Harpenden women take a cheeky stand against #furcoatnoknickers

On Saturday 11 May, eleven seemingly ordinary Harpenden women shook out their faux furs, slipped on their sexiest heels, fluffed out their hair, brightened their lippy and took up their positions for a Vanity Fair style photo shoot for pennybird and camera. Each of them career women, nearly all of them mothers - even a grandmother. Funny, vivacious and courageous - with depth of character, varied interests and passions - their ages spanning five decades. The only thing slightly amiss about this lineup is that they are wearing nothing beneath their coats.

Congratulations to these genuine, gutsy women, ranging in age from 69 to 25, who have demonstrated that Harpenden women are the full monty: gorgeous  and  women of substance.

Congratulations to these genuine, gutsy women, ranging in age from 69 to 25, who have demonstrated that Harpenden women are the full monty: gorgeous and women of substance.

the story in brief - or briefs?

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine mentioned that Harpenden women were occasionally referred to as “fur coats and no knickers”.

The term was new to me, so I consulted Google, and came up with this definition:

“Have an impressive or sophisticated appearance which belies the fact that there is nothing to substantiate it.”

‘the government's policies are all fur coat and no knickers’ (lol!)


Not me.

And not the women I have met. Time for a bold statement.

My creative juices started working overtime - I was thinking a group portrait, faux fur, pearls and heels, and some leggy ladies who couldn’t bare being coated with this brush!

I published the request on my Harpenden through the lens Facebook group and crossed my fingers. The response was immediate and hugely positive - I had a dozen volunteers within 24 hours - there is nothing wallflower-ish about Harpenden women. Thrilled, I got straight to work organising the models. After a flurry of activity involving hair, makeup, posing and accessories, we were all set for the shoot date.


the vanity fair style shoot

This began, rather fittingly, with the popping of Prosecco corks. A dose of Dutch courage was needed to remove all underwear before the models took up their positions. And, with a saucy twist, the ladies decided to spice things up by insisting that I do the shoot without my knickers as a mark of solidarity. (Well, in for a penny…).

The eleven models were grouped and photographed in three separate images which I combined into the finished composite. My inspiration is from the famous Vanity Fair Hollywood Covers - which have been published since 1995.

When I was researching Vanity Fair, I came across this quote from William Makepeace Thackeray, author of the novel of the same name, which I found very apt:

“Good humour may be said to be one of the very best articles of dress one can wear in society.”

To thank these extraordinary women for their good humour and participation in my project, they each received a fine art print of the portrait - which I hope will make them smile secretly to themselves every time they glimpse it.

baring all

As always, I love the stories my clients bring to my studio, as they add texture and meaning to their portraits. So I asked the models if they were willing to share their motivations for taking part in my latest project - and here are some of the lovely contributions I received.


to celebrate strong women…

This is a fabulous way to celebrate strong women across all generations. The lady I bought my fake fur coat from told me it had belonged to her late Grandmother - Madeleine - who would definitely have approved of the shoot!

Kate Cherry


don’t judge a book by it’s cover…

I was excited to take part in this project because it’s important to remember the truth about not judging a book by its cover. There is so much more to women than meets the eye. The women of Harpenden (as elsewhere) are women of substance; friends, mothers, lovers, daughters, sisters, professionals - experts in many fields from domesticity to hedonism. We are fighters and achievers, have depth, humility, hunger, brains and brawn, and yes, love a (fake) fur and, as for the knickers? Well, that’s our little secret!

Kathryn Cooney


because i could…

Why did I want to take part? Three words. Because I could. It’s as simple and complex as that.

Lynnelle Robinson


opportunities to grow in confidence are rare…

I was given many reasons why I shouldn’t do the shoot, but opportunities to grow in confidence are so rare that I did it. And I don’t regret it.

Catherine Neil


we are set apart by the crazy things we do…

Anita Lindop


I wink at challenges…

I took part in #furcoatnoknickers because I am a strong woman who takes a look at challenges, and gives them a wink!

Maria Wakeling


laughter is wine for the soul…

I love an adventure and a project and Penny’s latest idea was a great opportunity to be part of a local community collaboration.

My passion is having fun and spreading kindness and happiness. Life needs to be full of joy and slightly off the wall experiences either alone, or with friends and family.

The #furcoatnoknickers project was great fun with lots of laughter and was definitely wine for my soul!

Danielle Jelfs


i felt liberated and VULNERABLE at the same time…

As a coach I’m always encouraging clients to step outside their comfort zones and do things they have never done before. What better way to do that myself than take part in a photoshoot in only a fur coat? The sensation of my naked derriere perched on the wooden stool was definitely new to me, making me feel liberated, but very vulnerable too - interestingly much more than my coat-clad appearance shows!

