Penny Young

Penny Young did her apprenticeship as a newspaper reporter with the Westminster Press. She later joined the BBC and became news editor for BBC Radio Northampton, leaving in 1991 to freelance for radio, television and the print media, both at home and abroad. She has travelled extensively, particularly in the Middle East, Turkey and eastern Europe. A selection of her journalistic work, including an article on Hasankeyf, is included under FREELANCE LIFE.

Previous published work includes an account of a cycling trip along the Euphrates in Syria for Intrepid Arabia, pub.1999, and the section on the South East of England for The Lefties' Guide to Britain, pub. in 2005 by Politico's.


... It was a pleasant cycle back to Raqqa. There was something magnificent and inspiring about the endless, brown horizon over which those armies marched. Fishing boats bobbed along the river while women hung their washing out to dry against the backdrop of Lake Assad. The school children smiled and waved at me as they ran home to their Bedouin tents and mud houses, their gardens with neat rounded walls of mud built just as the ancient city walls were thousands of years ago ... At the Raqqa museum the next day, I realised how busy the eastern deserts of Syria once were. Every mound seemed to be able to tell a tale, or was a site where whole cities lived, flourished and died, only to be replaced by another ... I fell in love with a little statue of a naked goddess smiling gleefully as she clutched her breasts. The beaming elderly curator, who had materialised from nowhere with the key as I stood in front of the locked museum doors, pointed with relish at an old stone coffin with a ‘dead person’ inside. ‘So shall we be,’ he said.

I embarked on my own rural rides on behalf of the Lefties' Guide, through Berkshire, Surrey, Hampshire, Kent and Sussex with great expectations. My car was crammed with holiday brochures, together with various guide books, Highways and Byways and Arthur Mees, unearthed in second-hand bookshops. Every so often I would pull off the leafy lane or busy motorway to consult them. I was on the trail of desperate peasants in revolt, radical writers and reformers such as William Cobbett, Tom Paine and the handsome Henry 'Orator' Hunt. I was going to track down the country hideaway of the Fabians, Sidney and Beatrice Webb, and the commune of Queenwood, the most ambitious of Robert Owen's 'Villages of Co-operation' or, as Cobbett outrageously called them, 'Mr Owen's Parallelograms of Paupers'. I wanted to find the old haunts and inspiration of socialist writers including HG Wells and George Orwell, take a look at that bastion of privilege, Eton College, which turned out so many early socialists, and to remember what the Aldermarston marches and Greenham Common protest were all about.......