9 March 2017
On Friday 24th February 2017, the department of Linguistics and English Language held an English Language Teaching (ELT) symposium in honour of Alan Waters, who worked in the department for many years and passed away in summer 2016.

The celebration of Alan’s career was attended by his family and former colleagues, as well as administrative staff, students and former students of the department, and others who had worked with Alan, some of whom travelled a long way through storm Doris to be there. 

Elena Semino welcomed the participants, especially those who had traveled so far. Some speakers covered stages of Alan’s career. Keith Johnson placed Alan in the context of his role in the ‘Communicative Revolution’ of the 1970s, at the Institute for English Language Education at Lancaster, and his skepticism about the later ‘Acquisition Revolution’; he characterized Alan as a scholar who was eager to explore new thinking but was always focused on the practicalities of teaching, ‘Monday morning aware’. Tom Hutchinson continued with an account of the work he did with Alan in the 1980s on planning ESP material and then on their still-influential ESP textbook.  Keith Morrow talked about Alan’s role over the years at the ELT Journal (which Keith edited), arguing he supported bottom-up development in innovation against top-down attempts to promote changes. He mentioned Alan’s article ‘Managing Monkeys I the ELT Classroom’ (1998). Richard Smith carried on this review of Alan’s career by talking about his insistence on understanding local systems, and role in recent debates, in his contributions to Radical TEFL journal.

Other speakers talked about different aspects of Alan’s work.  Tim Phillips recalled the kindness he had shown to scholars in the Hornby Trust Programme; one of his photos included a stuffed monkey given to him by students.  Janina Iwaniec and Brian Shields showed how current work followed from Alan’s lead; Janina talking about a study of language learning motivation, and Brian talking about how simulation was used in the ELT classroom. Gila Schauer was unable to travel to the event, but Judit Kormos gave a moving reading of her text about how Alan was a model for new colleagues, in teaching, teacher development, mentoring, and scholarship.

Also Alan’s fondness for classical music was brought to the audience’s attention: Helen Johnson (piano) and Keith Johnson  (oboe) performed a piece from Schubert’s Winterreise while Heidy Suter (alto) and Marije Michel (soprano) were accompanied by Daniel Van Olmen (piano) on duets by Brahms and Purcell.

Finally, Greg Myers gave tributes to Alan’s love for fell walking. A planned walk in the Lake District for the next day had to be cancelled due to the weather. Fortunately, a visit to Alan’s favourite pub in Lancaster town made it possible to commemorate Alan Waters as a personification of all the adjectives Greg Myers had collected about him from talks during the day – see picture above.

A report on the symposium and talks from the day will be published, alongside one of Alan’s articles entitled Tasks in Textbooks: Barking up the Wrong Tree? in the journal Radical TEFL in 2018.  

Photographs from the symposium