Although she balked at any form of public recognition, Penny Walker had influence, power and the kind of respect that preceded her into meetings. The public grief and sadness there has been at her death is unsurprising, though Penny would’ve been embarrassed by all the fuss.
I met Penny at Coventry Peace House in 2004, a housing co-operative she set up with Becqke and John, fellow Alvis Peace Campers from the ’90s.
A founder member of the Coventry Refugee Centre, she and Alan Sprung were now using building work as a way to give troubled local lads a second chance. Penny was practical and fun. The feeling in the air around the Peace House was of useful things being done, not just talked about.
A few months later, I left my job to join Penny and Alan in setting up the WorldWise project as part of the Peace House Education Trust.
During my time with WorldWise, we did some of the projects I am most proud of: the Peace Art Explosion, a multi-agency refugee Myth Busting Pack, the Asylum Game, setting up the Night Shelter for destitute asylum-seekers, printing magazines in community languages by diverse writers, a book on statelessness, working with newly-arrived teenagers, and making two films for Coventry’s online streaming TV ‘Community Channel’.
Penny had so much energy and passion. Our core team drew on a huge community of knowledge and talent. Many of the individuals we worked alongside, who had families elsewhere or lost, would call Penny ‘Mamma’.
In 2011, Penny moved to Leicester. One of the first things she did was a cooking project with women in her neighbourhood. Penny loved to feed people. We regularly visited her and often enjoyed picnics with her.
Penny worked with Leicester CND and the Drone Campaign Network.
At the age of 64, she was arrested at RAF Waddington for a guerrilla gardening action, campaigning against drone warfare.
Penny also continued her community work in Highfields in Leicester and was always involved in creative community events: a puppet show, an art project, more books, more exhibitions.
Penny reached so many people with her message of love. She never asked for thanks, or expected it, for the lifetime of work she did to try to make the world a better place.
Those of us who were fortunate enough to know her miss her deeply.