At the beginning of the 2020 academic year, I volunteered to run PG Tips with Stephen Appleton. PG Tips is a postgraduate group for postgraduate researchers based in the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Birmingham. It was tradition that PG Tips host the annual Birmingham English Language Postgraduate Conference. Due to the Coronavirus pandemic outbreak in the UK forcing us into lockdown in March 2020, the BELP Conference was unable to go ahead that year.
Since then, however, PG Tips has been continuing to run online via the conference platform Zoom, developing the postgraduate researcher community in the department, with students tuning in from different countries across the world. With the support of technology and experience of conferences shifting online, Stephen and I strongly believed in the benefit of running the BELP Conference in the year 2021. Moving from initial planning stages with Stephen, and with the help of many volunteers from the postgraduate community, we were able to launch the conference; to take place on Friday 23rd April 2021.
It has been my great pleasure (and a lot of hard work!) to make BELP happen this year. I believe that community and collaboration is something integral not just to research but also to our human nature, which we need to facilitate and nurture at every opportunity. The conference welcomes postgraduate researchers and taught postgraduates to attend and present their work and engage in academic discussion. I am also delighted to invite and welcome distance-learning students and undergraduates to attend the conference. The conference has a diverse range of sessions, from plenary speaker Viola Wiegand talking about (corpus) linguistics and open research, to a round table panel discussion with Ashley Blake, Nouf Alharbi, and Bingjun Zhang talking about progressing with a PhD during COVID-19, to a variety of oral presentations and poster presentations from delegates.
While I have led the organisation of the conference for 2021, I must acknowledge and give my sincere thanks and appreciation to volunteers from the postgraduate community in the department: Nouf Alharbi, Stephen Appleton, Ashley Blake, Sharon Glaas, Eloise Parr, Qiuyi Sun, Eleanor Vivian, Greg Woodin, Keith Wilson, and Bingjun Zhang; and Amélie Doche; and staff members: Joe Bennett, Marcus Perlman, and Viola Wiegand (BELP2021 plenary speaker).
I hope all delegates of the conference enjoy the day and thank you all for your support of this event.