Over a hundred people gathered recently to celebrate the memory of a much-loved Bath volunteer.
It was with much sadness that, in May 2023, the Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institution (BRLSI) shared news that Bob Draper, one of its most loved and valued volunteers and its House Manager over many years, had passed away.
Bob was the face of BRLSI to countless visitors and members, and it was for this lifetime of service to BRLSI that Bob was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Eve Honours list in 2005.
Bob also worked as an Experimental officer in the Physics department of the University of Bath, for which he received a long-time service award from the Mayor of Bath.
Over a hundred people, including Wera Hobhouse, the MP for Bath, gathered at BRLSI’s Queen Square home to celebrate Bob’s great contribution to the city of Bath.
Professor Ian Gadd, Chair of BRLSI’s Board of Directors opened the afternoon event, with over a dozen speakers taking turns to share memories of Bob, highlighting not only how he had made BRLSI a more welcoming and vibrant place but also how his contribution extended far and wide.
Wera Hobhouse MP explained how Bob had ‘touched the lives and inspired so many, not just here in Bath but in many places across the world. He brought people and lives together. Bob had a wonderful gift to make personal connections almost immediately, which is why all of us felt we knew him well and why there are so many stories to tell connected with him.’ The MP for Bath described how her participation in a 2-day symposium organised by Bob in 2014 contributed in no small way to her decision to make Bath her home.
Bob was a proponent of ‘hands-on science’. He was one of the founding fathers of ‘Bath Taps into Science’, an annual science festival for young people held initially at BRLSI and subsequently at Green Park Station and the University of Bath, which attracted several thousand people during its two-day annual appearance.
At the memorial, Professor Gadd announced that BRLSI would honour Bob by renaming one of its historic rooms in his honour, by launching a young person’s writing competition called ‘Draper’s Papers’ as part of BRLSI’s bicentenary year in 2024, and by establishing a student award as part of the revived Bath Taps into Science Festival.
The afternoon was rounded off with tea and cake, and attendees were able to view a small pop-up exhibition in the newly named Draper Room all about Bob’s work for BRLSI and the wider community.
BRLSI also launched a new webpage, Bob Draper: A Celebration, recognising the myriad aspects of Bob’s life and career and which included an online book of condolence, a biography, video interviews, photographs, a playlist of the music recommended by Bob in his weekly ‘bulletins’ about BRLSI, and details of how it was that Bob came to receive his MBE in the first place.
The webpage is a way both for BRLSI to ensure his legacy remains forefront and to celebrate the vital role of volunteers for BRLSI over its long history.
BRLSI hope that others will be inspired to follow in Bob’s exemplary footsteps and help them continue their mission of promoting and advancing science, literature and art for the city of Bath and beyond.
To view Bob Draper: A celebration: https://www.brlsi.org/bobscelebration/
To become involved with BRLSI https://www.brlsi.org/support-us/