Simon Albury celebration dinner

The RTS's retiring chief executive, Simon Albury, bowed out with a dinner celebrating his contribution to the Society and to television on 10 December. 

It was the biggest and brightest gathering of broadcasting's great and good to have assembled in one place for many a year – for 12 years, to be exact, said Albury. That was when his predecessor, Michael Bunce OBE retired.

Among those paying tribute to Albury were Sir Peter Bazalgette, Lord Macdonald of Tradeston, Baroness King of Bow, Gerhard Zeiler and Michael Palin.

Bazalgette compered the evening devoted to "Simon Albury, the man, the myth, the mensch".

Former transport minister Lord Macdonald – who interviewed Albury for his first job in television, at Granada in 1969 - recounted how Albury had first displayed his formidable campaigning abilities as a shop steward during the 10-week ITV technicians' strike of 1979, before going on to influence legislation through his leadership of the Campaign for Quality Television.

Former MP and chief diversity officer of Channel 4 Oona King said Albury had been completely different to the other television executives she talked to in her C4 job. Unlike all the other middle-aged white men, he had "persistently come up with ideas to make television more representative and diverse".

"Simon, you are a legend in your own industry," she said.

Gerhard Zeiler, president of Turner Broadcasting System International, paid tribute to Albury's success in ensuring the "world-class" quality of RTS events: "Simon, you are the embodiment of the RTS; thank you on behalf of the whole television industry in the UK."

Michael Palin said television would be "many shades greyer without Simon Albury… Few people have greater powers of persuasion – he has even persuaded me to sing a song that I wrote 50 years ago and haven't sung since." Palin proceeded to sing Grin – a song whose positive outlook had more than a little in common with Albury's.  

Albury was made a Fellow of the Royal Television Society during the evening.

Those whom Albury thanked by name represented a Who's Who of British broadcasting, the majority of them present in the David Lean Room at Bafta. He paid particular thanks to RTS acting chief executive Claire Price: "The only time I haven't had Claire at my side is when she's been ahead of me. She carried me all the way though my 12 years."

"I don't know what I am going to do now that I have left the RTS, but I do hope in some small way to comfort the afflicted, and if that means afflicting the comfortable, so be it."

Report by Gordon Jamieson

Photos by Paul Hampartsoumian