Sun, 07 May 2023
In the early nineties Heather Harper was one of the most prominent members of Bahrain’s media. As one of the pioneers of English-language television programming in the country; writing, producing and presenting for Channel 55 television, she recently became Chairman of The Bahrain Society based in the UK. We caught up with her this month on her recent visit with 36 members of The Bahrain Society to discuss her decades old connection with Bahrain.
Mrs. Harper first came to Bahrain in 1980 with her husband, an innovator in the early days of solar power, to attend an energy exhibition. Two years later, she saw an article in a local newspaper mentioning that Bahrain Television was going to open an English-speaking station, called Channel 55.
“I contacted them because my background was in advertising, producing television commercials,” she remembers. “They welcomed me with open arms and it was an amazing beginning. Then I started writing, producing and presenting a magazine programme whereby I interviewed hundreds of people on the island.
“When I left Bahrain in the early 1990s, I had heard about The Bahrain Society, which was set up as a friendship society to promote relations between the UK and Bahrain for British expats who had lived or worked here.
“It’s a purely social society, with no political aims or ambitions, and has a particularly close relationship with the Bahrain Embassy in London. Membership currently stands at approximately 250 members and my aim is to grow this higher, boost ties between former Bahrain residents, and enable opportunities to reconnect as much as I can. Furthermore, we have supported a number of cultural and charitable events that have taken place in London supporting Bahraini students studying at British academic institutions.”
Mrs. Harper holds many fond memories of her time in Bahrain. With such a significant career, it was difficult to pick her favourite, but she did settle on one factor immediately, the weather!
“Being back in the UK, you do miss it. Waking up in the morning to those blue skies, it’s easy to take it for granted when it’s every day! In all seriousness, it’s the way of life and the friendships that I really miss. I don›t think it›s so easy to make friendships and keep them over a long period, but Bahrain makes it so much easier. It›s a very open society, a very cosmopolitan mix of cultures, and everybody knows everybody. In the UK, unlike Bahrain, you could live on a street and never interact with any of your neighbours.
“When I worked for Channel 55 it was really interesting because I was open to all sorts of different nationalities and cultures. We celebrated everybody›s national days, bouncing between receptions and meeting totally different types of people, often on the same day. It really broadened my horizons.”
The Bahrain Society prides itself on providing Bahraini hospitality to members, with a number of different functions throughout the year. There is a gala dinner and summer party and many Speaker events every year, with the main aim of spreading the word of Bahrain and its way of life.
“It’s a way of networking, but more like social networking rather than business,” Ms. Harper explains. “Of course, we do emphasise how easy it is to run businesses in the Kingdom, and occasionally deconstructing misconceptions and answering questions about what it’s like to live and work in the Middle East.
“One of the main goals I›d like to achieve in my role is to branch out a little bit further from London as our members come from all over. For instance, there are a lot of ‘Bahraini’ British expats who live in Spain and retired to other parts of Europe. Ultimately, we are all what I like to call ‘global citizens’, with one shared of love of this beautiful island and its people,” she concludes.