FANTASTIC FEELING: Fiona Joseph, flanked by Scott Thornbury, with one of the first ELTons
THAT'S MY BABY: Cherry Gough, the woman behind the ELTons, congratulates mum-to-be Fiona Joseph on her success
Next Wednesday's ceremony will mark 10 years of the ELTons, or the 10th time the awards have been given, or - well, you work it out. I've been counting on my fingers, in both directions, and it's done me no more good than it did the last time I saw my bank manager.
We make it 10, anyway, and I've been speaking to some of the people who were involved in 2003.
Because when Michael Carrier, Director of English Language Development at the British Council, describes the ELTons as one of his favourite events in the annual ELT calendar, it's easy to forget that they haven't always been a fixture. And when he says the ELTons 'reward those who take the plunge and commit themselves to innovation' it seems only fair to ask whose innovative idea they were in the first place.
It turns out the awards were the brainchild of the Council’s Cherry Gough, who as Manager of ELT Promotion and Innovation felt that more could be done to support Innovation - and that finding out where it was happening would be a good start.
‘We’d become very inward-looking,’ she explains. ‘I realised we didn’t even know what was going on in the UK as far as ELT was concerned.’ Inspiration struck, Cherry reveals, when she was on a train to Manchester: ‘I was staring out of the window when it occurred to me that an awards event would enable us to celebrate the innovation that was out there, learn about what was going on and develop new relationships with the innovators. And then, once we knew what exciting ideas were coming out of the UK, we could tell the rest of world about them.’
And tell the world it has: aided and encouraged, Cherry emphasises, by colleagues Caroline Moore, Tony O’Brien, Angela Sexton and Christopher Wade, her idea has gone from strength to strength. It also forms part of a much more visible Council presence within UK ELT, of which more in tomorrow's blog.
So what was the first ceremony like? Aided by Fiona Joseph and Peter Travis, whose Flo-Joe online portal for Cambridge ESOL entrants won one of the first awards, I managed to track down some pictures. But while I was hoping for a nice, retro, early noughties feel, perhaps with a hint of modest beginnings, the event looks as classy as ever - and the pictures as if they were taken yesterday. Not a hint of old school here - does this mean that fashion is standing still? Or that digital photos are timeless? Or that ELT keeps you young? I aim to probe this and other questions as the guests arrive in a week's time.
Meanwhile, Fiona remembers 'a very swish venue with absolutely gorgeous food', and the 'fantastic' feeling of winning: 'It was very satisfying for a small startup like Flo-Joe to to be recognised with this major award', she says, before adding that her greatest achievement that night was 'climbing up the huge step onto the stage to get the award from Scott Thornbury. I was heavily pregnant with my second child and almost didn't get there!'
Fiona will be speaking for many ELTons winners and nominees when she says that the award brought 'validation - and reinforced our belief that what we were doing was not just innovative but also (and more importantly) practical and effective.'
We'll be looking at the influence of the ELTons globally, and their role in the British Council work in the UK and beyond, tomorrow.
In the meantime, I wonder if anyone wants to share their thoughts on the impact the ELTons have made in the ten - or nine - years since the first ceremony?