OSA Alumni Award 2020 – Malcolm Grimston

Alumni Award 2020.

At the 2021 Prize Giving, the Guest Speaker was  former student, Malcolm Grimston who gave a meaningful, insightful and inspiring speech to all present, reinforcing both the necessity and benefits of working hard, but also for being brave and strong to grasp any opportunity that presents itself in the future, as when these doors are opened, you never know quite where it may lead.

Malcolm was also honoured as the 2020 OSA Alumni Award winner which was announced last year when the College held a Virtual Prize Giving. This Award, which was introduced in 2013, is given to recognise the achievements of a member of the OSA in the hope that it will inspire the next generation of Scarborough College students to go out into the world and be the best they can be.

Malcolm was at College from 1969 to 1976, under the headmastership of Denys Crews and Richard Wilkinson. He was a member of Lodge House and focussed on science and music. After A levels in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Music and General Studies (all Grade A) he went up to Magdalene College, Cambridge to read Natural Sciences, specialising in Psychology in his third year.

He sang with the Cambridge University Music Society chorus and was a member of the Standing Committee of the Cambridge Union (debating) Society. He was also a Choral Exhibitioner, taking part in the Sunday service each week in the College Chapel under the expert guidance of the Organ Scholar, Tim Kirkup – later to be Headmaster of Scarborough College.

Graduating in 1979, he spent an extra year taking a Post Graduate Certificate in Education, which led to a seven-year career as a chemistry teacher, first at Stowe near Buckingham, then at Millfield in Somerset. At both schools he kept up his interest in music, producing and conducting a staff-school joint production of Britten’s Little Sweep at Stowe and taking various roles with the Strode opera Company in Somerset.

His life took a dramatic and unexpected turn in 1986, when he spoke from the floor in a debate on nuclear power while visiting a friend at the University of Birmingham. He got into a protected correspondence with the late John Collier, the Chairman-designate of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, which led to a post being created for him at the UKAEA doing something in the public understanding and presentation sphere – neither Malcolm nor John had a terribly clear idea what precisely this would involve – and he moved to London in 1987 to take up the position.

After 8 years with the UKAEA, writing, researching and speaking on the wider issues of energy and nuclear power (three of which were on secondment to the trade body, now called the Nuclear Industry Association) Malcolm was appointed a Senior Research Fellow at Imperial College in 1995 (he is still a Honorary Fellow at the Imperial Centre for Energy Policy and does a few lectures a year); four years later he started a spell in a similar position with the Royal institute of International Affairs (Chatham House).

Always a prolific writer on energy issues, while at Chatham House he wrote his first two books, with the late Peter Beck: Civil Nuclear Power – Fuel of the Future or Relic of the Past? and Double or Quits – the Global Future of Civil Nuclear Energy.

Meanwhile, in 1994 he was elected as a Councillor to serve West Hill Ward in the London Borough of Wandsworth, in which role he was to have front bench responsibility for Housing, for Education and for Environment & Leisure and was for a time the Conservative spokesman on education for London local government.

However, energy and nuclear power remained his main focus and he became a regular media contributor, notably after the earthquake and tsunami which engulfed the Fukushima nuclear power station in Japan in 2011. In 2016 he published his magnum opus, Paralysis at the Heart of Energy Decision-Making, and continues to take part in conferences and presentations on the wider energy debate. He resigned the Conservative Whip in 2014 and has sat as an Independent Councillor since, winning the highest number of votes of any candidate in London (4,002) in the 2018 Council elections. His 2017 book, West Hill and Wimbledon Park Side – story of a Council Ward has sold nearly 1000 copies locally. In 2006 the local orchestra performed his Wandsworth Symphony. Since 2012 he has been in a blissful civil partnership with his Cuban partner Carlos.

Malcolm looks back on his time at College with great affection and is still in contact with many of his friends such as Paul Artley, Jamil Hamed, Rod King and Russ Pressney. When Tim Kirkup invited him to give the Founders’ Day lecture in 2004 it was wonderful to see such long-retired figures as Denys Crews, Peter Burton and John Alderson – and Colin Brooke, who had joined the Physics Department during Malcolm’s time at the College and was still there!

Malcolm received his award, albeit a year late, from former member of staff and OS John Precious.


Photo credits to Keith Meatheringham