Man in white: from war zones to IOM College

Martin Bell at the Isle of Man College

Martin Bell at the Isle of Man College

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MARTIN Bell: BBC war correspondent, author, UNICEF ambassador and ‘Accidental MP’.

As an English student, the opportunity to hear this iconic figure speak was utterly wonderful.

He gave an inspiring talk to lucky sixth form students across the island, motivating and educating us with his fascinating career story and advice.

In his hour-long talk at Isle of Man College in Douglas, Martin introduced us to the remarkable and ever-evolving road that is his life – his renowned reports from war zones such as Bosnia and graphic experiences with refugees through UNICEF. I don’t wish to disturb you, he said, but I once saw a young man, not much older than you, forced by soldiers to club his own father to death leading to rejection from his own family. This was in 2012.

Martin explained to us that he always prefers talking to younger people as opposed to an older, hardened audience. And with that came his trustworthy, qualified advice. Very relevant to today’s youth, is the question: should I go to university?

‘What would you say to young people who cannot afford a hefty £9,000 bill per year?’ we asked. His advice? Just because a university is there, it doesn’t mean we should go.

‘It’s not for everybody’, he stated. He used his father, Adrian Bell, a writer, farmer and inventor of the Times Crossword, as his example for a successful, uni-free life.

He also recommended gap-years as they are an incredible opportunity to travel the world’s countries and seas; witness the dangers of the real world – something most teens in the Isle of Man feel very isolated from.

And if he could choose one quote and piece of advice to pass down through the generations? He stood high up on the stage looking down at us English students of the 21st Century and said: ‘Stop looking at screens and go out into the real world.’

Known as ‘the man in the white suit’, Martin Bell epitomised the term war correspondent. He set the standard of reporting from hellish surroundings, inspired many people into the world of journalism and was even hit by shrapnel on live TV in Bosnia in 1992.

And this week Martin, who is also a former politician, an author and now a poet, has helped inspire my mind further into one of the most fascinating careers in the world.

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