RZSS Residencies Blog – Kathy Sorley, Thinker in Residence

January 7, 2015 § Leave a comment

It has been some 20 months since I stepped into this challenging new role on behalf of the Society, tasked with thinking ‘outside the box,’ and with developing creative initiatives and fostering connections to stimulate new visitors and supporters to Edinburgh Zoo and Highland Wildlife Park.

Making acquaintances over Christmas!

Making acquaintances over Christmas!

One of the most exciting recent developments has been the ‘soft’ launch of RZSS’ Residencies Programme on 27 November. Within such a multi-faceted organisation there are lots of fascinating opportunities to collaborate with specialists in a wide variety of different fields, to great mutual benefit.

For the Residents this presents a prestigious opportunity to expand their portfolios working within the unique environment of RZSS, whilst in return the Society gains invaluable access to specialist knowledge, expertise and creativity. Broadly speaking, the Residencies will come under the categories of Thinking, Creating, Doing. Chris West, Jeremy Peat and I meet regularly to review possibilities and approve the appointments.

As the initial Resident, responsible for managing this Programme, I thought I would take the opportunity to use this first blog to provide a bit of background. Although my great grandfather hailed from Edinburgh, I started life in Washington DC, then moved to the UK after undergraduate studies at Duke University and a business degree at Yale. I stayed 12 years in London before moving up to Scotland nearly 20 years ago. I love the highlands and the islands especially, and I have never looked back. Prior to joining the RZSS team I spent 20 years in the film industry as a screenwriter and independent producer, having formerly run my own communications firm in Covent Garden.


The Harvest Moon Fold in Dumfriesshire

Animals have been a passion of mine ever since I can remember. Apparently I fell in love with a zebra soft toy in Texas at age three, rescued an injured rabbit in Philadelphia at four, welcomed my first dog Sparkle in New York at six, and have since raised several dogs and cats, hundreds of Indian runner ducks and chickens, and a small fold of Highland coos called the Harvest Moon Fold down in Dumfriesshire, some of whom now reside on the Pentlands just opposite the Zoo. I often look out onto those hills on blustery zoo days like today and wonder where they might be grazing … thankfully they’ve got the perfect coats!

I was also fortunate to enjoy my first photographic safari adventure to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania in 1970, and have spent considerable time in East and South Africa over the years since, so the passion extends to all wildlife.

As your Thinker in Residence I devote considerable energy getting to know our animals, and our team who take such good care of them at EZ and HWP – looking through the eyes of our visitors – as well as developing an understanding of what goes on behind the scenes.

That is my greatest joy. And it is the opportunity for those close connections to our animals and the team that allow me to think creatively, to spark imaginative ideas in keeping with senior management and board objectives, and to attract new friends and supporters for all of us.

So, a big thank you to everyone who has welcomed me into your terrain thus far, and joined me in this journey we share growing our Society into the 21st century. And a most hearty welcome to newcomers who have recently come on board. I look forward to exploring those areas where our visions and our energies might naturally dovetail.

Just to give you a taste of some early TIR initiatives which I will profile in future blogs:

  • RZSS Archives
  • Edinburgh Zoo Centenary Gala Dinner
  • Meerkat Plaza Ambassador
  • Tribal Elders Lecture Series
  • Edinburgh College of Art Initiatives
  • EZ Big 5 and HWP Curators’ Tours
  • Roar and Snore
  • Developing RZSS and the Arts Collaborations
  • New Supporters
Sculptor in Residence - John Ramsay

Sculptor in Residence – John Ramsay

Back to the Residencies Programme, each month I will profile one of our new Residencies in this blog, and you will be kept up to date about Residency events through our various social media outlets.

Examples of Residents recently named include:

  • Sculptor in Residence – John Ramsay
  • Beekeeper in Residence – Brian Pool
  • Art Restorer in Residence – Kenneth Brien
  • Silversmith/Metalworker in Residence – Bryony Knox

Thursday 15 April will be the official RZSS Residencies Launch at Mansion House, featuring more than a dozen Residents and examples of their work with the Society.

I look forward to profiling our very own Sculptor in Residence, John Ramsay, in my next blog!

Until next time.


RZSS Thinker in Residence

My beloved Bella!

My beloved Bella!


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