How To Be Hopeful Episode 16 “There Is Always Hope”

July 27, 2020

This episode I speak with Penny Pepper “acclaimed wheelchair-using author, poet, performer & disabled activist” about hope and creativity, mental health, stories, swearing, burlesque and nature amongst other things…


I was lucky enough to grab a chat with Penny on the weekend she was finishing her latest novel. We spoke about the hope that she finds in nature it’s good for us to not be overburdened by stuff that’s not really important. ... I have swifts that come over my house every day, and I know that they will fly off fairly soon as they are migratory birds … I like the idea that whatever else is going on, next year there’ll be swifts flying over this house


We discuss Penny further exploring the positive aspects of performing on zoom and how “ it removes a lot of access barriers whilst still capturing a live experience” about her upcoming life modelling and interview on Isolation Station with Lucien Freud’s model and muse Sue Tilley (details below)


We talk about the importance of disabled peoples stories “ any story told starts to break down the clichés and the discrimination….  a greater range of stories expands our experiences of humanity.”


Penny talks about the time she rendered Ruby Wax speechless “for about 8 seconds” at the Edinburgh Festival , about learning to value her mental health issues as making her who she is, and about how despite going through very difficult times there are always signs of hope when we need them , from nature, from people doing kind things, from being encouraged by others to persevere and from getting lost in the creative process “like a kind of mindfulness”


Penny speaks about her idea of  Utopia which  includes a fairer more equal society (“where we let the Queen retire… she’ll probably be relieved”)  and one in  which “we all have equality and we work towards that… where  everyone’s  lives are valued and we respect our differences as enriching the whole,  but that means understanding that disabled people aren’t just waiting for a cure that’s never going to come… realising that being disabled is  part of the normal experience of humanity “


Penny encourages us all to try out anything and everything our hearts desire, ““spread your wings, spread your wheels, spread your mind and try, because there is  always hope, there bloody well is always hope”


More soon! 

Love Bernadette xx


About Penny:

Penny’s memoir “First In the World Somewhere” is available in all the usual places. Her new book centres around Nancy Jones- a disabled time travelling rebel,

“strong funny and wilful” - to keep up with this and her other work you can find her on socials here: 


Twitter: @PenPep

Instagram: @mspennypepper

Facebook: @PennyPepperWriter


Isolation Station with Sue Tilley can be found here https://www.isolationstationhastings.co.uk


About Bernadette:

My latest book "How To Be Hopeful" published by Elliot and Thompson is due out 10thSeptember 2020. You can pre-order the book in these places:

WATERSTONES > https://bit.ly/2VTGvgg

AMAZON > https://amzn.to/3iBZSEr

HIVE > https://bit.ly/3e9zPAW

FIND YOUR LOCAL INDEPENDENT BOOKSHOP > https://www.booksellers.org.uk/bookshopsearch

You can find me here www.bernadetterussell.com

twitter @betterussell

Instagram  @bernadetterussell 

Facebook @bernadetterussellwrites