Welcome back to our pop-up blog celebrating 10 years of the ELTons. Today’s special is an interview with Wednesday’s MC, Scott Thornbury – by nice coincidence, or brilliant planning, the man who was at the helm in 2003.
I caught up with Scott this morning, and started by asking what influence he felt the ELTons have had on our profession.
Scott: I think they have had a huge influence – not least because they were the first awards to recognise not just books but also courses, websites and apps etc. It’s a very wide-ranging award, and in that sense something that was sorely needed in this age of multimedia and digital educational tools. I think the proof of the pudding is that so many excellent non-book materials have been honored.
Luke: You were the first MC in 2003 - what other involvement have you had since then?
Scott: Well, the following year I was a nominee [Ed: he won, with Natural Grammar], and then I think the year after that I co-hosted the event with Catherine Walter – I remember we spent a lot of time discussing how we could avoid a colour clash in our outfits. And then I was nominated again in 2010 [Ed: he won, with Teaching Unplugged] with my co-author – what was his name?
Luke: What did these awards mean to you?
Scott: Well, in the case of Natural Grammar, it was a kind of vindication that the idea was good even if it wasn't exactly a best-seller. With Teaching Unplugged, I guess I could say the same thing – but I was particularly pleased that a relatively small publisher was able to snatch the prize from under the nose of the big players, not least because this small publisher was prepared to take a risk that perhaps the big players were not.
Luke: It’s not just about winning, is it – what does it mean to be nominated?
Scott: Well, I think it means a lot to be nominated – the British Council does a lot to promote this prize, not just the prize winners but also the nominees. And this year in particular, when the event is being live-streamed, the nominees as well as the prize winners will get a huge amount of publicity.
Luke: I wonder if you have any thoughts on the lifetime achievement award? This is the second year it's been given.
Scott: I think it's worth reflecting on who might have won had they been still with us – I'm thinking of, for example, Louis Alexander or A.S.Hornby – who each gave so much to this profession.
Luke: Do either of them possibly deserve a retrospective one? I always think it’s a shame when people haven't heard of them.
Scott: Well, I guess that creates a dilemma in terms of how far back you go. Should we give one to Bellot for his book on dialogues in the sixteenth century?
Luke: Good point! What are you looking forward to about MCing this year? Can you give us a hint of either the theme of your address or your outfit?
Scott: Since I don't have to worry about clashing with Catherine Walter, I thought I'd wear my pearls. As for my speech - well, more pearls!
Luke: Pearls before wine - or probably during it! Well we look forward to the pearls - of both varieties.