The crowning jewel (if you’ll pardon the pun) in an unusually busy and successful year had to be CASS being awarded the Queen’s Anniversary Prize. I’m one of the CIs on the CASS team and my contribution to winning the award was the work I did with Twitter on trolling and bullying. (Many others did amazing work on a variety of subjects from the OED to learner English – you can read about them here and on the CASS blog.) The Queen’s Anniversary Prize is part of the Royal Honours System, but rather than conferring, say, an OBE on a single person, it confers the prize on the whole institution in why the team is located. In the words of Lesley King-Lewis, Director:
“The Queen’s Anniversary Prizes shine a unique and important light on the most exciting success stories in the UK’s universities and colleges today.”
The prizes are awarded on the basis of independent, thorough peer-review carried out by an extraordinary panel of people. That panel is looking in particular for research that brings about positive changes and advancements outside of academia, in the everyday world, whether that’s in water treatment in third world countries, or better care for dementia sufferers, or in our case, looking at language on a large scale to better understand issues such as systemic racism, or political maneuvering, or online abuse.
As a consequence of winning the award, selected members of the CASS team were invited to attend either a meal at the Guild Hall on 24th Feb 2016, or the Prize Ceremony itself on the 25th, and I was one of a lucky few who got to go to Buckingham Palace for the ceremony. We all arrived bright and early at 10:15am at the gates and after checking out invites, we were allowed inside. We checked in our coats and were shown to the Ballroom, to take a seat. It was as you might imagine – velvety red carpets, lots of intricate gold-painted architectural flourishes, statues, paintings, a little string orchestra in an upper balcony, lots of staff in livery showing us what to do and where to go, pamphlets on our chairs with the programme in them, and so on.
The ceremony itself was actually pretty quick – twenty-one representatives for their respective institutions were shown in, received their prizes, and then left. Afterwards we were all stationed in the Picture Gallery for about an hour and a half, and in that time, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, and the Princess Royal came round to talk to each of our groups. The Rt Hon John Chilcot was also there, along with Jo Johnson (Minister for Science and Innovation). After the chatting and circulating was done, we all headed back for our coats and bags, and that was that.
Overall, I think I can say that it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.