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Sophie Partridge and Penny Pepper – transcript

Sophie Partridge:

Good morning everybody, lovely to see you all here, a while ago, when did we start do thislittle set this Pen?


We did it at one of the mayor’s do’s, it was called in the City, run by Campus, which I think were a left wing election group to make sure every one had their say in the election of London, and yes it was good. We did a version of this thing.


We did. That was specifically about London, coming up to the mayoral elections. I wrote this little piece called ‘London, my London’. I’m going to share this with you now.

London my London

London it was a fluke, my leaving here

And nearly 20 years ago now

O I had visited, we came trips, and skyved sometimes,

I was a boarder down Hampshire

Lunchtime concerts at the Royal Festival Hall, amazing how appealing classical music becomes when you have Saturday lessons

But freezing outside after, without packed lunches and cup-a-soups.

Posh London, once an evening trip to the Royal Opera Gouse, for the Magic Flute and falling asleep after on the way home.

Throwing up on the coach at 14 because we had all been nicking champagne for the guests at a performance our choir gave at the Glaziers Hall.

Mythical London, unreal city, dreaming even then with visits to nana and granddad in Witchmore Hill . The City where my sisters lived and dad was from. Journeys to the capital by train, had been met at Victoria Station. The accessible loo, with the grey and black tiles, which hasn’t changed in all this time. Galleries and parks, fancy gigs, flats upstairs and ‘OK, mate?’ – terrible accent

Scary London, a child’s meeting and the offer of a really friendly flat in The Smoke, those were the days. I felt the fear but did it anyway and so to Camden then I came. Camden with its trendy market and comedy club, cafes, lattes, and cobbles. Dogs in Regents Park, and my neighbour’s cat Lassy. BBQ’s and parties, munchies. The first few days and I bounced at huge curbes, crossed high streets, between crossing cars and cried with relief at reaching the other side. Bumping into my sisters, because now they lived just up the road, that really was scary.

Political London with its own mayor. And …, you had a disability but no identity or social model perspective, I was neither diverse nor empowered, but now I discovered personal assistance over carers, in all their flavours, and suddenly Swahili was spoken in my living room. Assistance came via an agency called Body Bank. One woman sounded like an East End gangster. I moved in and on, my life opened up.

Poor London. Me in my homely new home, whilst so many were less than home_less, outside amongst dirt and rubbish strewn streets. I am not a good Samaritan, like most others, I usually pass by, often through pollution and noise.

Accessible London. Cycle lanes, congestion zone. And parking fines that felt like they fell on my van every 5 minutes. Black cabs in the road. As wheel chair users, and like marmite cabbies, they love us or hate us. So here we are all together in traffic, on buses and on this endless buildings and roadworks.

Equal London, where I have a life, work and friends again, of the coolest kind. One sister, just went south of the river, it´s not that far, but sacrilege. But the canal came closer and the damp set in, with the cuts, I escaped my stinky flat and jumped to Islington, captained by Jeremy Corbyn. Now, as an independent agent, disabled woman, I protest at parliament, have been chained for change, occupied with tea and sausage rolls. Marched down and blocked roads, stopping the flaming traffic. I watched the Lady Killers a while ago, shots of King´s Cross, as it was. Never in a trillion years would I have believed I would live just up the road, live here, in London, My London. The End


Me and Sophie are going to do a very short sketch now. It came about when the Independent living fund was closing, which some of you will know. If we did our work properly, you would all know about it! The Independent Living Fund was a government fund that paid half of our funding, sometimes all, to have personal assistance. And the government decided that we were too privileged to have it. And they also decided, I think, that we would just be silent and accept it. Well, we gave them a big shock. And although it did close, we are still fighting and still maintaining those rights that many disabled people had fought for so long, in previous times, for us to have independent living. So, apologies if this has got a naughty word, but you will understand why.

