The taciturn bushies whom my father worked with in the East Gippsland forests were rarely moved to
lavish praise on others, but when they did, their eloquence knew no bounds.
“He was a good bloke,” they would say with a slight nod of their heads, “Yeah, a bloody good bloke.”
I don’t know what they would have made of Graham Davey, who morphed with aplomb from authentic Santa Claus in red and white, to medieval court jester in purple and yellow, to ‘well rounded’ elf in bright green and a myriad of other outrageously costumed characters, but I think they would have seen past the razzle-dazzle straight to the core of the man and recognised him for what he was: a bloody good bloke.
Graham was a bloke who wore many hats: volunteer President of YABBA (for over twenty years), President of CBCA Victoria Branch, and performance storyteller. He wore all these hats (and more) with deep commitment, generosity and enthusiasm. Graham was a tireless champion of Australian children’s books and passionate about children’s books in general. When I noticed on a blog linked to the John Hancock Theatre Restaurant Reunion that he had nominated Peace at Last by Jill Murphy as his favourite book, I couldn’t help smiling. I have no doubt he loved the book, but I also suspect that in choosing a children’s book he was making a statement about the value of children’s stories.
I knew Graham best as a fellow storyteller. For years our paths crossed at story festivals where we invariably enjoyed a bite to eat or coffee together and occasionally appeared in the same program. Sometimes he was a little slow in packing up and getting off the stage when I was due to follow him. I would joke with the audience as I waited that Graham always tried to hog the stage. However, that was far, far from the truth. Graham Davey was always supportive of other artists and extraordinarily generous to fellow storytellers by promoting them whenever possible and including them in events that he organised for the CBCA or YABBA.
As a storyteller he captivated his audience with laidback ease. I first saw him ‘wearing’ his storytelling hat at a book fair. He was telling a simple story to a young audience about a child stealing a biscuit from a cookie jar high up on a shelf. Graham’s ability to paint pictures with words was such that every child in the audience had their eyes directed upward to the imaginary jar on the imaginary shelf. His skilful pacing of the story held his audience in the grip of suspense until the final moment.
Sadly, Graham’s final moment came on April 11, 2013. Perhaps it was a storyteller who said: Life is a search for the peace we once had in the safety of the womb. That search is over for Graham Davey who has found ‘peace at last’.
JB and Graham at the Storytelling Australia (Vic) AGM 2012