Penny Pepper has led an extraordinary life. She is a writer. Poet. Punk. Pioneer. Activist. And she also happens to be disabled. In her absorbing memoir, which spans the mid-1980s up until the millennium, Penny paints a picture of life, love, sex, music, success, failure and misadventures in the UK punk scene of the late 20th century.
Craving freedom from the poor Chiltern Hill council estate where she grew up, Penny dreams of moving to London, of writing, of finding her way in the North London music scene. She doesn’t have what others take for granted; she is disabled. And she sets out with just her raw, burgeoning talent to fight the social demons of indifference, discrimination and out-right bigotry… all while wearing micro-mini leather bondage skirts, fishnets and hair extensions.
There are parties; there’s sex; there’s music. She exchanges letters with Morrissey. Ken Livingstone helps her find a wheelchair-accessible flat. Her demo tape is reviewed in the NME and played on the radio. Her 90s album Spiral Sky is No. 1 in Greece for a week. And there is opportunity – opportunity to join the radical beginnings of the disability rights movement.
First in the World Somewhere tells of her endless adventures. Through the years, there’s an overload of adventure, despair and joy. Often faced with prejudice, she fails, she suffers, she survives and she even sometimes succeeds. Penny does not deny her disability; rather she keeps it at the forefront of everything she stands for, and she tells her story with blood, heart and an undeniable wit.