Penny and Sophie:

This is ´parfum du Piss´

Doobie doo doobie doo

´Parfum, Parfum du Piss´

Your fancy corona of the neglected disabled person,

Catching the flagrance of the lavatoire, fresh from the soiled bed and chair.

The scent is for those enforced special moments, hours and days, when the care money and independence is cut. Available to you now in several varieties.

´Damn you Due´, the delightful smell of unworthy lives and empty existence.

Doobie doo doobie doo

How delicious! OOH!

´Puke pomade´, for those lonely moments of imposed sickness.

Ah! The smell of it!

´Veg and …´, with the topnotes of the stench of the individual starved of fresh food.

Papapa, papapa… stench deluxe!

´Okay du midnight´, the essence of frustration, incapsulates captivity within your bed and four walls. How happy folk live their lives.

Ah! Superb grotesk!

´Desperation´, the ultimate scent, the final inevitability of worthlessness.

Available now for ex recipients of the Independent Living Fund, manufactured in the UK, by the department of Work and Pensions.

Ohh, a dear, yuk!



Some of you know me, some don´t, I am a writer and performance poet. I´m going to do some little poems for you. This year, I don´t know how many of you know about this international day of disabled people, in December, and we also had UK history month. And I have it on very good authority, that this year the theme is going to be language (I met Richard). I´m going to do a poem, it sounds negative, but we´re all going to be familiar with it in the UK, and I am sure all of you, certainly me, certainly Soph, have been called this term. And it is: scrounger.

Who is a scrounger?

OK, I´m a scrounger

Sophie chips in: I´m a scrounger

Scroung, scroung

I´m a sponger, a scrounger, a lazy assed lounger, a raspberry and rainbow, I pose you no danger!

I´m the bottomless pit of your pithy and debt, on the six inch John Major, I´m still on it yet! I´m the latest cheap target, the tabloids dark darling, draining the markets, the unit of measure, economic displeasure, I´m a blame, juiceless eater, foul fraud repeater. Do I make it all up? They say that I suck, the money from purses, of rich bloated bastards, the kicks and the curses fall from us leaders on us liars and bleeders. We´re pariahs and feeders, gorged on too much from the big nanny state. You condemned us already, there is no debate, we can´t be sustained because bankers are greedy. We´re lazy, we´re rank, we´re targets of hate, to eradicate… but… I´m a rouser with words to shout and to hit, say who are the Nazis raking over this shit? I shout and I spin at string of their lies, I´m a new Boadicea, together we rise. They have no compassion, yet we have rebellion and rave with our passion as time is rushing, defiant in times, we dare to fight back, we dare to fight loud (Sophie and Penny together). O yes we dare!

Thank you!


The next piece is about being naked. Has anyone here ever been naked, I don´t mean this morning in the shower, anyone been naked publicly?

Because me and Sophie have. Me and Sophie have done kind of neo burlesque, and I´ve done life modeling, with some great artist, including Tanya Raabe, who you should all check out, she´s fantastic. So this is a poem about being nude.


I´m sure as I can be that Penny now is nude,

This robed, unclothed, slight veils here and there

In nakedness I find I am renewed

I am not here with thoughts gone right and lewt

But proudly showing ME, I do declare, as sure as I can be

That Penny now is nude

The curve and cut of me

You can´t collude, my friend you say is not of a shape to bare?

In nakedness, I find I am in nude, my corners and my creases are perused

By random hordes that dip in them to stare.

We sure as we can be that Penny now is nude,

The scars I wear drag molars (?) from this brood, with their fusty brutal verdicts head. In nakedness I find I am in nude, your prejudice, your views, interpretude, I´ll not accept the bias you declare, I´m sure as I can be that Penny now is nude

Such nakedness! I find I am renewed


Penny: Are we still alright for time?

Eleanor: Yes. If you could at the end tell us how you feel performing?

