More than two dozen British Science Festivals, tens of thousands of paper CREST Award entries, an office relocation and several organisational name changes – finance officer Peter Benjamin has seen it all in his 25 years with the British Science Association. Matiu Workman sat down to speak to the man affectionately known as PB about his time at the organisation, and some of his fondest memories. 

When Peter Benjamin started as a finance officer in 1995, the organisation was known as the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

The position, which was based in the organisation’s prior office on Saville Row, was a far cry from his earlier work as a DJ in Ibiza, an opportunity he took with both hands.

"My cousin and I were young, free and single, so we went out there with a couple of record boxes, nowhere to stay and made it up on the fly," he recalls.

"There were some great times and I loved it. But there came a point where I'd DJ'd for so many years and I just wanted to come home, settle down, get a 9-5 job and buy a house."

He eventually spotted a position with the British Association for the Advancement of Science in the Evening Standard.

After accepting the position, Peter remembered sitting at his desk, only for two colleagues to pop up and welcome him with open arms. It was the start of what he says is a long and ongoing friendship.

While a lot has changed in his time at the British Science Association, the name for starters, one thing has remained the same for Peter. The camaraderie.

To mark his 25th anniversary, Peter was given a
map featuring all 25 British Science Festivals he
has attended and volunteered in.

"I've seen a lot of good people come through the organisation, some have gone onto bigger and better things. When they come back or when you see them, they say there's something about this place they can’t find anywhere else on the outside.

"Sometimes it feels like you're working with family rather with colleagues, who’ve been thrown together by interview."

Around 20 years ago, Peter spoke about opening up the scientific community to look at ways of employing and engaging those who do not have a science degree or from disadvantaged backgrounds. A director at the time told him it wouldn’t happen. The scientific community was slow moving, he said.

For Peter, seeing the transformation from a hypothesis into an eventuality is incredibly satisfying.

"It's nice to see it 20 years later come to fruition. We're looking at diversity differently, we’re now looking at employing staff from varying backgrounds and skill sets, and the scientific community has slightly opened the door to look at things differently too.

"I'm glad it has happened, and I'm glad we are doing it here – and leading on it."

There have been many career personal bests for the man known as PB. From the social BSA/Science Museum football tournaments, to attending and supporting British Science Festivals over the last two and a half decades.

There is one moment, though, that stands out. Peter had the opportunity to be involved in the Association’s working group to change and update the organisation's vision and mission. His London Underground analogy, which compared the Scientists as Zone 1 and the disinterested being in Zone 4, had been inspired by conversations with a director towards the end of the 1990s.

"I was given the opportunity to be part of something which allowed the BSA to move forward – and of course my idea was at the centre of it.

"On a personal level that was great, but it also shows the extent of the opportunities the organisation encourages, which allows staff involvement in helping to shape the future."

While so much has changed within the Association, life is also a lot different for the former Ibiza DJ. He has two children, 21-year-old Theo and Lucy, 16. Peter currently lives with his partner Giulia.

"When Theo was born, we were still in Saville Row. When I look back at it now, it doesn't seem long ago, but he's 21, and those 21 years have flashed by in the blink of an eye."

Peter says he revels in the company of everyone at the British Science Association, who he says have helped keep him feeling young.

"That is one of the reasons I have stayed at the organisation so long, and for that I thank each and every one of them.

"It has been a really good ride."