Our series of online people profiles covers a wide range of backgrounds, careers and personalities of individuals in Hong Kong. In this instalment, we learn of the unique way that long-time HK resident MARTIN LEVER spent his recent 14-day quarantine – and how he has turned the experience into a chance to raise money for a good cause!
Where are you from originally? What do you miss about it?
I was born on the Wirral in the UK, and left when I was nine. In my early years living in Hong Kong, I guess what I missed most were playing fields and the still emotive aroma of freshly cut grass – something that seemed to fill the air in spring and summer time. I’d only ever really experienced “agricultural” outdoor smells up until the age of nine. Of course, that all changed dramatically when I hit the steamy streets of Hong Kong in 1979!
Have you lived in Hong Kong since then?
I’ve been here on and off for 42 years now. One hiatus was a seven-year “adventure” in the Middle East from 2007 to 2013 – Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Is Hong Kong “home”?
Hong Kong is definitely home. I’m a Hong Konger first and foremost. No disrespect to your venerable publication, but I’ve never been fond of the term “expat”! It implies a temporary status dictated by employment contract – which is something that I don’t identify with. I guess when you grow up somewhere, that place becomes part of your DNA. And, while I’m not ethnically Chinese, I’m proud to call Hong Kong my home. And I don’t want to live anywhere else.
What do you do here? Tell us about your business.
My day job: I’ve worked for global ad agencies for 20-odd years – and a couple of years ago had the opportunity to co-found a small agency here in Hong Kong.
I’m also an artist – and I dedicate most of my spare time away from the office to this pursuit. I don’t see it as a job as such, more a passion that I’m lucky enough to get paid for – sometimes!
Give us an insight into a typical working day for you.
I deal in creative solutions to marketing challenges. Those challenges come in countless shapes and sizes! So no two days are ever the same really. Which is a good thing.
You recently spent 14 days in quarantine; tell us about that experience.
One thing’s for sure, I’m definitely not designed to be locked up. (I’m sure none of us are!) I’d always planned to do some painting in the hotel to help keep myself (and my wife!) sane. But with an inspirational mountain view from our window, I hit on a project idea that could make my incarceration a little more meaningful. Enter “The Room 202 Project”! Part pseudo-psychology experiment, part charity art project, the plan was to capture my variety of lockdown moods in a visual journal by creating two pieces of artwork per day…of the exact same view! I teamed up with local homeless charity ImpactHK, and we are now selling limited edition prints of the artwork online to raise funds to support their efforts in feeding and clothing Hong Kong’s homeless.
Can our readers help to raise funds too?
Yes, it’s simple. Just go to www.artbymartinlever.com/shop-202 and choose your favourite artwork!
Outside of work, what are your hobbies in Hong Kong?
Wandering the backstreets in search of inspiration.
Quick questions about Hong Kong: what is your favourite …
Casual restaurant? Anywhere that does great yum cha. Preferably with trolleys. The Metropol in United Centre never fails to deliver.
Date night restaurant? Carbone.
Bar? What’s a bar? It’s been so long!!
Local food? Any cheap and cheerful seafood place by the sea – Mui Wo and Cheung Chau spring to mind.
Thing to do with visitors? A must for first-timers: take the Tram from Kennedy Town to Shau Kei Wan and back.
Thing to do with kids? Assuming you don’t leave them on the tram, get them to Ocean Park.
Nearby holiday destination? If only… 😉
Like this? See more in our Living in Hong Kong section