HE Mark Clayton 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.
Maximilian Hess (Secretary) 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.
Matthew O’Hara a part-qualified accountant (CIMA) with over 12 years of experience in finance and accounting. He has been providing services through his accounting practice and has taught courses in Applied & Alternative Economics (MSc) and Doing Business in a Changing World (MSc) at Oxford, demonstrating his strong knowledge and experience in the field. Matthew is a confident, organised, and professional individual who can effectively work under pressure and adapt to changing environments. In addition, his passion for the performing arts and traveling showcases his diverse interests and well-rounded personality.
Keti Kalandadze 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’.
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.
Richard Evans is the Director of Marylebone Executive Search and his career spans the private, public and charity sectors, with senior executive positions in all three. Richard’s career began in the charity sector after university, working for Voluntary Service Overseas in Southern Thailand. On his return, he started in education, teaching politics and history in schools and colleges, later becoming Director of Client Services at Woolwich College and helping the College become an associate college of the University of Greenwich. He gained his MA from the University of London, Institute of Education. After several years in senior executive management in education, Richard moved into the charity sector, working as Deputy to the CEO and Development Director for the UK/International HIV/AIDS charity ACET International. He subsequently has worked and continues to do so, in executive search, spending nearly a decade as Chief Executive of a leading City business (CfA) specialising in the not-for-profit sector. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, a member of the English-Speaking Union and the Institute of Directors.
David Gigauri 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.
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”.
Tamar Latsabidze originally from Georgia is currently based in London. She serves as the Regional Senior Manager in Chief Control Office at HSBC. She is looking after non-financial risk management of Global Trade and Receivables Finance Business in the European Region. Tamar joined HSBC Bank in Georgia first as a graduate and has progressed her career impressively within the Financial Services Industry both in Georgia and in the UK. Tamar is passionate about making a difference in the lives of people around her. Tamar is recognised as a champion for community work, having organised events that to make their contributions to the community and raise money for charity. She has always been an active participant in charity events that relate to Georgia and the Georgian people. Tamar holds an MBA degree from Cass Business School, City University London. Prior to this, she completed a Dual Bachelor’s Degree Program from Bocconi University (Italy) and CEU Business School (Hungary). Tamar speaks Georgian, Russian, English, and Italian and is keen to further enhance her French.
Justin McKenzie Smith
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 (Communications) 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 is a PhD candidate at the Courtauld Institute of Art, specialising in the visual culture of medieval Georgia with a particular focus on the patronage and production of icons. From 2014 to 2018 she was a paintings specialist at Sotheby’s London, where she was in charge of researching and cataloguing Russian and Georgian art. She read History of Art and Architecture at the University of Cambridge.
Irine Surmanidze founder and director of REZONYAC Spirits Limited, currently leading a unique and empowering venture in the production of artisanal, small-batch beverages that use citruses sourced from small farms on the Black Sea coast in Georgia. Her mission is not only to create superior quality products but also to promote sustainable and community-driven business practices through a women-led cooperative. With extensive experience in the field of arts and culture, in her previous leadership roles as a manager and a head of the culture department, she initiated and implemented various collaborative projects with Georgian arts and culture institutions, the British Council, and other UK-based arts organizations. Irine is a Chevening alumna who holds an MA in Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship from Goldsmiths University of London.
Advisers to 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), 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.
Ana Nozadze adviser to BGS on behalf of the Georgian Embassy.
Andrew Brandon behalf of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Donald MacLaren (Scottish adviser) 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.
Natia Abramia (Media adviser) 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.
Craig Oliphant (Diplomatic adviser) is Senior Adviser at the London-based Foreign Policy Centre. Previously served in the Foreign Office until the end of 2010; and has also worked at NATO, OSCE, and latterly as vice-president of the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on national minorities (FCNM). He was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2011.