A Tribute To Dave Toole

Dave Toole smiling brightly, leaning on a wheelchair with his head resting on his hand. Black background and white text at the left top corner of the image that reads:

A statement from Diverse City, written by Claire Hodgson.

We are deeply saddened to hear of Dave Toole ’s death.  He was a brilliant artist, collaborator and friend. He supported us, performed with us and worked with our youth company Extraordinary Bodies Young Artists to develop young disabled artists. The impact he made during his lifetime was enormous. He was a beautiful dancer, damn good actor and a lovely loyal friend. As Dave Young, artist and former member of our youth company, said this weekend: “He was a legend and my hero”. 

I first met Dave at his house at a DV8 show after-party.  Dave and my brother, Tom Hodgson, were both in ‘The Cost of Living’ and touring the UK.  It was a great, optimistic time. Tom and Dave often talked football (Chelsea and Liverpool FC) and when they eventually stopped, I would chip in. Tom met his wife Kareena Oates on that tour (the beautiful brainy hula-hooping woman in ‘The Cost of Living’) – and Dave’s and our lives began to intertwine. I stole Dave off my brother as a mate, and he supported my brother as he made a new life with Kareena.

Later when Kareena and Tom had their children Jimmy and Elvie, Dave would travel down to see them every time they came to the UK from Australia. Dave could make children cry with laughter. I can see Dave running up and down on his hands the length of the hallway of my Nan’s flat chasing our small kids. Dave loved his own family very much and always talked about them. Our love and thoughts are with his sister, nephew and niece.

All I can think about is Dave’s kindness. He helped me to get so many things off the ground by being there at the start. He worked with Extraordinary Bodies Young Artists when I was just back off maternity leave, and we made a dance piece about football. He was in the first Diverse City show, ‘Strange Cargo’, with Jamie Beddard, where another actor gave birth to him onstage in a full adult-sized baby bonnet. He came in at the beginning of our Olympics show for the Sailing Events and developed ideas with our cast of young disabled people. He was in the very first Extraordinary Bodies Circus show, ‘Weighting’. He helped me to get started on big dreams. After yet another day of chasing down a caretaker, to switch on the heating in a dismal hall somewhere, and another weird training job where people had no intention of making changes to their organisation, I said, “Why do you always say ‘yes’ Dave?”. He replied, “Because I like working with you Hodgson”. He gave me confidence in my own instincts even when the glamour was in very short supply. Like me Dave was happy doing the amusements and eating fish and chips on the seafront at Bournemouth. He knew life was at its best when we mix the extraordinary with the ordinary. 

Dave talked to me about his work and his friends in Stopgap, Slung Low and Graeae. Through him I felt connected to all those amazing shows. We will all always remember the moment when he flew across the Stadium reaching out towards Nickie Wildin’s Miranda. The Paralympics Opening Ceremony is always playing in my head as an example of how we could be living. My sister-in-law, Kareena, gave me a beautiful list of ‘things’ we must remember about Dave: “His kindness, His charisma, His jokes, the fact he was funny ‘AF’, His loyalty to friends”. He was an enormous talent, but also an enormous hearted human being. He was properly political. Never sweating the small stuff but showing exactly how the government we have impacts people’s lives. Dave documented this for us, revealing all of himself. 

In my mind’s eye, I am in the car with Dave driving chatting away. We are going to pick up Jamie for a rehearsal. We will get to a hall where no one has put the heating on. Again. But Dave will have a strong black coffee, make me laugh and we will have a brilliant day. Again. 


A tribute to Dave Toole written by Claire Hodgson, Co-Artistic Director Diverse City