“Hi, my name is Penny Melville-Brown and I’m from Hampshire in the UK. Life became a misery when blindness ended my career in the Royal Navy, but over the last 18 years I’ve put my energy in to helping other people with disabilities to get back to work.
“I’ve launched Baking Blind, to show that disability needn’t limit our ambitions or capabilities – and the Comic Relief episode reveals the fun side too! As a result, I was invited to enter the inaugural Holman Prize competition.
“My short video bid has taken me to the semi-finals (along with two others from the UK and people from around the globe).”
Penny Melville-Brown was announced one of the three winners of the brand new award, the Holman Prize for Blind Ambition on the 29th June 2017.
“While food is a mainstay across the media and popular culture, it is almost impossible to find any inclusion of visually impaired people,” Penny says. With her Holman Prize project, Penny hopes to change that.
With the $25,000 Holman Prize, Penny will travel to Costa Rica, Malawi, Australia, China and the United States, all over the course of a year. Along the way, she will meet chefs, teach blind people and community leaders the techniques and panache of blind baking, and film these encounters to ensure that people change their assumptions about the capabilities of blind chefs. Equal parts travelogue and instructional video series, Penny’s video blog will teach all of us, sighted or otherwise, something new about the art of cooking.
Penny also has a special connection with the namesake of the Holman Prize, James Holman, a 19th Century world traveller known as the first blind man to circumnavigate the globe. Both became blind while serving in the British Royal Navy (albeit nearly 200 years apart). Now, like Holman, Penny will take off around the world, crossing multiple continents to teach others about the capabilities of those with disabilities.
Penny is one of three inaugural winners of the Holman Prize. Her fellow prize winners, Ahmet Ustunel and Ojok Simon, hail from the US and Uganda respectively, and also have ambitious adventures planned over a range of geographies and subjects. Ustunel is planning a solo kayak journey from Europe to Asia, while Simon is planning to build out a blind-led social enterprise for beekeepers in Uganda. They will all meet at the Lighthouse in San Francisco in September.
Penny began hosting and producing regular video segments this year for a program she calls “Baking Blind”. She takes pride in her collaborations, which will only grow with the help of The Holman Prize. A YouTube original, she can be seen in her videos making everything from apple tarts to lamb tajines and quail eggs in soy sauce.
Below is one of Penny’s cooking videos where she makes individual chicken and mushroom pies: