Image of Dr Benjamin Zephaniah
‘Drunk on sweet diversity’. Dr Benjamin Zephaniah celebrates 85 years of the British Council. Photo ©

British Council, adapted from the original.

July 2019

Planting seeds to harvest hope

British poet Dr Benjamin Zephaniah welcomed innovators and leaders from around the world to the British Council ELTons Awards for Innovation in English Language Teaching, opening with a poem to mark the British Council’s 85th anniversary. The evening showcase took place on Monday 10 June at the Institution of Engineering and Technology in London.

English connects 2.3 billion people worldwide. It makes travel, study, work and relationships across borders and cultures easier, creating life’s great opportunities

The ELTons Awards for innovation in English language teaching are the British Council's own international awards. Now in their seventeenth year, the ELTons aim to find the latest, most original ways to learn and teach English from around the world, with awards for courses, resources for teachers and learners, digital innovation and for projects which bridge educational inequality:

English connects 2.3 billion people worldwide. It makes travel, study, work and relationships across borders and cultures easier, creating life’s great opportunities. Sharing the English language also is a significant driver of trust and connection between people in different countries. English has always been at the heart of our mission. Since our foundation in 1934, hundreds of millions of people around the world have improved their English skills with the British Council, unlocking a whole new world of opportunity.

We rant about democracy, much love free speech and governance, We are British through and through, so we cherish the right to Morris dance

‘85’

When other lands were known to Brits as ‘foreign parts’ or ‘overseas’,

A group was formed to raise spirits and put our restless minds at ease:

To counter propaganda and to make friends in those foreign parts.

Then just a few years later it was all about teaching and the arts.

Now 85 years have passed, and our dear Council still has future plans,

Creating links that last through 85 years of shaking hands.

85 years of give and take – this Council really gets around.

That’s 85 years for goodness sake, of partnerships on common ground.

We British love to do ballet with bodies that are firm and fit,

But in our very British way, we’ll add some reggae beats to it.

We rant about democracy, much love free speech and governance,

We are British through and through, so we cherish the right to Morris dance.

Students, doctors, and those who care, have come on board and found a role.

Some say the Council lives out there, some thinkers say it has a soul.

And if we dream we all know why: we’re drunk on sweet diversity:

The curry and the shepherd’s pie live on one plate in harmony.

And now we’re in the modern age we teach world-wide with computers,

We see despair that could be rage, so now we are Connecting Futures.

From the 1930s mission, we’ve widened our remit and our scope.

In the modern age of television, we’re planting seeds to harvest hope.

85 years through peace and war – through delicate and troubled times;

85 years and they’ll be more exchanging views and opening minds;

English is the currency; the people are the driving force - 

That’s 85 years officially of healthy cultural intercourse!

Benjamin Zephaniah

With thanks to Rebecca Maher, Stakeholder Engagement Manager, English and Exams

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