Surprising a school full of adventurers

Richard Branson surprises primary school students in Devon, England
Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 3 February 2022

To celebrate our new adventure animation series, I had the pleasure of joining Virgin Balloon Flights in surprising a group of school children who have a particularly strong spirit of adventure.

The students of Upton St James Primary School in Devon have been learning about hot-air ballooning and even named their classrooms after four recognised balloonists. I was over the moon when I found out that one of the rooms was named after me – although some of the kids simply knew me as ‘the smiley man with the beard’! Either way, I really wanted to do something special for these young adventurers.

Richard Branson and Virgin Balloon Flights surprise a school full of adventurers...

Virgin Balloon Flights arranged a visit to the school with one of their fantastic pilots, Steve Richards, and I gladly called in from Necker Island for a chat. The children were really impressed by Steve, and asked him some delightful questions like: “Have you ever been above the clouds?”

Virgin Balloon Flights pilot Steve Richards surprise school visit with Richard Branson
Kami White

It was wonderful to see a room full of wonder and curiosity. They were a very inquisitive group, and we spoke about everything from the animals on Necker; matching success with fun in business; my experiences with dyslexia; and why it’s your character that matters most in life. My main advice for the students was to keep your eyes open and learn as much as you can about things you don’t know. It will lead to a life of fun.

I’ve held onto this sense of wonder throughout all of my life, and it has fuelled my spirit of adventure. It has helped me to build businesses, break world records, explore new places and do things that might otherwise seem impossible. It has also brought the most brilliant people into my life. I would never have agreed to fly around the world in a hot-air balloon (without having any idea how to fly one) without this zest for adventure.

Life is an adventure

After saying good-bye to the students, Steve presented them with one final surprise – a framed piece of the balloon I flew in when we broke the world record for flying a hot-air balloon across the Atlantic Ocean in 1987. As Virgin Balloons Flight rightly inscribed on the frame, “Take life higher when you rise to be the best.”

Richard Branson suprises the students of Upton St James Primary School
Kami White

Thank you so much to Virgin Balloons Flights for organising this surprise visit, and thank you to the students and teachers at St James’ for living life like the adventure it truly is.

Look out for our next animated adventure – featuring that Atlantic balloon flight crossing – on Monday.