Penny: Actually, I´m going to a really shameless plug, but this has to be done, when you perform, you have to do this, if anyone is thinking of this, you cannot be shy, a shy flower. This is new one, it´s out next year, published by unbound Penguin. You can still pre buy it, and if you prebuy it your name goes in the book as a supporter. So, just go to the website, pledge it, and you´ll get one next year with your name in it. It´s: ´First in the world somewhere´. I´ll just read the blurb:

From versatile writer and disability right´s activist, Penny Pepper, First in the world somewhere is a unique 80´s 90´s defiant student memoir of disability art, sexual awakening and creative aspiration.

There we are. I´ve got loads to hand out, it´s lovely if you can support me with this.

It will be published and being with unbound, looked after by Penguin, I´m really proud that I´ve managed that. If you do get it, you will see how impossibly shy I was. I was a punk, I was. I was really painfully shy and had a long journey with health issues, I´ll talk more about that if we get time, but please come and see me and take a flyer off me, I´m forcing them upon you, it´s believed to be a completely unique memoir from a disabled woman´s perspective. I was a punk, I made a record, I had number two album in Italy and Greece, and in the independent charts, that´s the whole story that not many people know.

Just going back to language, I´m going to do a short version of a very popular piece that I do in my one woman show. We´re in the heart of London, we crossed the river, the other side you´ve got lots of gates, you know the gates of London? We take it for granted, the gates of London. It´s incorporated into lots of names, you´ve got Bishop´s Gate, Old Gate, even Billingsgate, but one we do have, which is very near the Barbican and the church of St Giles: Cripple Gate! And I´m on a campaign to reclaim the word cripple. In Medieval times, there really was a Cripple Gate, and cripples gathered there to get alms, to scrape a living, to beg, and I´m reclaiming that word for some time now.

Sophie: it just meant originally ´to move slowly´ Penny, that´s right, and my ex husband, a medieval archeologist, no one is going to argue with him, he knows these things, but this is:

Cripple Gate Town.

Give me ten pork chops, twelve gallons of ale,

plague will chase us to our death, leap close to here my tail,

we don´t look like the king and queen of this or any land,

but we´re staying and we´re shouting, set firm to take a stand

there´s deaf, there´s blind, there´s wailers, the warhead with their sticks,

we gather at old Cripple Gate for a morsel bite´s bricks,

bald Alice had the pops last year, her face can still bring trade,

high born ladies, with nose gates, make scores and trot away

Edward entertains the lords and froze a splendid hobble,

he rolls and shakes those stumps around, and turns a dandy wobble

It´s years away to beg and daze, perchance will blame the devil

Rip my clothes, I am possessed, my hair is alarmed, disheveled

Shiny farthing, shower fast upon the crippled throng,

make sure the priests don´t scoop them first, each sings a greedy song

how can the Lords say invalids can´t wave our begging plate,

this is the life we´re forced to live, so we´ll haunt this Cripple Gate

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 their gate, I´ll make my mark, be sure

I am here, and if you are good, I´ll lead you through my door

Come to Cripple Gate, come to Cripple Gate, come to Cripple Gate Town

Thank you. And my final one is, and then we´ll do a bit of talking. It´s an old favourite of mine, it´s slightly out of date now, I hate this person who gets mentioned, he ruins my poems. Anyone come on the bus? Eleanor, did you come on the bus? Eleanor: yes

Ofcourse, I was there, very early days, time of the dinosaurs really, when buses were kind of there but completely and utterly inaccessible. So, we´ve come a long way and now I find it interesting to use the London bus, in how we are part of the general throng. And this piece is about that.

On the bus

Boris bus, dirty grumpy porridge bus

There´s a trolley in the crip space

see the child snoggy face

foolish puppy hellish mummy

disposition far from sunny

on the bus double decker

smelly shaky bony wrecker

there´s a suitcase in the crip space

nervous girl who grips in haste

snarly hoody chomping burger

does he not know that meat is murder?

