On 12 February 1014 Jim walked into the water at Coogee Beech … forever. This is a collection of pictures, thoughts and songs, from and for Jim. To loose you is a deep and everlasting sadness. This is a testament to the man we all loved and admired.
11 Mar 2014 / Life Stories
The reason I am here today is to hopefully, shed a little bit of light on what made Jim – JIM.
And when I was thinking about what I would say today, it occurred to
me that I could probably use every adjective in the English language to describe him, and I’d still leave something out.
So under that kind of pressure, I’ll do my best.
Jim was one of 4 kids – and we all grew up in Papua New Guinea. Our parents were both Australian – our dad was a nurse – which was quite unusual for a man in the 1950’s, and our mum was a fiery redhead who came from good convict stock.
In 1954 dad went to PNG as a Medical Officer. Mum who was 8 months pregnant with Jim, and our brother David (who was about 2) followed soon after. For the last part of their journey, mum and David travelled by canoe to Buka Island and Jim was born in a small jungle hospital a few weeks later.
Our father worked in remote areas providing basic healthcare to people living in tiny villages in the middle of nowhere. Our first houses were a bit rough, no running water, no electricity and the walls were made of woven bamboo. We would stay for two or three years in each place and then move on to the next one. Jim and David did all their early schooling via correspondence and short wave radio
We lived in a wild and untouched paradise. Populated by ancient tribes and fierce warriors – It was vibrant and beautiful and dangerous. It was a place of bright colours and dark magic. Everything about it was extreme.
But the thing about growing up in another country, is that sooner or later, you realize it’s not yours. In a very gradual way, you become aware that it is not your place. That your family has a different culture and that you come from somewhere else.
At the age of 12 Jim returned to Australia to go to boarding school – and from that point forward he straddled two very different worlds – modern Australia and ancient PNG.
And I think that’s what made him so observant. Why he paid such close attention to what lies behind the obvious and why so often, he could get to the very heart of the matter.
For Jim, the most lasting and significant aspect of growing up in PNG was his sense of ‘the tribe’, of the ‘village’, of being part of a community that supports and sustains itself. And that was how he felt about the theatre. He often said it was the one place he truly felt at home.
In 1975, Jim was 19 and a pot smoking uni student, working as an asst stage manager at the New Arts theatre in Glebe. I had just turned 11 and I came to Sydney from boarding school to spend a week with him. This was the first time Jim was in charge of looking after me, and for my birthday, he was taking me to see the show he was working on – The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
Now I knew that he lived in a rickety old terrace house with some other students and a dancer or two – and I knew that I would be sleeping rough on the floor and I knew that he was a bit of a hippy – but what I didn’t know was that I was going to be offered my very first joint (which I declined), or that I would be eating the weirdest food I had ever seen, but what I really didn’t know, was that I was about to be transported into a world filled with transvestites and aliens.
But that was life with Jim. He was my window to the world and he showed me just how weird and wonderful that world can be. He showed me just how broad the spectrum really is and, I think he would be very pleased to see the motley crew that’s turned up today.
From jungle drums to the bright lights of the big city and into its’ darker corners too, Jim embraced it all, with open arms, open eyes and an open heart. He gave everything he had and expected everyone else to do the same. There were no half measures and no compromises. He never lacked for courage, and his proud, warrior nature led to many conflicts.
Perhaps he had too many principles – perhaps he defended them too passionately?
But then, Jim was passionate about everything. He loved spectacle, he loved people who took risks, he loved living on the edge, with danger breathing down his neck and he appreciated anything that was beautiful.
He was a bright light with a bit of a dark soul. But that’s what made him interesting. Thank you.
James Arthur Waites
“I promised myself I would try to live an interesting life.”
- James Waites 25, August, 2013
Please join the family and friends of James in celebration of his ever passionate, vibrant and interesting life.
The Theatre Bar at the End of the Wharf
Sydney Theatre Company
Pier 4, Hickson Road, Walsh Bay, NSW, 2000
Sunday 9 March, 2014
‘Let’s keep on dancing and playing the tune.’
James Arthur Waites (06.03.1955 – 12.02.2014)
Arts journalist and writer, mentor to many in the arts community and theatre critic James Waites passed away at Coogee Beach on the morning of the 12th February, aged 58.
James had been suffering from long-term illnesses and had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. With his health in terminal decline, he made the considered decision for his last swim to be at Coogee while he was still in a position to do so.
Jim Waites will be remembered by all who knew him as a deeply compassionate individual who was a Son of Josette and Tom, much-loved brother of David, Frances (dec.) and Tricia, beloved uncle to Kirsten, Christopher and Aiden’ and favourite nephew and cousin to Waites, Heffernan, Jenkins and Craig families.He was a colleague, lover, mentor, teacher and friend of many.
Details of a memorial service will be available on this site and elsewhere from Friday 21st February 2014.
The Australian Arts community have acknowledged his passing on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and print press. Selected links are included at the end of the brief and potted biography that follows. Read the rest of this entry »
Tags: Augusta Supple, Breet Monaghan, Coogee Beach, Currency House, James Waites, Jim Sharman, Les Miserables, memorial, National Times, Parkinsons Disease, Rex Cramphorn, STC, Sydney Morning Herald, Sydney Theatre, Whitney Fitzsimmonds, William Yang