Gardens of Delight
Rachel de Thame
Chair: Charlotte Mendelson
Gardens have been a source of enchantment since the dawn of time. Today’s speakers illuminate why gardening can be as vital an expression of the creative impulse as reading, writing or praying, and why designing, planting, tending, sharing produce, or simply looking, are so rewarding. In literature gardens can be oases or jungles, magical places where supernatural events happen and passions are aroused.
Penelope Lively was born in Cairo, where she spent most of her childhood, coming to England at the age of twelve. She has written many prize-winning novels and been twice shortisted the Booker Prize forThe Road to Lichfield and According to Mark, winning it in 1987 for Moon Tiger. She also writes short stories, autobiographical works in the form of both memoir and fiction, and is a popular writer for children, winning both the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award. She was appointed CBE in 2001 and DBE in 2012. Penelope Lively is one of the UK's most highly original and distinguished authors.
Rachel de Thame originally studied at the Royal Ballet School. After the birth of her eldest children, she re-trained in horticulture, becoming a regular presenter on BBC2’s Gardeners’ World in 1999. She also reports from all the major RHS Flower Shows, including Chelsea Flower Show. Other television credits include Going for a Song, Small Town Gardens, Gardener of the Year, Gardening with the Experts and The Great British Garden Revival for the BBC, and Countrywise for ITV1. Rachel’s original concept for a Gardeners’ World special The Fate of the Cottage Garden (2008) and episodes of Great British Garden Revival (2014) and Gardeners’ World (2015) in which she appeared received Garden Media Guild Awards for Television Broadcast of the Year. Rachel has written two gardening books and co-authored a third. She is a regular columnist for the Sunday Times and has contributed to various publications, including The Telegraph, Huffington Post, Gardeners’ World Magazine and The Garden Magazine (RHS). Design projects include the LK Bennett Garden at Chelsea Flower Show in 2008 and floral decorations for the Royal Barge during the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant in 2012
Jonathan Wittenberg is the Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism UK and a leading writer and thinker on Judaism. He is Rabbi of the New North London Synagogue and the author of several books. Formerly closely involved in the North London Hospice, he is currently a member of the chaplaincy team at Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital. Deeply engaged in interfaith dialogue, he has also initiated a project to create a multi-faith secondary school, launching the vision at the House of Lords. He is also a keen gardener and animal-lover, as evinced in his most recent book, Things My Dog has Taught Me about Being a Better Human Being.
Charlotte Mendelson has written four novels, one work of non-fiction, Rhapsody in Green, much literary criticism and is a frequent broadcaster. She won both the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize and the Somerset Maugham award for Daughters of Jerusalem and was shortlisted for other prestigious prizes for When We Were Bad. She writes an occasional diary for the FT and is gardening correspondent for The New Yorker.