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Splitting Penny: the ups, the downs and Ruby Wax.

I've been poorly and bogged down. Staring at the walls and wondering why I painted them like I did. One is red.

 

Looking at the news and thinking this is all so crazy. This is a big brew of hate bubbling to a head. Feral gangs? Criminal immigrants? Disabled scroungers? When will people rebel against this?

 

I know we're battling. I showed my jittery face at an ATOS demo in London, but I could not stay long. The heat and the crowds, too much. 

 

My life is split into many identities and my therapist tells me this is quite common in BPD. Huh. Am not so sure. Outwardly I am mostly on chug-mode. Happy with friends. Annoyed and silent with everything else. Agoraphobic hermit mode a lot of the time.

 

Edinburgh was a bit of a disaster though I did do the show, along with ending up in the infirmary after falling ill. I also got to meet Ruby Wax who I now adore with a passion. She is doing good and on a journey with her show 'Losing It'. Her memoir is very honest. Let's encourage her to some Mad Pride too.

 

I'm twitching around my own memoir. Oh 30 years since I started writing journals. They freeze your memories in a glow of fond nostalgia. How things have changed - it amazes me I managed to live in London when there were no PAs, barely a computer, only an Amstrad with its errie green lettering.

 

There has been progress which we've fought for in many capacities. We can't lose it, somehow we must not let that happen.

 

I'm a cheerful soul, really. Truly, madly, definitely. Mood swinging, I almost enjoy it. 

Posted by Penny Pepper, 5 October 2011

Last modified by Penny Pepper, 5 October 2011

New York, Old London, Same Battles

I did it. Amazed myself and survived to tell the tale, crammed with feverish stories and kaleidoscope  memories. All roasted and shaken in the rich, brash, varied flavours of New York.

I say roasted with meaning because it was hot. Blistering and humid, and when up the Empire State Building, I could see the thick smog arc hanging over and into the city. One day hit 39c - I don't believe I have known it that hot before in my whole life. Thank the gods for air con. Yet nothing could ruin this incredible adventure.

I was there primarily for work to get a feel for the city, meet people, and to do a performance at the Bluestockings, a radical feminist bookstore, at an event called 'CripLit' which was brought together by the maganificent NY burlesque queen Jo Weldon who worked with several crip woman at DadaFest last year to create 'Criptease'. Indeed, the first piece to be read (by Jo) was the DAO blog by our very own Sophie Partridge, who detailed the DadaFest event with much verve and colour.

Native New Yorker, Christine Bruno, who has visited the UK and worked on the disability arts scene on several occasions, read extracts from her one-woman show 'Screw You, Jimmy Choo', reminding me of what a talented actor she is. Other New York crips did interesting and intriguing pieces; a visually impaired woman telling the amusing story of the frustrations of being a VI bride and the discrimination she faced, and another set where one woman read a beautiful poem while her colleague stripped and danced and posed.

Aussie artist Kath Duncan – another Dadafest Cripteaser – had her deliciously raw and rampant story read out with great panache by Christine, an exceptional reading especially as Christine had not seen it till that moment.

Then it was the Brits. Our own institution of crip glory Mr Mat Fraser read a fab and filthy story, set in New York, and then it was me. Little ole me making my debut in New York. My mum will be staggered! I did my rather rude ‘Dr-Patient Relations’ spoken word burlesque, developed a few years ago with London based burlesque legend Jo King, and finished off with a new piece call ‘Alphabet Sex’. 

I glowed and grinned and basked in my moment. I sold books and Bluestocking took copies as stock. Everyone was lovely and complimentary. I most certainly will return.

I’m full to the brim with New York and the stories will spill out into something very soon.  

But for now, slowly recovering from jet lag, I have to turn my thoughts, if not energy quite yet, to the Edinburgh Fringe. I am there from Aug 22-27, performing the show ‘Adventures in the Dark and Light’ – in Princes shopping mall (!?). Quick note: I have floor/sofa bed space in a semi-accessible apartment if anyone is interest – reasonable rates.

