There are 2 David Toole’s in my life.
There is Dave. Who is my friend. Who is the chap who often works with my wife. Who is quite grumpy. The man who has a taste for champagne and chips. Dave who has to climb out of his wheel chair to get through my kitchen door which means that by the time he sits down at the lunch table Billydog has already snogged his face off.
Then there is Dave Toole. Metaphor Dave. A man who I’ve seen represent something profound even in his simplest action. Dave who sometimes simply by just being somewhere can create meaning, tension, a change of context. This Dave I’ve decided, for the sake of ease, to call HashtagDaveToole.
It was Dave Toole who tweeted the day before the Paralympic Opening Ceremony whilst sat in his hotel room drinking the mini bar’s Moet: “To think in 24 hours all this will be over.” That was Dave Toole. Human sized, Yorkshire flavoured emotions.
Many of you who know me from Twitter were following along on the night the Paralympics Opened. I stood in the cheap seats cheering my Wife along as she smashed the biggest job of her life and stood proud and mighty in front of millions. It is often from the position of cheering Wife on that I get to glimpse HashtagDaveToole in action. It is one of the many honours and perks of being married to Wife.
That night was extraordinary, even more than any of the befores.
He flew. Impossible, legless, beautiful and with a grace that is utterly beyond the ordinary human, HashtagDaveToole flew high above the Olympic Stadium and on to the front pages of every newspaper in the country (apart from the Sun who led with Amanda Holden because they are imagination-less pillocks).
(There was a moment that night when I was certain that everything would change. We know now- having emptied the mini bar and gone home and lived our lives for another 9 months- that the world did change but not all of it got better. The Paralympics did I am certain change hearts and minds but the Government’s carpet bombing of inequality deep in to the fabric of this country has left the Paralympic spirit feeling like something from a bygone time, not last summer. But that’s for another time.)
The next day I bought all the newspapers and sat on the train, whilst wife slept off a life time’s work, day dreaming of what HashtagDaveToole had done for Dave, the ways his life would change.
Given the things I saw in other places it was strange that two weeks later I still hadn’t seen the moment when the city of Leeds- through the Yorkshire Post or the tanned faces of local television- grasped HashtagDaveToole firmly and hoisted him high above the crowds for a rousing rendition of For He’s a Jolly Good Loiner.
Two months later. Nothing. It is strange, I said when I could force the conversation on to the issue, because in Liverpool they’d build a bloody statue of him, and in Manchester he’d have at least done a couple of personal appearances. But not Leeds. Not the city that- no matter how many shiny new shopping centres it opens- can ever quite shake the feeling that whilst they are certain the rest of the country hates them that is as nothing to the hatred they can feel for themselves: we’re dirty dirty Leeds.
Then Wife choreographed the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s christmas show and the Yorkshire Post ran a lovely 3 page article about her, her year and her continuing professional relationship with Canadian born Dave Toole. Canadian Born. Canadian Born.
West Leeds born and with this city pulsing through every slightly downbeat, world-weary, self-deprecating tweet and utterances of his, the newspaper of record in his city gave him to a country of so little identity it’s mostly known for syrup.
So when James Brining at the West Yorkshire Playhouse asked me if I had an idea for a show about Leeds I said yes. Yes I do.
Because of what I’ve just told you. And because any chance to work with Dave Toole should be grabbed with both hands. And because I love this city, but it can drive you mad sometimes. And because I think it’s important when the only noise being made by the powers that be is about a shiny new shopping centre that we try our hardest to explain that in this city we love there are other- more complicated, more brilliant, more beautiful- things to glory in.
The Johnny Eck and Dave Toole show performs on 23rd to 27th April. At the Royal Armouries. In their Tilt Yard. It’s a co-production with the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Details are here http://www.wyp.org.uk/what’s-on/2013/the-johnny-eck-and-dave-toole-show/
It’s been made with some excellent people like Mark Catley, Aisha Khan, Oliver Senton and Loren O’Dair. And Dave Toole. It’s about HashtagDaveToole and Johnny Eck.