Audience at public lecture

Lancaster University Public Lecture Series

Experience the cutting edge of teaching and research with talk by experts

Lancaster University Public Lectures Series

Experience the cutting edge of teaching and research with talks by experts from Lancaster University and around the world.

The new academic year has begun and, while we are not able yet to welcome you back to enjoy our public events in person, we are delighted to let you know that Lancaster University’s Public Lecture Series will return from the 12 November 2020. The team has been working hard to bring the Series back on board, and we present to you a new theme for the series, ‘Talking about…’, and warmly invite you to join our researchers as they explore some of the most pressing issues facing the country. The talks will range from the vocabulary of the pandemic to education in lockdown, from new opportunities for criminals, challenges for business resilience, new ways of caring in our communities to using spaces and places differently.

In order to ensure the safety of our guests and speakers and following government guidance on social distancing, the 2020/2021 Lancaster University Public Lecture series has been moved online. The lectures will be broadcast live via Microsoft Teams and will be open to all. You do not need to have a Microsoft Teams account or a Microsoft licence in order to attend. As before, you will have the opportunity to ask questions of the speakers, which will be answered during a live question and answer session that will take place at the end of the lecture. Each lecture will be recorded and you will have the opportunity to watch it on this very page as well as on Lancaster University’s YouTube Channel after the live event takes place.

For any questions about the Public Lectures Series or to join our mailing list get in touch with us at

Upcoming public lectures:

Talking about... lockdown language

Date: Thursday 12th November

Time : 6.30pm to 8pm BST

Broadcasting platform: Microsoft Teams

Book your free ticket on Eventbrite

About the Lecture

During this lecture, Prof Veronika Koller, Prof Elena Semino and William Dance will focus on the linguistics of the pandemic.

I) A battle, a tsunami or a raging fire? Metaphors for Covid-19 and why they matter

Since the beginning of the current pandemic, Covid-19 has been talked about through metaphors, for example as an enemy to be beaten, a marathon to be completed, and a tsunami overwhelming health services. Some of these metaphors have proved controversial, however. For example, war metaphors – such as "the battle against Covid-19" – have been criticised for potentially causing excessive anxiety; and the metaphor of the "second wave" has been described as inaccurate, because, in the words of a representative of the World Health Organization: "We are in the first wave. There is going to be one big wave".

In this first part, Professors Veronika Koller and Elena Semino (Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University) discuss how metaphors have been used to communicate about different aspects of the pandemic, and why it matters that metaphors are used sensitively and effectively.

II) Pandemics and Infodemics: The Language of disinformation during Covid-19

The pandemic has created a melting pot of medical, political, social and economic factors that have allowed falsehoods online to spread through all sectors of society. A combination of mistrust, fear and people’s desire for information during a crisis has led some people to embrace conspiracy theories in a search for the “truth”.

In this second part of the lecture, William Dance (Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University) looks at how people online talk about ‘truth’ and ‘facts’ differently in relation to Covid-19, explores how disinformation has adapted to the pandemic and discusses how policymakers, educators and others can develop strategies to stop the spread of falsehoods online.

The talks will be followed by a Q&A session during which you will have the opportunity ask questions o the speakers via a chat.

To register for your free tickets, please go to Eventbrite 

About the speakers

Professor Veronika Koller (Linguistics and English Language) specialises in political and business discourse, health communication, and language and sexuality, with particular interests in the discourse of cancer charities and discourses around ‘Brexit’.

Professor Elena Semino (Linguistics and English Language) researches language use in communication about health and illness, medical humanities, and metaphor theory and analysis, in addition to her long-standing research interest in first-person accounts of the experiences of autism and mental illness.

William Dance is a PhD student in Linguistics and English Language, researching the use of corpus linguistics approaches to investigate deception and manipulation in online spaces.


Talking about... public health, choices and inequalities

Date: Thursday 3rd December

Time : 6.30pm to 8pm BST

Broadcasting Platform: Microsoft Teams

Book your free ticket on Eventbrite

About the Lecture

During this lecture, Dr Rachel Marshall, Dr Rachel Tyrrell-Smith, Prof Catherine Walshe and Prof Nancy Preston focus on the impact of the pandemic on care and healthcare.

I) Protecting and prohibiting: Volunteering in the time of Covid?

One of the less recognised impacts of the pandemic has been on the contribution that volunteers make. There are 1.5 volunteers to every paid member of staff across UK hospices, and so their contribution is central to the way that services operate.

In this first part of the event, Professor Catherine Walshe draws (Health Research, Lancaster University) draws on information from the multi-national ‘CovPall’ study to understand the impact of the pandemic on volunteering in palliative care, and how this can be addressed for the future.

II) How intensive do I want my care to be?

If there is a point in the future when you can’t say what kind of care you want to receive, it can be helpful to share some thoughts about your preferences for treatment and care in advance. Often only people facing a life-threatening condition consider this, but during the pandemic, we all face these issues, whether ourselves or someone we care for.

In this second part, Professor Nancy Preston (Health Research, Lancaster University) explores what advance care planning is, and discusses some new research relating to advance care planning during the pandemic, conducted in care homes and palliative care units.

III) Food and Health: How a pandemic has uncovered the inequalities and health problems with our current food system

The number of people accessing support such as food banks and clubs has increased dramatically since the first lockdown. In addition, poor health linked to diet and nutrition have also emerged as risk factors leading to a more serious illness from the virus. Whilst the pandemic has amplified these trends, lack of access to enough, and the right kind of food, has been a fundamental problem with our current food system for many years.

In this last part, Dr Rachel Marshall (Lancaster Environment Centre, FoodFutures, Lancaster University) and Dr Rachel Tyrrell-Smith (Lancaster City Council, FoodFutures and Lancaster District Food Poverty Alliance) discuss the links between food and health, and how our current economics and an industrial food system are driving negative public health trends.

The talks will be followed by a Q&A session during which you will have the opportunity to ask questions to the speakers via a chat.

To register for your free tickets, please go to Eventbrite 

About the speakers

Professor Nancy Preston (Health Research) specialises in research into palliative care, symptom control and how best to support patients. Professor Preston is involved with the local Specialist Palliative Care Network, which is a collaboration between clinicians and academics.

Professor Catherine Walshe (Health Research) researches palliative and end of life care provided not only to people experiencing life-limiting illness but also in informal and professional caring contexts to provide excellent and appropriate care.

Dr Rachel Marshall (Lancaster Environment Centre) works on food systems and how engagement at local and national levels can support the transition to more sustainable and resilient food systems. Dr Marshall is interested in how knowledge exchange between researchers and the wider community can deliver greater societal impact from research.

Dr Rachel Tyrrell-Smith is Public Health Project Coordinator at Lancaster City Council, working with local community stakeholders to tackle food poverty, social isolation and health inequalities.

Eaten apple and piles of silver coins.

Watch the videos of our past lectures