A community champion
Islington resident Penny Seal is an unsung hero to her friends and neighbours. She has volunteered her time to help people in the community since she was a teenager in the 1970s and she now plays a central part in developing the King Square estate in Finsbury.
To thank her for her efforts, she has been awarded a Mayor’s Civic Award for 2017 along with seven other passionate and dedicated people in the borough.
“I’m sure there are millions of people who deserve it more than me,” said Penny. “I never looked at it as volunteering. I was about 16 or 17 at the time and you used to get people on the streets who were drunk or on drugs. I was always taking them down to the hospital. I didn’t know them, and I just waited until the doctors said they were OK then I’d leave and go home.”
Penny’s actions saved many lives, but she got into terrible trouble with her parents. But, it was clear that at an early age she wanted to help others and make a difference.
Born and raised in Penton Street at the end of Chapel Market, Penny has lived on the King Square estate for almost 39 years, moving in when her son was just 18 months old. She now chairs its tenants and residents association, and last year she became chair of the housing panel. She is also a trustee of St Luke’s Parochial Trust and 3 Corners Centre Trust.
“I’m very much involved in the development of the estate to try and get the very best deal for the people who live here,” she says. “When I first came here I didn’t like it, but then the more I got involved the more I started to like it and I think that’s key. If you get involved in the community it becomes a place to be proud of.
“I think it’s just about putting something back. I wished more young people got involved. This is their community and their legacy. What we’re trying to put in place are things that will be used by them and their children. We’re making decision on their behalf and so they should have a say.”
Penny received her award at a ceremony at Islington Assembly Hall on Thursday 16 March.
She said: “Getting the Mayor’s Award reminded me of when I was working at City and Islington and was nominated to meet the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair. I found out I was chosen when the woman who nominated me said: “You’re going to need a new frock, you’re going to meet the Prime Minister!”
“There was this big event at Lancaster House and there were people there that really deserved it. People who were from the Fire Brigade and people who doing lifesaving research, all different people, and I felt like a fraud.
“It’s a similar thing with this. You do what you do and you don’t expect to get anything in return because life’s not like that. It’s nice to be recognised but I’m not one of those types who strive to get it. I just get on with it.”