Earlier this month Nottingham lost a son. Pete Davis, master storyteller and reminiscence artist, died on August 4th aged 64 after a seventeen month long battle with cancer.
Pete grew up in the 1950s on the Bestwood estate, an experience he’d later reflect on in his one man show A Nottingham Lad. A fireman for thirty years, he’d engage in the lively banter at Carlton Fire Station but it was after he’d left the service that he fell in love with storytelling, first getting the bug at Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, and then founding The Storytellers of Nottingham group. Pete organised storytelling events at The Trip for over a decade before the group moved to the Nottingham Playhouse and, later, the Broadway Cinema.
Pete and his Nottingham storytellers never received funding for their craft or events, something Pete was proud of. He wanted the group to be self-funding and they achieved this, without ever failing to support local events and groups. Pete worked with the elderly, the mentally ill, and children with special needs, entertaining and enlightening them all with his warmth and wit.
A member of the professional trainers’ association, Pete would teach classes on his approach to storytelling. He held a strong interest in the art of telling tales and over the years encouraged many people to give it a go. Pete’s methods involved using pictures to tell his stories, only these pictures were in his head. He wouldn’t learn a script, preferring to let the pictures lead him through the story. He’d practice, know how the story would begin, the direction it would go, and how he’d end it, only this way he could keep it fresh, making every version a little different from the last. Most of the stories he told were his own creations, influenced by local stories he’d heard or his own experiences of growing up around the city.
“Storytelling is the most subversive art form there is. When all else fails, word of mouth will carry on. Dictators may burn books, but they can’t stop us speaking or imagining. No matter what crap they feed us, someone will always have that quiet word that cuts through to the reality.” **
A regular on BBC Radio Nottingham, Pete was often heard giving an amusing and honest take on local issues, all in his recognisable Nottingham accent.
“Nottingham has its own lovely voice and should not be sent up by the southern-softies who try to do a Midlands accent on the telly. We like a laugh no matter what, so the show is a must-see for anyone who loves this mad city of ours.” **
Often gothic in nature his oral storytelling events were to be seen as much as heard; works of performance that occasionally became plays.
At one time Pete was a regular down Meadow Lane and, more recently, he’d be off watching the Panthers. Sport played a big role in Pete’s life. In his thirties and forties he played squash to a high standard and remained a keen cyclist. But it’s the stories that he’ll be best remembered for. A true Nottingham lad, a great bloke, and an inspiration, Pete will be sorely missed. My thoughts are with his wife Sue.
** Pete's quotes first appeared in an interview he gave to James Walker. Read the full Left Lion article.