Martin first travelled to Egypt in 1973, fell in love with the country, and returned there for two years (1977-79) as teacher and journalist. He became a publisher and later a banker, travelling widely in the Middle East and Africa, before joining the British Council in 1988. His overseas postings for the Council began with Baghdad (1988-90), a posting which ended in war and an unplanned prolongation of his family’s stay in Iraq. When free to do so, he went on to a second posting, in Rome (1991-96) where among other projects, he set up the Anglo-Italian Pontignano Conference, under the joint chairmanship of Ralf Dahrendorf and Giuliano Amato, which is still running 25 years after its first outing in 1992. He was Director of the British Council in Brussels (1999-2002); in Ottawa (2006-10) and in Rabat (2010-14). In Ottawa he ran a successful climate change programme, which included Canadian student delegations to the COPs in Bali, Copenhagen and Poznan, as well as expeditions to the Arctic. Martin is probably the only British Council officer to have chartered an ice-resistant Arctic research vessel. In it, once chartered, 30 Canadian and international students made a voyage in the North Atlantic. Martin sailed with them across the Denmark Strait from Iceland, round the coast of Greenland, to Baffin Island and the Canadian Arctic, landing frequently to carry out scientific research and make site-specific art, under the tutelage of Canadian and British scientists and artists.
Between foreign postings, Martin served in London (1996-99; 2002-06; and 2014-15). He ran a series of young leaders conferences under the patronage of Sir Leon Brittan, and then set up for the Council a unique think-tank called Counterpoint, to address questions of cultural relations and the post 9/11 world. Later he was recalled, while still in Canada, to run a project called Our Shared Europe, devoted to European Muslim communities. And finally, from 2014-16, he worked as a consultant for the Council’s MENA division, writing about education, particularly in North Africa, ‘radicalisation’ and other subjects. For several months in 2016 he was attached to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
Martin was educated at Bradfield College and Oxford. He read Modern History as an undergraduate at Magdalen, taking a First (1976). He then read for an M Phil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at St Antony’s (1984). Now partially retired from the British Council, though he remains a Senior Adviser, Martin has increased the scope of his private consultancy; and writes widely. He has recently published Immunising the Mind: How Can Education Reform Contribute to Neutralising Violent Extremism? (2015); an account of his posting to Baghdad, the first Gulf War and his detention by Saddam’s régime as a ‘Human Shield,’ called There and Back by Candle-light (2016); a critical essay on the Moroccan education system, in Education in the Arab World, ed. Serra Kirdar (2017); and A Morocco Anthology: Travel Writing Through the Centuries (2018). He is a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University’s Alwaleed bin Talal Centre for Islamic Studies; a Fellow of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society; and a trustee of several charities including BAX (British-Arab Exchanges), Maslaha and Making Light.
All views expressed in his blog, and elsewhere, are of course personal, and do not reflect views held, or positions taken, by the British Council or any other organization for which Martin may work.