Jenny Goodhand

About my photographic projects

Harpenden, Hertfordshire has been my base for almost 15 years. I began my photographic journey five years ago and collaborate with the locals every year to showcase some of the unique character of the town. Projects I’ve completed include Harpenden Doors, Harpenden Shoes, Harpenden Letters and Harpenden Reds. These can be viewed online or at my home studio in Ox Lane, by appointment.

I also run #SHEINSPIRES during international Women’s Month each year to recognise Harpenden women in our midst who inspire others. I believe it’s vital to stop and appreciate the people around us and to say thank you in some way for their efforts, even if it’s a virtual hug. These shining people - with their strength of spirit - spur us on to make a greater difference in our own lives.

If you would like to be involved in future projects, or have an idea for a project, please join my Facebook group Harpenden through the lens.

An evening of inspiration...

Harpenden is a unique place. It is filled with incredible people who do inspirational things for their fellow human beings every day. #sheinspires is about recognising these acts, saying thank you and reflecting on the ripple effect of these actions.

Park Café was the stunning setting for a wonderfully uplifting evening of inspiration in Harpenden last night. Guests gathered to show their gratitude and appreciation to winner of #sheinspires2019 Emily Ketchin, aka ‘the voice of Harpenden’ for her incredible and enduring campaign to improve the train service for Harpenden commuters over the past year. The beautiful mother of two is humble about being seen as an ‘absolute warrior’ and a ‘true Harpenden hero’ but she continues to juggle her family and a demanding job in the city to prioritise the campaign she is passionate about.

Giles Croot spoke about some of the milestones of Emily’s remarkable journey, such as her leading the most supported petition in the St Alban’s council’s history requesting that the council take effective action; being the only passenger to give oral evidence to the transport select committee in the Houses of Parliament; and taking the campaign to BBC, ITV, Channel Four & Five and Sky News.

He said the evening was a good opportunity to reflect on the impact Emily and the people of Harpenden had made so far. Adding:

“We will keep up the pressure on Thameslink to fix the problem they created.”

Emily took the opportunity to thank everyone for their support, saying that there is still much to do, but steady progress is being made.

“The impact of Thameslink’s decision to reduce Harpenden trains by 30% without consultation has had a hugely adverse effect not only on commuters and their places of work, but on our support network of family and local business - it’s been a personal and financial blow for everyone and is not acceptable.”

It has been such an honour to meet and work with Emily over the last few weeks. She is an amazing inspiration to me and all the people around her.

I was also thrilled to be able to applaud the other nominees Kim Brougham, Mary Maynard and Esther Hathorn for their inspirational work - and many thanks for Elly Downes for representing her legend of a grandmother Judy Fryd CBE.

Janet Crawley, winner of #sheinspires2018 was also at the event to wish this year’s nominees well.

Over the last three weeks I have been frequenting Harpenden station to try and capture images that reflect the plight of the Harpenden commuters and Emily’s incredible endeavours to improve our train service. The images were displayed for guests to view. Many thanks to all the lovely commuters for their patience during this time - I really hope the images go some way towards telling your story.

Special thanks to Isaac Kenyon for being my wingman at the event.

she inspires

We do not need magic to change the world, we carry all the power we need inside ourselves already. We have the power to imagine better. JK Rowling.

You know her. She has courage. Deep gratitude for our world, her life, and the people around her. She listens with empathy. She loves openly and unconditionally. She is authentic. Utterly trustworthy. Deeply passionate about the things that matter to her, particularly her calling in life. Her positivity shines from every pore. She has faced adversity, but uses her past struggles to help and develop others.

She is humble.

She inspires.

Janet Crawley was voted the most inspirational woman in Harpenden in 2018. Here she is pictured at St Matthews care home in Redbourn with one of her beloved dementia residents.

Janet Crawley was voted the most inspirational woman in Harpenden in 2018. Here she is pictured at St Matthews care home in Redbourn with one of her beloved dementia residents.

To celebrate International Women’s Day on 8 March 2019, let’s recognise these amazing women in our midst. We know who they are.

nominate here, then vote on facebook!

Celebrate the most inspirational woman in your life. (The only requirement is that she lives in Harpenden.) First complete the nomination form and submit it. Then visit my FaceBook Group Harpenden through the lens (sorry you will need to join it - I’ve tried to find an easier way to do this - without success!) add the person’s name to the poll, and vote for her.

Closing date: Sunday 31 March 2019 - the winner will be announced on Mother’s Day. The award is a portrait session with pennybird and camera, reportage style, showcasing and recognising the contribution the person makes to the Harpenden community. (Please see last year’s award here.)

Your name *
Your name

Thank you! Now visit my FaceBook Group Harpenden through the lens and vote in the poll.