But reflecting on an intense and exciting week, in which I felt I made progress with my work, I have to end on a sombre note.  The ConDem cuts are hitting. Social services peer into our lives to trim and snip… and slash.  A top-notch PA made my New York trip possible in the sense of appropriate support. Yet as budgets are challenged and we are pushed to live in conditions worse than convicted criminals, what then of our work and our aspirations?  

The hypocrisy shouts as loud as we do – can we make them listen? We have to, for all our sakes – and not only to have the right to travel, but the right to exist.   

Posted by , 4 August 2011

Many Many Penny Adventures

It’s all go. Go, go, go. Where to begin?

Ok, firstly, on Wednesday, you can hear me do my bit on Radio Four, for Four Thought. This was recorded two weeks ago at the splendid RSA off the Strand, in front of a live audience. They were responsive, laughed in the right places – including at the sanctioned word ‘tits’ – and looked suitably solemn at the serious moments. I’ll be intrigued to see what you all think, though please be gentle with me.

‘Adventures in the Dark and Light’ had its first showing in June and went very well in front of a decent sized supportive audience. I learned lots and received lovely feedback, encouraging and constructive. A big thank you to my team of the day, old pals Jo Cox, Alex Bulmer and Sophie Partridge, plus project manager Richard Popple keeping me on the ball and Susi Evans adding amazing vibrancy to my pieces on clarinet.

More showings of Adventures soon – but meanwhile, if you have or know of a free venue, do let me know. I’m happy to do showings and tie in a workshop or talk as the work is in development. There will be a grand finale of development this year, on December 3rd in London, but I hope to take it far and wide. Replete with red bloomers, a rubber glove and words I hope will intrigue and enchant.

In 18 days I am going to New York and will be doing some readings, and who knows what else. Watch this space – and anyone with New York contacts please, please get in touch. I’m so excited I could burst out fancy purple confetti all over everywhere!

A little while later, I’m off to Edinburgh Fringe and, incidentally, I have space in my apartment, if anyone wants to hire a corner. A version of ‘Adventures’ is showing as part of PBH Free Fringe, in Princes Mall. Lots of food and accessible loos available!

As you can imagine, this is all keeping me immensely occupied (along with the odd protest… ) and it is true I have very limited abilities in terms of switching off and that thing called resting – or sleeping. Eh? Do I really need to? This means I fall into the pit on a regular basis and today it was suggested my MH meds go up… Hmmm. What a choice – they dull me down but I know it’s a tricky balance.I do often feel rather poorly...

There are also the writing competitions. No, I’ll save that. Keep lucky thoughts beaming for me, and I hope to be reporting on successes next time.

Posted by , 4 July 2011

Films, moods, protest.

Life is busy at Penny towers with much planning – and worrying – going on since I heard I had been successful with my Grant for the Arts. Of course I am excited and bouncing off the walls too. But where to start? Who to work with?

I’m developing a one-woman cabaret called Adventures in the Dark and Light. Please feel free to join my Facebook page of that name if you’re interested in my work. I try to keep it up to date – latest gigs, activities and news in general.

My BPD has been causing me some distress. I hate the word mood swing. What the fuck is that? It sounds almost Victorian but not as exquisite. Like melancholia. I am experiencing fast cycles of highs and low; exhausting, and then I go into a strange gaga distraction for some days. I'm knackered and sometimes scarcely functional. I scare my friends and family... Still, I have done a lot of creative work on the back of it.

But back to ‘Adventures’. I’m looking for a musician to work with me and my cello player Jo Cox. If you are an experienced keyboard player and/or violinist, do get in touch. This is a professional  role and will be paid, though some in-kind support would be appreciated. Have a look at my websites. My work is influenced by folk music, punk, the world, blues… all sorts.

