An Ode to CL2023 at Lancaster University

“Are you the official photographer?”

“err…umm…well…no not exactly…”

It was a question asked by many a patient person as I stuck my camera lens into their faces for the umpteenth time. Although I didn’t have a proper answer, I felt myself growing into the role over the four days as fingers automatically kept clicking at everything and everyone in sight. This was no ordinary conference or post-pandemic event, this was the 12th international Corpus Linguistics conference being held at Lancaster University, hosted by CASS, and I was at long last finally able to be there in person, after three and a half years of hoping and dreaming. This was my pilgrimage and I needed to record every moment before the inevitable memory fade: so sandwiches wrapped [click], sandwiches unwrapped [click], half-empty plates of sandwiches [click], lunch queue [click], people eating [click], talking [click], sunning [click]…oh look it’s the famous Lancaster University ducks! [click].

Question on the last day:

“Did you actually just take pictures of the luggage?”


Okay, some context is needed here for those who may be wondering about this perhaps extreme level of devotion on my part. In 2019, I received a two-year Canadian postdoctoral fellowship to be a visiting researcher at CASS. Making the decision to move to another country had been tough and when I told my parents, they said “you’re doing what? aren’t you a bit old to be going to university? and where is this Lancaster anyway, we’ve never heard of it…” But it was my dream come true so I persevered. After four months of hoops and hurdles with GOV.UK to get my residence permit, I finally arrived in Lancaster all set for my two-year stay. This was in February 2020. Two weeks later I was on the plane back to Canada, and the rest is virtual history.

I’ve been trying to think of one word that might encapsulate my experience of CL2023 and I think I have it: MAGIC. It seems to be the only word that works for what I’m trying to express, the idea of wonder and enchantment, infused with a sense of unreality and logic-defiance, and an uncontrollable desire to clap gleefully at everything.

That sums up my experience of CL2023 at Lancaster University.