I grew-up knowing who Jane Goodall is, so I assumed everyone else knew too. There were always copies of the National Geographic magazine in our house. Though the only foreign countries mum ever visited were Scotland and Wales she was fascinated by maps and loved the National Geographic. When she won a prize at school she chose an atlas.
We weren’t well off growing-up and the National Geographic was, as a beautifully produced glossy American import, expensive. But back in the 1960’s and ‘70’s there always seemed to be piles of cheap copies in charity shops and in second-hand bookshops. Mum bought them. We both read them. Jane Goodall was often in the National Geographic. Obviously this beautiful woman who graced the cover was famous. She was even on television occasionally, in documentaries about her research with chimpanzees in Gombe. The magazines and documentaries never said where Jane Goodall came from. I never thought about it. Who does think about where famous people come from? They just exist, somewhere out there in fameland.
National Geographic, December 1995
And Jane Goodall was famous in the 1960’s. The National Geographic sold 3 million copies an issue. The Jane Goodall TV specials were seen by millions more, were hugely popular in America and sold to TV networks around the world. Jane Goodall was, and remains famous. So famous it wasn’t until the 1990’s I realised I’d lived in the same town as Jane Goodall since 1969. That was when my parents moved to Bournemouth. I was seven. Jane’s family moved to Bournemouth in 1940, when she was five. That I spent 30 years in Bournemouth before releasing Jane Goodall came from the same town gives some indication of how well known she is in her home town.
In 2001 I met the woman who was to become Mrs Dalkin. Anita is American. Jane Goodall is really famous across the Atlantic, in the home of the National Geographic. Anita grew-up pretending to be Jane Goodall, playing in woods near her home, her cats makeshift chimps. She dreamed of growing-up to marry a National Geographic photographer, just like Jane Goodall did. Well, I have a camera and a National Geographic jacket sent out as a gift to subscribers.
Judging by the way Bournemouth is you wouldn’t think Jane Goodall came from here. Mention her name and most of the time there is little response, at best a vague recognition that ‘she’s that lady who works with chimpanzees’. Sometimes people assume she is an actress and wonder what they’ve seen her in. Occasionally she is mistaken for Dian Fossey. They’ve seen Gorillas in the Mist. Dian died at the end of that. Jane gently suggests she is still alive. She isn’t famous in the UK. She’s not even famous in her home town. It’s like no one in Liverpool has heard of The Beatles.
Early in 2010 Jane was back in Bournemouth and the local paper, the Daily Echo ran an interview with her in the Weekend magazine. It was an excellent piece by reporter Angela Young, who is a real fan of Jane’s. What astonished me is that the paper chose not to feature Jane on the cover of Weekend, opting for a photo of an actress appearing in The Vampire Diaries. Neither actress nor show has any connection with Bournemouth.
I wrote a brief letter to the paper pointing out Jane Goodall would have made a far better cover star. Jane saw the letter and a few days later I received an email thanking me. I replied mentioning how Anita used to pretend to be her.
Jane invited us to tea at her family home with her sister Judy and other family members. Also present was Dilys MacKinnon, former Director of the Jane Goodall Institute UK and now a member of the Board of Trustees. Conversation turned to how little recognition Jane received locally. Jane was not concerned for herself, but because of how recognition for her achievements would have meant so much to her late mother, Vanne. And also because a higher profile would help with promoting the conservation work of the Jane Goodall Institute, particularly that of the Institute’s schools based Roots & Shoots programme.
Coincidentally the Jane Goodall Institute was organising “Gombe 50”, a worldwide celebration of the 50 years since Jane first arrived at Gombe Stream National Park in what was then Tanganyika, now Tanzania. Celebrations were happening everywhere but Bournemouth. So we volunteered to organise something.
Jane’s like that. Inspiring.
We became the Jane Goodall Institute Bournemouth Base Camp, and on 19 January we met with the current Executive Director of JGI UK, Adina Farmaner, and Administrator Claire Quarendon at Bournemouth Town Hall with the Mayor, Cllr Barry Goldbart and the Leader of the Council, Peter Charon, to see how Bournemouth could honour Jane. Fortunately not only is the Mayor Jane’s local ward councillor, but also a big long-standing admirer. He has a strong environmental commitment of his own, mentioning how advanced Bournemouth is in recycling, and how as a young man he had been on a Ban-The-Bomb march.
Originally we hoped the Mayor would take part in a tree planting ceremony with Jane as part of a day-long “Gombe 50” celebration at Bournemouth University on 22 May. But he had an excellent alternative idea. As part of celebrations of Bournemouth’s bicentennial the Bournemouth Council was holding a ‘200 Trees for 200 Years’ initiative, a programme due to end in March, but from which a few trees remained to be planted. If Jane were to be in town in late January or early February “Gombe 50” and Bournemouth’s bicentennial could crossover in a joint celebration. Fortunately Jane was scheduled to be back in town for a few days just at the right time and so the planting of an oak tree took place in Bournemouth Central Gardens on a very cold 31 January. My account is here on the Jane Goodall Institute UK website.
You can follow what’s happening on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jgibournemouth.
Here is my review of Jane’s most recent Hope book, Hope for Animals and Their World.