BAMBER Gascoigne, the distinguished author and broadcaster, who has lived in Richmond for many years, has been announced as the new president of Richmond upon Thames Arts Council.

He succeeds Edward Bostock, the first president of RuTAC, who has retired after long service and who becomes president emeritus.

Mr Gascoigne is the first president under a new arrangement by which local people distinguished in the arts will be invited to serve as president for a year. In this way, RuTAC hopes to honour many of the distinguished artists who live in the borough, and have the benefit of their support for the enormous range of artistic and cultural activity that takes place in the borough.

Mr Gascoigne has published three novels, but his best-known books are histories on broad themes (World Theatre 1968, The Great Moghuls 1971, Treasures and Dynasties of China 1973, The Christians 1977) and a text book which has become a standard in the print departments of colleges and museums (How to Identify Prints 1986).

. His Encyclopedia of Britain (1993) is a reference work on all the best-known aspects of British history and culture.

His work on television has similarly been in the field of historical documentaries, as author and presenter of The Christians, Victorian Values, Man and Music and The Great Moghuls. He was also for 25 years the presenter of University Challenge.

Since 1994 he has been writing a digital history of the world for the internet. It went online in 2001 as and in 2002 won the New Statesman New Media award for the best educational website. His text, of about one and a half million words, forms the core around which the site is growing.

The site is of particular relevance to museums through OCEAN (the One-Click Edited-Access Network) a system which brings users at a single click to the page on a museum website where the required image can be found.

RuTAC helps promote artistic and cultural activity in the borough, and works to extend public interest and participation in the arts, including in schools and colleges, community centres and homes, and amongst residents generally. It is supported by the council, Richmond Parish Lands Charity, the Hampton Fuel Allotment Charity, other charities and trusts, and by its members.

The day to day management of RuTAC is undertaken by its executive committee, under its new chairman, Clive Bradley, and its executive officer, Annie Stevens.

Societies and organisations engaged in the arts of all kinds in the borough are invited to become affiliated societies, and individuals wishing to support RuTAC and take part in its activities are invited to become Friends of the Arts. Information is available from 020 8979 3848.