Obituary: Penny Tackaberry

Penelope Holt, dramatic and literary agent: born London 9 September 1946; agent, Tessa Sayle Agency 1980-92, partner 1992-1994; married 1965 John Tackaberry (two sons); died London 7 May 1994.

PENNY TACKABERRY was a committed and successful drama agent and literary agent. In her 14 years with the Tessa Sayle Agency, in London, she brought authors such as Geoff McQueen, Stuart Hepburn, Ann Marie Di Mambro, Ayshe Raif and Fred Kerins to the agency, enabled the novels of Mary Wesley to be adapted for the screen, and helped launch the screenwriting careers of novelists such as Ronan Bennett.

Penny Holt was born in 1946 into the film business and liked to say that she was actually delivered in Ealing Studios where her father, Seth Holt, worked as a film director. Her mother, Jenny Holt, worked as a film editor and her uncle Robert Hamer made such British classics as Kind Hearts And Coronets. After attending school at the Lycee Francaise, in South Kensington, Penny went on to the Mountview Theatre School in 1964. In 1965 she married John Tackaberry, whom she had met at the Theatre School's evening classes, and she gave birth to their first son, Christopher, in 1966.

She was accepted for the Bristol Old Vic School for a two-year full- time course on condition that she have no more children during that time. It was proof of her determination that she spent two happy years there, even though she arrived for the first term in September 1968 eight months pregnant with her second son, Antony. Though she showed obvious talent as an actress and did company tours and summer seasons for some years, circumstances prevented her from pursuing her acting career fully. Instead, she enrolled in the North London Polytechnic and gained a degree in English.

It was during this period at the Polytechnic that she met the literary agent Tessa Sayle. The combination of Penny Tackaberry's knowledge of the film and theatre worlds, her natural feel for the English language and her love of the company and concerns of other people made her the ideal person to become an agent and to take over and build up the drama side of the literary agency.

Working with the existing agency writers such as Shelagh Delaney, Robert David MacDonald and Tom Keneally, she added some of her own and helped make the agency's reputation as a well- respected drama as well as literary agency.

In October 1992, after 12 years in the office, she became a partner in the agency. It was an especially cruel blow that she was only able to enjoy her new role for 18 months. But enjoy her time she did. She took enormous pleasure from her work because it was largely dealing with people she liked and cared about. She represented her writers with a fierce pride and loyalty, but at the same time was honest with them. If a piece of work was not up to scratch, she would say so and make the writer do it again until she was sure that the work would do the writer justice.

With stage producers she was tough and insistent, but used her charm to win them round when necessary. She was popular with other agents in the entertainment industry and co-chaired the PMA (Personal Managers' Association) until Tessa Sayle retired last year.

It was typical of her that the considerable pain that she was in did not interfere with her normal life until it had become clear that her condition was very serious indeed.

(Photograph omitted)

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