Friends and fellow activists remember Penny Bright as ‘fighter for justice’.

St Matthew-in-the-City was turned into the "pop-up revolutionary headquarters" for the funeral of activist Penny Bright, who was remembered as many things by many people today.

She was a selfless, headstrong champion for good over evil and right over wrong, said Verity George, who once wrote a play about Bright and directed the service.

"Penny will be acknowledged as one of the most wonderfully strong women in New Zealand history," said one of many women who spoke during the two-and-a-half celebration of her life.

I used to say to her most days, 'Penny, did I tell you I love you today' and we would just have a quick hug and acknowledge each other

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The Anglican Church, the spiritual home of the socially marginalised in Auckland, was filled with her activist friends, people who got arrested alongside her, victims of National and Labour Governments' housing policies in Glen Innes, and many Maori and Pasifika people. Tame Iti and Hone Harawira were there to say goodbye.

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Her brother, Whiz, recounted growing up on a small farm in the Wairarapa with a bossy older sister who grew into a polarising character who had plenty of reasons to be proud of herself. Sisters Jenny and Pam were at the funeral.

Bright's simple plywood coffin was carried into the central city church under a guard of honour of streamers in her favourite colours - black, red and white - to a karakia and the Monty Python song Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.

Above the coffin was a large photograph of Penny Bright smiling under a sunny blue sky.

Penny Bright's partner of 13 years, Julian(right) was among the pall bearers to carry her coffin from St Matthew-in-the-City today.
Penny Bright's partner of 13 years, Julian(right) was among the pall bearers to carry her coffin from St Matthew-in-the-City today.

A handwritten message on the end of the coffin read "Thanks. Yippee I Lived" before being covered with anti-Super City banners of the self-styled anti-corruption campaigner who died on October 4.

Many of Bright's hand-written and stencilled protest and election banners hung inside the church and a photographic montage of her life was played to The Doors' Riders on the Storm.

Close friend and fellow activist Lisa Prager called Bright a fighter for truth and justice who had taught her to have the strength to do what is right.

United union national director Mike Tren said Bright could drive you mad but was on the side of the people, the oppressed and the disenfranchised.

Tame Iti signs Penny Bright's coffin at her funeral today. Photo / Doug Sherring
Tame Iti signs Penny Bright's coffin at her funeral today. Photo / Doug Sherring

Auckland University professor Jane Kelsey, a prominent critic of globalisation who has known Bright for 40 years, said she was "fearless and she had impact and she did shit work that other people weren't prepared to do".

Midway through the service The Beatles' song Revolution belted out on the speaker system, and people sang and danced, including the audio operator who joined in by rocking around a large stone column.

Jim Gladwin, a founding member of the Water Pressure Group and former partner of Bright, said she was an initiator, a magnet and had a lot of guts.

When Labour came to power in 1984, Gladwin said, Bright was among those who saw the new Government was a complete ruse and within three months she was protesting outside David Lange's house in Mangere.

Her partner of 13 years, who simply goes by the name Julian, called Bright "a hard-working, diligent soul that gave everything her best".

"I used to say to her most days, 'Penny, did I tell you I love you today' and we would just have a quick hug and acknowledge each other," he said.

Penny Bright with one of the many banners that hung at St Matthew-in-the-city at her funeral today.
Penny Bright with one of the many banners that hung at St Matthew-in-the-city at her funeral today.

Julian produced a "valuable tool" in the form of a small axe Bright carried with her and put it on her coffin for anyone brave enough to pick up and carry on her work.

"Good luck to you."

Julian closed the service by saying Bright died in a hospice, a place she did not need to die.

As a legacy to Bright, he is planning to set up a respite clinic for people to focus on hope and living life more abundantly before they want to go.