AN IRVINE-born diplomat has been awarded an OBE in the New Year Honours list.

Alan Gemmell, who is Director of the British Council in Israel, has received the prestigious award "for services to cultural relations in the area of Arts and Science."

Alan, who grew up in Auchenharvie Place in Girdle Toll, said he was honoured and "thrilled" to receive the award.

He said: "I was on the Foreign Secretary’s list for Diplomatic Services so I
received a letter in early December saying that the Foreign Secretary wanted to put my name forward to the Queen for an OBE.

"I was thrilled, absolutely thrilled.

"But the letter says you haven’t to tell anyone until 10.30am on December 31st because that’s when the full official list is announced so I had to keep it to myself.

"But I called my mum at about 10.25am on the 31st to tell her and she just squealed down the phone, so that was nice.”

Alan now lives in Tel Aviv with husband Damien Stirk, 36, where, for the last few years he has been instrumental in many major diplomatic projects, including raising millions of pounds for vital research.

He told the Irvine Times this week: "It’s been a really incredible two years, very special.

"Britain and Israel are world leaders in stem cell research and we have raised around £8million for stem cell research to help with conditions such as multiple sclerosis and other neuro degenerative disorders.

"We have also launched a Water Challenge scheme which has seen Palestinian and Israelis working together, something we are very proud of.

"Around 90 percent of the fresh water supply in Gaza is contaminated and that is something I really wanted to work towards changing.”

Alan has also been pivotal in the creation of fiveFilms4freedom - the world’s first global online LGBT Film Festival, giving everyone, everywhere access to cinema, regardless of their sexual orientation.

Alan said: "This is very special to me. It means that people living in countries where just being gay is a crime, can access these films just the same as me and you.

"So far millions of people have watched in more than 135 countries, which is incredible.”

The former Irvine Royal Academy pupil moved to London in 2001 before
his career took him to Mexico, Brazil and eventually Israel, but he says
another big move is on the cards.

He said: "Just before Christmas I found out I have been promoted and will be moving to India later this year, so that’s a huge exciting new challenge for the new year.”

And Alan says everyone, regardless of age, gender, sexual orientation or background should become involved with the British Council around the world.

He added: "Anyone can become involved with the British Council and more people should become involved.”

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