Obituary: Martin Lightfoot - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

Obituary: Martin Lightfoot

MARTIN LIGHTFOOT was a brilliant and innovatory figure in the worlds of educational publishing and education who, by the time he was 30, was running Penguin Education, an outstanding educational publishing imprint of its day. Later he became a Deputy Education Officer in the ILEA, directed a ground-breaking project on relations between schools and industry for the Schools Council, and set up a police training project on race and community relations for the Home Office.

An energetic and radical thinker, Lightfoot was impatient of convention. There is a story told of his younger schooldays. At the age of eight, in response to the teacher's request that the class should draw farm animals, Martin drew a red duck on his slate. He was told that ducks were white and asked to try again: he drew a red duck. Finally, after the teacher had confiscated all but the white chalks, Martin produced a drawing of a white duck - with, underneath it, the words "A red duck". All his life he demonstrated the qualities of quirkiness, humour, stubbornness, persistence and a complete lack of deference for authority.

Although he could have been many things - including perhaps one of the most interesting chief education officers we never had - many of Lightfoot's friends believe that he was born to be a publisher. Before university at Cambridge he had already begun to learn his trade during a short period at the Athlone Press, and at Cambridge he was involved with magazines such as Delta and the Cambridge Quarterly - which still uses his original design. But it was at Penguin Education, which he joined as an editor in 1967, that he began to make his mark.

There was a creative buzz then about Penguin Education. The imprint was in at the beginning of integrated litho printing and making books of a kind which had never before been produced for schools. Collaboration was the keyword: editors, designers, picture researchers and production staff worked closely together, with no division between departments. Lightfoot's impact was immediate. As managing editor and, later, managing director, he united a formidable critical intellect with a creative mind - a rare combination - and relished the opportunity to make beautiful books which exploited all the possibilities of communicating through words and images together, creating instant classics such as Geoffrey Summerfield's Voices anthologies.

His appetite for ideas was reflected in his contributions to the Penguin Education list, two of which were particularly important. First, he built an English teaching list which drew heavily on the talents of teachers in the National Association for the Teaching of English (Nate).

Thoroughly understanding the importance of Nate's work on the role of language in learning at that time, he gave it a wider audience, publishing James Britton's Language and Learning in 1970 and a number of other key texts such as Language, the Learner and the School (Douglas Barnes, James Britton and Harold Rosen 1969), and The Language of Primary School Children (Connie and Harold Rosen, 1973). Second, he was fascinated by radical American discussions of the relations between schools and society and published books by Ivan Illich, Neil Postman and Herbert Kohl.

In retrospect it seems the years at Penguin Education may have been Lightfoot's most successful. He was a bold publisher who would not be stopped once he had decided to do something: the element of arrogance in him was put to good use. The books that Penguin Education published were influential in shaping the educational scene in the 1970s.

In 1974, Penguin Books closed Penguin Education. No convincing reason was ever given for the closure, which happened soon after Longmans took over Penguin, and there was widespread protest. Lightfoot fought the decision fiercely and tried strenuously, without success, to find an alternative home for the Penguin Education team.

He then went as a Deputy Education Officer to the ILEA. He was the first person ever to come into the administration from completely outside the world of local government. In what was still a firmly hierarchical world, his style did not always fit. But he brought a breath of fresh air to County Hall, making a strong intellectual contribution and injecting a national and international perspective into internal discussions. He insisted, in the face of some inertia, on the need for ILEA to take a stronger stand on racial equality and find more effective ways of promoting the achievement of young black people.

From 1978 to 1982, Lightfoot directed the Schools Council Industry Project, which brought together, on its steering committee, representatives of the TUC, the Department of Trade and Industry, and the Schools Council. He was determined that the project should not just be about job-related links between schools and industry, but should affect the curriculum. His vision was of opening up the culture of schools to encourage far more participation from industry and the community as a whole.

To this end, he created a devolved project in which regional directors were encouraged to take account of local strengths and circumstances. This was a high-risk model, which he had to defend constantly against criticism, including criticisms from within the steering committee. A measure of the success of the project is that some of its innovations have remained deeply embedded: a network of local SCIP co-ordinators still exists 21 years later.

After a period as an adviser to the Select Committee on Education (1980- 82), Lightfoot became director of a Home Office project on race relations and the police. The Centre for the Study of Community and Race Relations was set up in 1984 at Brunel University following a report by the Police Training Council, which drew attention to the urgent need for training in this field. Lightfoot brought together a multi- disciplinary team, including academics, police officers and community workers, to run a series of six-week courses for police training staff.

In the 1990s, Lightfoot found himself swimming against the educational tide. He returned to one of his earliest passions, the relationship between words and images and, in partnership with Brigitte Guillaumet, set up a small gallery specialising in affordable prints of this kind. He was a knowledgeable collector with a particular interest in pictures and illustrations with literary associations. As he became ill, in recent years, Brigitte Guillaumet gave him devoted support and care.

Martin Lightfoot, publisher and educationist: born London 15 February 1942; died London 5 May 1999.

Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week