Alan Mackenzie and Alan Pulverness were in Belfast in October for the Eaquals conference…
…but first we had a 5-day break in Dublin. Alan M. had never been to Ireland before, and although I’d been to Dublin many times, it was always for assessments or conferences, so I’d never seen the Book of Kells and Trinity Library, or visited the National Gallery or the Guinness Storehouse, all of which we did. Perhaps the thing that impressed us the most, because we came upon it unexpectedly, was the Icon Walk, a multi-street public art installation in the heart of the Temple Bar area, celebrating Irish history and culture.
Belfast was a new experience for both of us, as I had only made one fleeting visit there for a training event a few years ago. This time we had three days for the conference, held at the Europa Hotel. Originally this was the 2020 conference, postponed twice by Covid, which Eaquals finally succeeded in holding in Belfast as planned, although as a hybrid event. There were about 120 delegates there in person and a similar number able to watch any of the concurrent sessions as well as the plenaries throughout the programme. We were both speakers, Alan M. talking about an English for Hospitality syllabus project he had designed for Georgia, while I spoke about the theory and practice of classroom research. (You can see the presentations here.) It was a little disconcerting to be speaking to a sparse in-person audience and at the same time making sure you stayed rooted to the spot for sake of the camera operator.
It was a pleasure to be contributing to a conference in person for the first time for a couple of years, especially one with such a focused programme and collegial atmosphere. Congratulations are due to Anna Andor, Vivi Koszegi and the whole Eaquals team for persisting with their plans, meeting the challenges of hybridisation and hosting a stimulating and rewarding event. Looking forward to returning to Belfast in 2022 for the IATEFL conference, and also to the next Eaquals conference…in Venice!