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University of Iowa News Release


Nov. 27, 2007

British Council cultural affairs official will speak Dec. 6 at UI

Martin Davidson, head of the British Council, will speak on cultural relations in a time of war, with a focus on the Middle East at 4 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6, in the Richey Ballroom on the third floor of the Iowa Memorial Union at the University of Iowa.

The British Council is the United Kingdom's international nonpolitical organization for educational opportunities and cultural relations. The council builds relationships and understanding between people in the United Kingdom and other countries, and increases appreciation of the United Kingdom's ideas and achievements overseas. It operates in 233 towns and cities in 110 countries and territories worldwide.

Christopher Merrill, director of the UI International Writing Program, helped accommodate Davidson's speech. Merrill worked with the British Council on an application to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to designate Iowa City as the second literary capital of the world. Edinburgh, Scotland, was designated the first literary capital.

Davidson took up the role as chief executive of the British Council in April 2007, having been deputy director general since September 2005. His commitment to international relationships has been a constant feature of his career, since as a young English graduate he went to Hong Kong as administrative officer, making high-level decisions on the running of a city of a million people.

When he joined the British Council as assistant representative in Beijing in 1984, British Council China was an operation of six people working in a converted bicycle shed at the British Embassy. Davidson played a pivotal part in building this fledgling presence up to its present strength of more than 230 people in four state-of-the-art offices. He was responsible for opening the South China office in Guangzhou and returned to Beijing in 1995 as director of an operation fast establishing a reputation in an environment where understanding the Chinese way of working is fundamental.

Davidson has also held various posts in the British Council's Geographical Directorate with responsibilities that have included South East Europe, in a particularly troubled time in the region's history, the Middle East, East Asia and the Americas.

The University Lecture Committee is the sponsor of Davidson's presentation, which is co-sponsored by the UI International Writing Program, UI Center for Human Rights, the UI Honors Program, the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities, and the Iowa City Foreign Relations Council.

For more than 30 years, the Lecture Committee has brought some of the world's great thinkers to the UI campus. Speakers have included an impressive roster of national and international figures in science, politics, business, human rights, law and the arts. The UI Lecture Committee is a Presidential Charter Committee whose membership consists of students, faculty and staff. The series is funded through student fees with select lectures supported in part by the F. Wendell Miller Fund.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: University Lecture Committee, 319-335-3407,; George McCrory, University News Services, 319-384-0012,