On the bus, Boris bus, dirty, bumpy horrid bus

Another journey, ramp is broken

Access as an empty token

Public selfish in dismay one driver grunts and looks away

On the bus, double decker

Smelly bumpy bony wrecker

In my slot a man with doggy

By my shoulder youth and groggy

Armpits hairy stinky,

Smells of vomit and binge drinking

On the bus, Boris bus, dirty bumpy horrid bus

There we were, such humble cripples,

Forth the system send out ripples

Proud to take a London bus

With the throng to push to fuss

On the bus, Boris bus,

Dirty bumpy Tory bus,

Any bus, big or small,

Dirty, rough, empty, crowded

Loud and swirly scarcely…

Just accessy bus…

Thank you


So, I´m just thinking, Penn, especially with your book and everything and this whole thing about finding a voice, could you, did you just say that you were incredibly shy when you were younger. So how do you think that changed, what helped you on that journey?


Are you interviewing me?


Yes, I am


I think actually, coming together with other disabled people, disabled women,

They were my peers, but they were also a guidance. And I believe that if you start off gently in this area, I was saying to Leo actually, that I was at the first disability arts festival in 1987. How old do I look, honestly, I am, I´m 55. I´m 56 in August, thought I might get used to it. And that was an amazing thing, I didn´t anything, I wasn´t a performer, I was making music in my bedroom. Do you know Ian Dury, have you heard of Ian Dury? He was there, and I was meant to giving him, with my boyfriend, I was meant to giving him my set. I was too shy to speak to Ian Dury. But through being involved in disability arts, and there was only like three of us in a backroom in Camden, it was a safe space. And I would say, to get used to hearing your own voice. I frightened the poster off the wall! I was overexited


So what you think then have been the barriers to that voice, to get it out there?


I think initially, the barriers we all know, where it is very difficult to travel, all the literal barriers, environmental barriers. And then it´s what´s inside you, I mean, I´m completely out as a person with long term health issues, so I´ve had several levels of support, some good some bad. So learning about yourself, realizing, and of course women don´t have that automatic sense of entitlement. This is a big thing for me at the moment, you see it all the time, I was on the Channel 4, live Brexit debate, blinked and you would have missed me, because it was completely inaccessible, I had to put in, Jeremy Paxman was rude, but he´s rude to everyone, the format still wasn´t accessible, and that´s 30 years that I´ve been doing this. But it was interesting, because the men there, lots of competition, very great celebrities, they had such a sense of entitlement. Whereas I felt like the freak in the corner, I really did, apart from the lovely actor Sheila Hancock, she adopted me and supported me, throughout. I thiknk my advise would be, depending on what kind of public speaker you want to be, always prepare, start small, built up gently and then if you can, and it´s easier now than it ever has been, doing groups. Look into places where you can practice that, get advice. If anything, you can lots of fun, we could run a workshop on it.

Sophie: Well, maybe within Sisters of Frida


Me and Sophie have got a long background in performance, we´ve both been trained in different ways, we´ve raised …. Theatre company, I´ve done so much, I can´t even remember now. Anything you could say Sophie?


I would just echo what you said really, it´s that thing isn´t it of thinking, where we have been successful, how can we be successful. I think it´s what you said, a lot of it is peer support, that sense of belonging, when you meet poelpe and you realize it´s not just you, that to me personally made a lot of difference. It´s all ebb and flow, it´s no straight line ever, we have our successes, but then we have our dips. Obviously, without independence, there´s ongoing stuff all the time in the background, you know, the cuts, personal assistance needs, but with the support of each other, then we flowed, and then we don´t drown hopefully.


Just one thing I would finaly say, if you are interested in developing any kind of performance poetry, there´s a lot out there to help you with that. If you fell you want to start, go to an open mike, the poetry scene is much gentler than comedy, it´s supportive. So you can just do one minute, and you´ll be warmly supported. I a performer, I gained a lot.


Any questions? Not from my mother!


There´s a thing you don´t say everyday to the audience.


Was that ok Eleanor?


I was just going to say that Sophie is on the steering group, do you have to run now? Big thank you

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