Penny Remembered

Mon 12 Jan 2015 by Jo_Moore

BIG 20th birthday party

It was in the summer of 1985 that I first became aware of Penny Dann through her final show at Brighton Polytechnic. I was just completing my Foundation Course at the college and came to look at the Illustration Degree Shows with some trepidation and excitement as I had just been accepted on the Degree Course myself. I can remember her space clearly; all set with dainty cups and saucers, teaspoons and crisp white sugar lumps. Each  had tiny paper arms and legs was arranged in a joyous dance around the space. The display accompanied the artwork for her final project; illustrations on the history of tea. It was both her personal tutor Raymond Briggs and John Vernon Lord who picked up on her fondness for tea and her sketchbook drawings and suggested it as her final major project. And it was also no surprise that the illustrations were soon to be Penny's first published book One For The Pot. Looking at her show I knew then that I wanted to be an illustrator, after all…it looked such fun!

We got to meet shortly after that through mutual college friends and there followed numerous parties, drinks and gatherings. The Brighton Poly crowd were always a lovely, barmy lot; willing to get together for beach bonfires, odd fancy dress parties (the vestigial party, anyone?!), exhibitions and events. Not surprisingly, it was apparent that Penny was an awfully nice person to be around as well as a talented illustrator. She was also a very loyal friend and still maintained many friendships from these formative years in Brighton.

Our paths crossed again when Penny returned to Brighton after living abroad for a number of years. I was chair of BIG at the time when she moved into The Annexe studio. She started coming along to meetings and very soon was lured on to the committee (probably by David O'Connor, who is a serial offender in this department!). She had many skills to offer and was involved in the Brighton Illustrators Group at the time of its greatest expansion. Her contribution to BIG over many years cannot be overstated. She was involved in all aspects of the group; meetings, the newsletter, BIG promotion, membership, finances, parties. She was generous and without ego; no job was too small or too menial. There were many BIG parties and Penny was always an enthusiastic fancy-dresser - a particular favourite of mine being her beauty therapist (complete with fake tan and eyelash curlers) at the 'B' party. She gave her time to BIG as well as managing a successful children's book illustration career and attending publishing events. She was a total professional and shared her experience freely.

Through BIG a small group of illustrator and design girlies met regularly for food and drink. They were always informal affairs, very convivial and punctuated with much laughter. Although it was our profession that brought us together it was not the sole reason for our friendship. Penny very much enjoyed the good things in life and sharing them with those around her. She added to them with her zest for life and her innate kindness.

She touched countless people personally and through her books. She left the world as she faced it, with grace, good humour and an enormous, beautiful smile on her face.