Art of making a change in LS7

Penny Sanders.
Penny Sanders.
Have your say

Penny Sanders is programme director of Seven Arts in Chapel Allerton. She enjoys wine, Radio 4, running and sailing. Chris Berry reports.

Penny Sanders came to Leeds for her university years and was a town planner and landscape architect before her passion for the Chapel Allerton and Chapeltown areas saw her and colleagues launch both a street festival in 1998 and latterly Seven Arts in 2007. Originally from Lowestoft Penny fell in love with Leeds and despite also studying in Manchester she found Leeds her natural home. Her other interests include running, performance poetry and sailing. She has three grown-up children and lives with partner John.

“The best thing about Leeds is it’s a very easy city to live in. As a place to go out I enjoy The Reliance on North Street. I used some of the ideas from them as we were setting up our café/bar. The Everyman Cinema in the Trinity Centre is a good addition. What’s really great is you can run and in 20 minutes be at Eccup Reservoir and not see a house for miles. I also feel quite proud about what a group of us has achieved with the festival, the café society that we have been a part of bringing about over the years in Chapel Allerton, and now Seven Arts. I have this real thing about change and that people can always effect change.

“My first job was in a pea-canning factory for the Co-op in Lowestoft where I worked during the summer. It’s what everyone did at the time. We used to pick up the cans and then see them roll down a chute.

“The best piece of advice I’ve ever had came from my ex-husband and was reliability, response and results. It was all about running a service business. The most important thing is to be reliable, secondly you need to respond quickly and thirdly results are important but not as important as the other two.

“My guilty pleasure would have to be wine. Actually I don’t feel guilty about it at all. My favourite at present is a white Rioja that we serve here at Seven. It’s Rioja Blanco Allegre.

“My pet hates are tall people in the row in front of me at a cinema or those who scrunch crisps and sweet wrappers. When I’m out running it’s also people who say their dog won’t hurt and yet it runs right up to you.

“The one thing that I couldn’t live without is Radio 4. I’ve listened to it since I was a child. I particularly enjoy the Saturday afternoon play, The Archers and I’m fascinated with anything to do with politics.

“If I could meet anyone I’d definitely have Freddie Mercury. He was the consummate performer and such a talented musician. My kids really liked him too and he died far too young. I’d also have Russell Harty because I loved the way he interviewed and got inside people. Politically it would be a lady called Marcia Falkender who was private secretary to Prime Minister Harold Wilson. When I was younger I liked the idea of influence, not as a figurehead but to be someone like her. Evan Davis too, he’s a Radio 4 Today presenter as well as hosting Dragon’s Den. I know him better for his radio exploits. If I could have another as well it would be Stephanie Flanders who was the BBC economics editor and such a clever woman.

“My philosophy on life comes from my sailing background. I spent many happy times sailing with my father and learned the maxim that the time to do something is when you first think of it. That means don’t leave it, so when you see that jib flapping do it then otherwise it may become too windy to do it later.

“A joke? I can never remember any. My favourite comedians include the really funny Henning Wehn, Jeremy Hardy and Tom Wrigglesworth from Sheffield. We have regular comedy nights run by Silky at Seven and tonight we have Gary Delaney, who married Sarah Millican very recently, and Sally Anne Howard.

“My most embarrassing moment? I get embarrassed if I say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I’m more concerned about upsetting somebody else than for me personally.

What might surprise people is that I once stood for the Ecology Party as a councillor before the Green Party was ever invented. I was very young! The sailing might surprise people too. My father passed away but we have kept his boat. It’s a 32ft sloop and we sail once a year in the Ionian Sea.

“My childhood days were cold, that’s what I remember in Lowestoft. Sailing with my dad as a teenager is one of my favourite memories. The town wasn’t an easy place to grow up. Dad had served in WWII and he’d been demobbed. We hadn’t much money and we lived in quite a rough area. Intellectually we were middle class but where I grew up was very much not. I felt like a fish out of water.

I had friends and wasn’t lonely. We would cycle everywhere and go on the beach a lot but until we moved when I was 11 years old I felt intimidated and frightened.

“My first love was someone I used to watch when I went sailing. We never went out or got together, but I wrote a poem about him. He was called Jonathan Gibbs and I thought he was gorgeous but I was far too shy to speak to him. He was tall with dark curly hair. I was told that he went on to become a missionary. My first boyfriend was a zoology student called Dave.”

Artist's impression of the Axiom retail park.

Video: Big name retailers have already signed up for £160m retail park off M62