I’m also looking for an actor. Male, 28+, able to play a non-disabled GP, Dr ‘Nazi’. It’s for a short I’m doing with Sophie Partridge, called Doing It.

Meanwhile, I did a film, a youtube video blog, of my day on the TUC March for the Alternative. An eventful and uplifting day. It’s annoying that the media concentrate only on the ‘trouble makers’, out of proportion to their numbers.  I may be idealistic, but I felt the day did have an effect. It was good for US if nothing else, to join in, to be there and be counted. Please have a look at the film and comment – bearing in mind that PAs who often have to hold the camera are not necessarily very skilled at it. Oh, to have my own crew….

Now I must get on. I’m driven to produce lots of creative things right now. 

Did I mention the CD of my Spoken Word? Oh, next time then.

Posted by Penny Pepper, 14 April 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 16 April 2011

Penny blogs. There's a little sunshine and lots going on

The sun licks across my window and lures the blossom to bloom. At last! I’m bouncing off the walls, full of seesaw moods, happy-sad, melancholy-joyful, and dripping with creative sap. Mustn’t fall off the tightrope mind you. But isn’t it lovely to see some sunshine?

The last week or so has been a cram of activity. A new story ‘Nippy Days’, only written about 4 weeks ago, was selected to be read at ‘Are You Sitting Comfortably?’ - a story telling event run by White Rabbit Theatre

The theme for stories was sex, and I hadn’t touched the subject for some years. How could I resist? The venue was Tonybee Studios, in the hip East End of London, very near to lively Brick Lane. The event offers free chip butties and ice-cream. Definitely a happy Jackanory time for grown ups.

I had a great posse of peeps to support me, including DAO blogger and all round superstar Sophie P. The venue was packed to overflowing and us wheelies edged in, causing happy chaos in the café. The actress who read my story did a great job and selected writers had the opportunity to send the stories to Ether Books, who publish to mobiles. I await their response with the usual mix of nerves and excitement.

A few days after this, I was performing at the cabaret event ‘Sunday Service’, at Carnivale, opposite Brick Lane (again!)  This place has atmosphere, a hint of tatty grandeur and a suitable seedy edged cabaret charm. Access through the rear, passing by mysterious collections of grave stones, there was an accessible loo (rarity) but alas not to the stage.

With Jo Cox giving me her usual wonderful support on cello, staking a space on the floor, we opened each half of the sets and the audience seemed to lap it up. I will never forget the crowd urging me on to do the ‘Protest Song’, throwing in their own ad-libs and drumming on the tables. Maybe with a little help from our dear editor I can supply an audio file as I recorded most of the set?!

Pausing for a brief breath, next I’m preparing for my poetry and spoken word drop-in workshops for Shape. Technology did rather mess up my grand plans to play Youtube examples of different poets and styles, including Ian Dury doing ‘Bus Driver’s Prayer’, but I hope I made up for it by encouraging the group to experiment with personification, which is one of my favourite ways of stimulating the imagination for a poem. 

In this case, giving inanimate objects human characteristics and taking that forward with a narrative or emotion. My prompt of ‘being’ President Roosevelt’s wheelchair resulted in some strong and interesting pieces from new and experience poets. I can’t wait for next week and hope more people will come along. (Roosevelt was a wheelchair user, a fact kept hidden from the public at the time). The workshops run every Tuesday 2-4pm until April 12th.

In between all this, I’ve finished a short film-poem, The Lover, a homage love letter to Leonard Cohen and almost finished an absurd little film about an item of disability ‘charity’ ephemera, which I connect.

My life is a crazy one on multiple levels. During all this wonderful activity I’ve also been a bit sickly, doing my pallid invalid impersonation, and been to court! Weird.  

Never once, even when wobbling close to a dip-down or a fall, have I regretted a moment of being so immersed. I might be hyper but I’ll enjoy it if that’s OK. 

Posted by , 10 March 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 12 March 2011