Literary Programme 2018

Richard Beard and Allan Jenkins

Richard Beard and Allan Jenkins

Richard Beard
Allan Jenkins

National Learning Network, Donemark, Bantry

Tue 17 July 2018



Richard Beard and Allan Jenkins have written two very beautiful memoirs about their brothers and the secrets and silences that families keep. Allan’s memoir Plot 29 is also a love letter to gardening and this event will take place in the outdoor auditorium of National Learning Network’s Garden Centre in Donemark (or in the Greenhouse in case of rain).

Richard Beard’s The Day That Went Missing is a family memoir of exceptional power and universal relevance – about loss, about carrying on, and about recovering a brother's life and death. It is a story about how life changes in an instant. On a family summer holiday in Cornwall in 1978, Richard’s nine-year-old brother Nicky drowns. The family don’t speak about the catastrophe and their epic act of collective denial writes Nicky out of the family memory. Nearly forty years later, Richard is haunted by the missing grief of his childhood and sets out on a pain-staking investigation to rebuild Nicky’s life. The Day That Went Missing is a heart-rending story as intensely personal as any tragedy and as universal as loss. It is about how we make sense of what is gone. Most of all, it is an unforgettable act of recovery for a brother.

‘What a wonderful book about tragedy, the tricks that memory plays on us all, and the bottomless capacity for denial that lies at the heart of a public school upbringing. I was quite undone by it – and also surprised, at times, by eruptions of laughter. For it proves, if proof is needed, that there’s nothing stranger than a conventional English family.’ Deborah Moggach, author of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

 Richard Beard’s most recent book is Acts of the Assassins, which was shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize. In the twenty years since his first book he has published critically acclaimed novels and narrative non-fiction, including Becoming Drusilla, the story of how a friendship between two men was changed by a gender transition. He was formerly Director of the National Academy of Writing in London, and is now a Visiting Professor at the University of Tokyo and has a Creative Writing Fellowship at the University of East Anglia. He is an optimistic opening batsman for the Authors Cricket Club.

As a young boy in 1960s Plymouth, Allan Jenkins and his brother, Christopher, were rescued from their care home and fostered by an elderly couple. There, the brothers started to grow flowers in their riverside cottage. They found a new life with their new mum and dad. As Allan grew older, his foster parents were never quite able to provide the family he and his brother needed, but the solace he found in tending a small London allotment echoed the childhood moments when he grew nasturtiums from seed.

‘When I am disturbed, even angry, gardening has been a therapy. When I don't want to talk I turn to Plot 29, or to a wilder piece of land by a northern sea. There, among seeds and trees, my breathing slows; my heart rate too. My anxieties slip away.’

Over the course of a year, Allan digs deeper into his past, seeking to learn more about his absent parents. Examining the truths and untruths that he’d been told, he discovers the secrets to why the two boys were in care. A beautifully written, haunting memoir, Plot 29 is a mystery story and meditation on nature and nurture. It’s also a celebration of the joy to be found in sharing food and flowers with people you love.

Longlisted for the 2018 Wellcome Prize

Plot 29 is a superbly written testament to the power of earth to nourish and heal. The writing is taut and honed to a sinewy strength, but rich with evocation and delight… I loved it.’ Monty Don

‘The sort of book you never forget reading: devastating, haunting and utterly beautiful.’ India Knight

‘Allan Jenkins blooms. His garden bears fruit. Enter the seasons with him and grow. I love this book.’ Lemn Sissay

Allan Jenkins is the award-winning editor of Observer Food Monthly. He was previously editor of the Observer Magazine, food and drink editor on the Independent newspaper and once lived in an experimental eco-community on Anglesey, growing organic food on the edge of the Irish Sea. He is the co-author of Fish, the J. Sheekey cookbook, and lives in north-west London.

Allan Jenkins will also be joining us for our Festival Walk at 8am this morning and speaking about his latest book Morning – How To Make Time: A Manifesto in a Coffee & Chat session at 9.15am.

Richard’s photo is by Dru Marland and Allan’s photo is by Colin John Seymour

We are delighted to partner with the National Learning Network in Bantry this year. National Learning Network, West Cork offers practical, progressive and inclusive training. Courses are free and free transport provided and provide opportunities to gain nationally recognised QQI certification in Employability Skills (Level 3), Horticulture (Level 4), Employment Skills (Level 4), Office Administration by Blended Learning (Level 5), Foundation Training (Level 3). Courses are tailored to each student's needs, to help them to build their confidence while getting practical job-seeking skills to help them get a job or go on to further training. Apply today and start anytime. 027 51027,, or call in today: centre is situated at Donemark, Bantry. Garden centre shop also on site is open to the public. Find out more here.