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Behind the Scenes: Penny Hawley on organising the Sir Harry Evans Global Summit

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In this edition we find out more about Penny Hawley, Senior Programme Manager in Development and Alumni Relations.

Prior to joining the University, Penny was Director General of the Biscuit Cake Chocolate and Confectionery Association. In 2015 she joined our Business School as Alumni Manager, helping to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the School.

Since November 2022, Penny has been on secondment as Senior Programme Manager for the Sir Harry Evans Memorial Fund.

The Sir Harry Evans Memorial Fund is a landmark partnership between Tina Brown CBE and her family, Reuters and Durham University. It has established a prestigious Fellowship in investigative journalism and an annual Summit attracting global leaders across media, broadcasting, investigative journalism, and related disciplines to celebrate Sir Harry’s legendary commitment to rigorous reporting as well as showcasing his legacy in the transformative power of great reporting today.

Truth Tellers, the first Sir Harry Evans Global Summit in Investigative Journalism, took place on Wednesday 10 May 2023. Penny worked with over 60 colleagues from across the University and a team of 50 freelancers to create the inaugural event

Here Penny tells us about the day of the summit.

6.30am: The Travelodge fails to open the restaurant early for the technical team to have breakfast – cue an emergency trip to Pret A Manger to keep everyone happy.

7am: Onsite at Royal Institute of British Architects in London to check the security and production teams are in place and running smoothly.

8.30am: Our Vice-Chancellor arrives. I make sure she is familiar with the venue, has her microphone and then leave her in the green room to talk to radio presenter James Naughtie about his time as Chancellor of the University of Stirling.

9.15am: Queues build as hundreds of invited journalists and other guests arrive. I track down a speaker’s lost phone to Amol Rajan in the green room.

9.50am: Opening speeches from all partners. The Vice-Chancellor’s line “If great journalists are the truth tellers, universities are surely truth keepers” highlights our social mission.

10.40am: There is little doubt about the personal cost of investigative journalism to many of the speakers. Journalist and author Annabel Hernandez describes deciding to leave her home in Mexico when a gun is held to the head of her seven-year-old neighbour.

1.20pm: After the morning sessions including speakers from The New York Times, The Guardian and The Financial Times I sit down to have some lunch, only to realise it is time to make sure our colleagues are ready to launch the search for the 2024 Sir Harry Evans Fellow.

2.45pm: I catch a harrowing session about Iran’s War on Journalists on the monitors and try not to cry hearing Masih Alinejad singing as the voice of silenced Iranian journalists or Paul Caruana Galizia describing the murder of his mother Daphne.

3.30pm: grab a quick selfie with David Walmsley, editor-in-chief of the Canadian newspaper The Globe and Mail on the way back from tea and make sure we have a photograph of the partners in the Sir Harry Evans Fund together.

6pm: Find her lost phone for Emily Maitlis.

6.30pm: Watch Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein describe to Emily Maitlis what makes a great investigative journalist and Sir Simon Schama on why the legacy of Sir Harry matters from the green room.

8.30pm: Say goodbye to the freelance team from the US and London who I have worked with over five months to make the Summit come together.

9pm: Finally done and catch up with my colleagues for something to eat in a pub near Kings Cross.

What do you enjoy about your role?

It reminds me that the work we do in Durham can make a lasting difference. When Harry Evans arrived at Durham University in 1949, he was the son of a train driver and shopkeeper from Lancashire. As editor of the Northern Echo and Sunday Times he went on to campaign to end the death penalty, to introduce cervical screening and for victims of thalidomide to receive decent compensation.

What are you most proud of?

As alumni manager in the Business School, I met all our new postgraduates to confirm our relationship with them is life-long and the success of our work will be judged in their achievements as alumni. This secondment has been an opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to that ethos.

What’s the best bit of advice you have been given and that you would give?

I used to run the confectionery trade association. When I left, Gharry Eccles, then the Managing Director of Wrigley’s, advised me to always look for a job where there’s something to learn. 

The advice I would give is to put the effort into working with people who approach things differently to you: while it might take longer to begin with, if you can find common ground, your work will be stronger for it.

How do you look after your mental health?

My friends help me keep things in perspective.

What is your favourite food?


Where has been your best holiday?

My husband worked on projects in East Africa. I’ve loved visiting Kenya and Tanzania with him, especially the trip to Tanzania when he asked me to marry him.

What are your hobbies?

I enjoy drawing and attend a weekly workshop with an artist called Jenny Purrett.

Do you have any pets?

I have a very naughty beagle, a cute cockapoo and six black and white hens.

Zack and Rolo
Zack and Rolo



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