Penny Pepper is a writer, poet and performer with an extraordinary versatility to her work. Genre-defying and quirky, her work is infused with her passion as a veteran disability arts activist.
A regular on the spoken word circuit, Penny has taken her set to a variety of venues – including guest artists slots for spoken word organisation Apples and Snakes, the Edinburgh Fringe, National Theatre, Liberty Festival at Trafalgar Square, Liverpool DadaFest and festivals around the UK. In 2011 she developed a one-woman spoken word cabaret, which she took to Edinburgh, London and also performed extracts from in New York.
She has featured on radio many times, and was guest artist on Technical Difficulties for Resonance Radio in January 2013. Over the years Penny has done several TV slots. In March 2012, she appeared on a Channel 4 News item where she performed an extract of ‘Bus’, one of her most successful comedy performance poems.
In 2012 Penny revised the publication of her 2003 collection of unique erotica: Desires. Desires Reborn takes us on a new journey into the complications and yearnings of lust at its most demanding, and also the delicacy of first love, and of passion never known.
Penny is currently embarking on an Arts Council-funded project Lost in Spaces. Part memoir and an exploration of identity and difference, Penny’s utilizing her long-kept journals, which stretch back to 1979.
Through memories and personal concerns, the piece links to the universal – from fighting Maggie Thatcher in the 80s and corresponding with Morrissey, to current battles with the government’s harsh austerity measures – pushing her into an examination of the human condition at a time of considerable personal and public turmoil.
Below is a small selection of Penny’s poetry
You poke and prod my pocket
As servants clear your moat
While I’m wheeling and I’m walking
In a ragged shabby coat
You cling onto your rule book
Like a brat with a dummy
While we scrape in our honest gutter
For a glimmer of some honey
Grand dad struggles in the morning
Whimpers gently towards the night
Sitting in his own hot shit
‘Cause his care scheme’s not paid right
What kind of warped out world
Is this one I see unfolding
Our rulers fudging porno, second homes
And any chi chi small holding
We’re scratching and we whining
For free morsels and a crumb
Made to carry the patrician blame
While those bastards hold the guilty gun
I’m a small penny scrounger
A mealy mouthed lounger
A raspberry* in rainbow
With prose spelling danger.
I’m the bottomless pit
Of your pity and debt
Away in no manger
I grovel and spit.
A rouser with words
To shout and to hit,
Scare seen and scarce heard.
I’m the latest cheap target,
Tabloids dark darling
Draining the markets –
The unit of measure
Who’re the fascists
Raking over this shit?
I’m blamed useless eater
A foul fraud repeater
So – I make it all up?
I muck and I suck
The money from purses
Of rich bloated bastards,
Curses fall from the leaders
That we’re liars and bleeders,
We’re pariahs and feeders
Gorged on too much –
From the rusty spoon state.
We can’t be sustained
Because bankers sup greedy
We’re lazy, we’re rank
we’re targets of hate
But I shout and I spin
At the string of their lies,
Tied with blood ribbons
A scapegoat in fashion!
They think we have nothing
No rebellion, no passion.
Yet time it is rushing
defiance it chimes!
We dare to fight back
We dare to fight loud,
So keep calling us scroungers
You loungers on riches
The True Tax-payer pinchers –
With words soaked in anger
Kick corporate canker
And join with the righteous
United as one –
We will fight –
For what’s right –
CHANGE WILL COME.
Ballad of Cripplegate Town
Give me ten pork chops, twelve gallons of ale,
Plague will chase us to our death, leap close to hear my tale.
We don’t look like the king and queen of this, or any land,
But we’re staying and we’re shouting, sat firm to take a stand.
There’s deaf, there’s blind, there’s wailers, the war-hacked with their sticks
We gather at old Cripplegate for a morsel by its bricks.
Bold Alice had the pox last year, her face can still make trade,
Highborn ladies with nosegays, make sport and trot away.
Edward entertains the Lords and throws a splendid hobble,
He rolls and shakes those stumps around and turns a dandy wobble.
It’s years away to Bedlam days, perchance we’ll blame the devil;
Rip my clothes, I am possessed, my hair’s alarmed, dishevelled.
Come to Cripplegate…
Harold rings a begging bell, his leper’s nose unseen-o
But underneath his wretched shirt, Alice knows what’s keen-o!
By the wall of our Saint’s church, it’s all about St Giles;
Yet if we see a pious man, we lose our Godly smiles.
Shiny farthings shower fast upon the crippled throng
Make sure the priests don’t scoop them first, each sings a greedy song.
How can the law say invalids can’t wave our begging plate?
This is the life we’re forced to live so we haunt this Cripplegate.
You see me sway in my fine clothes, proud upon my frame;
I throw their insults to the wind and other words reclaim
Like ancient cripples by that gate, I’ll make my mark be sure
I am here and if you’re good, I’ll lead you through my door…
Come to Cripplegate…
Tempus fugit, time it flies yet much goes on the same;
Disabled people’s open bowls rust with a different name.
Young soldiers lurch to hearth and home, minus limbs and eyes,
Bright heroes for a summer’s day then fraudsters to despise.
Pull up your socks, you slacking plebs, government now utters;
The mental, and the chronic ill, discarded down the gutters.
Some crippled folk get sporty, win Paralympic gold,
But if you don’t bring money in, they wish you dead and cold.
Once again, the circle’s turned, fresh wastrels you can hate.
We’re scroungers and we’re spongers for the tabloids to berate.
But let us say we’re born of you and likely you will see
No one cuts the perfect cloth, rebuke that fallacy.
A life style choice? It’s never one: wake up and see the fact.
Beware the oily rhetoric of our leaders’ foul attack.
Humanity is broad and wide, its patterns vast and great;
We are no bland homogeny – accept and celebrate.
Come to Cripplegate, come to Cripplegate Town.
My first kitchen; a boiling pot
Food we want and always hot.
With vast potatoes a jiggling fury
To the cockney capers of Ian Dury.
Tomorrow is sex and drink and fun,
There will be more unpeelings done
in hungry corners, smeared wide-lipped
I’m anxious, and I’m always chipped,
All wet soft-eyed blubber and squeak
When Alan’s hand runs on my cheek
Mutters love ya at shaking skin,
And then the luscious melt begins.
Still, those potatoes stay hard blocks
and we’re gloomy starving as we rock.
Alan pulls my tight skirt’s elastic
Tells me I’m spastic fantastic.
But we’ve the cruel grey no-spud blues
and we both know, only that which glues
pleasure from the buttered mash
that slides and slips, a salty brash
murmuration of earthy ooze
down avid rebel throats with booze.
Aeons moved, light rose, light fell,
It came to pass – a mountain swell,
I pulped the spud, a luscious mound,
Badly with the lost fork I found.
Gorged Alan skins away my wisps,
Lust-roasted to a perfect crisp.
Laugh as we lick and know the worth –
Mash up spud on my ripped skirt.