Cofio Nigel and the launch of “Encounters with Nigel”

On Saturday 19th July the Dylan Thomas Centre in Swansea held an event for the launch of the book “Encounters with Nigel,” a collection of tributes, essays and poems by friends, colleagues and former students put together by Jon Gower and Ali Anwar, as well as a tribute night to the memory of Nigel Jenkins who unfortunately passed away on the 27th January 2014. The number of people at this event was clear sign of the love many had for this man and his work.

The night begins with Jon Gower and Ali Anwar talking about the book, how they came to write it and the time they spent with Nigel over their lives. One thing that stuck in my mind was the fact they both mentioned how special Nigel made them feel, as the night went on it would become clear that this was common feeling that he inspired in the people he met.

With Gower as MC for the night, the speakers and performers for the night were introduced and brought on stage to pay tribute. Ifor Thomas starts things by talking about Nigel’s contributions to the Welsh Union of Writers, again a common theme throughout this evening was his contribution to various groups and publications and the positive outcome of these influences, and then delivered two poems of his own work dedicated to Nigel, “Forenames” and “Post-Funeral.” Following this, former student Jane Fraser talked about Nigel’s book Gower and his distaste for people’s use of the term “THE Gower.”

At this point Jon Gower returned to read a passage he’d written after Nigel’s passing and an eulogy written by Bryn Griffiths who was unable to make the event. After this Stevie Davies came on stage to talk about charity, Nigel’s generosity and his love of the sea. After a delightful tale of the swimming competitions they used to have the matter of the charity swim that Stevie is doing came up. She plans to swim out to Rotherslade Beach (their Plage Principale’) in aid of pancreatic cancer research. I would encourage you to go to the just giving page and donate if you can spare anything.

The rest of the night followed in much the same way with wonderful stories and anecdotes about this powerful man and the influence he had on so many people. Former students, colleagues and friends each in turn came to stage, or appeared in pre recorded messages, and taught you something new about the man while all singing the same praises. There was much talk of his contributions to the welsh union of writers, his influence on several publications and readings of his essays, poetry and haikus with each person showing a clear love and passion for the pieces they read. I want to mention in particular the tributes and presentations by (apologies if I have gotten these names wrong or mixed up with others) Ambert Hiscott and Osi Rhys Osmond. Ambert’s “Dear Nigel” was perhaps the second most moving part of the night and Osi’s Stories of travelling with Nigel were incredibly entertaining and had people laughing at Nigel’s antics.

The finale of the night was Angharad and Delyth Jenkins playing the violin and harp respectively. The music these two played was perhaps the most moving and wonderful part of the night and Angharad’s reading of her father’s poetry to her mother’s harp playing was fantastic. One more song by Angharad and a friend and the night was done.

I confess I never knew of Nigel until our own Keri-Ann told me about him, and I never met the man. But if the things these people have said tonight are a true indication of his personality then I’m sad that I will never have that opportunity.

We also dedicated a portion of issue four to the wonderful man himself. Please take the time to read some of the beautiful tributes here: Bunbury Issue Four.