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BLOG: Dave lives his best life at punk party send-off

Punk drummer Dave Whatmore was thrilled to be right at the heart of the action when his friends staged a unique farewell gig in his honour.

It’s not often someone gets to attend their own send-off, but the best, and only, seat in the house was reserved for Dave at the punk all-dayer held on last Saturday (14 October) at The Junction pub in Plymouth.

Featuring some of his favourite local bands, and some from farther away, it wasn’t only an epic party that everyone who came will never forget, it also raised more than £2,000 to split between his chosen charities – St Luke’s Hospice Plymouth and Macmillan.

“There’s no point having a party while you’re lying in a coffin, you’ve got to do it before you go,” said Dave, 58, a familiar face on the Plymouth music scene, who has a terminal cancer diagnosis and is being supported at home by St Luke’s.

“We held a ‘sorry to see you go’ charity gig at the Junction on Mutley Plain, a going away party type of thing. It was a nice little tribute and nice to be there and see it, rather than them doing it while I’m dead. A lot of people don’t get that chance.

“I couldn’t have wanted anything better than that. It was great fun and very nice of them to do it. There were so many people there. I sat in my seat with a circle of protectors around me. I knew pretty much everybody there. A lot of people I hadn’t seen for 30 or 40 years. It was so nice to see everyone and for them to actually be able to come and speak to me.”

At the end of April, after an episode of acute chest pain, Dave was told that he had inoperable cancer and that he might not make it to Christmas. He took a little time to digest his prognosis before his punk rebel spirit started to kick in.

“They told me I’m probably not going to see Christmas. My reaction was to buy a ticket for next February to see a band at The Junction,” said Dave, speaking at home in St Judes, surrounded by his faithful dog Poppy, his partner Alice, her two dogs Pinky and Troy, and their little cat.

He acknowledged that it was the support of St Luke’s clinical nurse specialist Debbie Hutchinson that has encouraged and enabled him to keep living in the moment and make the most out of the time he has left, to the best of his ability.

Like many people, Dave had a limited idea of what hospice care means or what to expect from St Luke’s before having a personal connection.

“I didn’t really understand what St Luke’s did and the help and love they give until I met Debbie. I thought hospice care was going in somewhere, being in a bed, shut away and you’re going to die. It isn’t anything like that.

“I get visits at home, and I get what I need to be able to do things for myself. Debbie and St Luke’s are just a phone call away if I need anything, which I have occasionally, and it’s been sorted straight away. They sorted out my medication when I would have been two days without it. Thanks to Debbie I wasn’t. I love that lady, she’s great – like a second mum. It’s a joy that there are people like Debbie and her friends who are willing to look after people and in a worse state than me.

“OK, I’m going to die at some point, but that is going to happen to us all at some time, it’s just going to be a little sooner for me than I anticipated. I’m not going to be down and angry about it. I want to enjoy what time I’ve got left and enjoy my friends because, apparently, they enjoy me.”

Immunotherapy treatment has helped Dave to feel stronger in the short term, harnessing the energy and drive to make special memories.

“I know I’m going to deteriorate; it is going to get worse and worse, but until that point, until I can’t do anything for myself, I’ll keep doing as much as I can,” added Dave, whose favourite bands of all time are Stiff Little Fingers and The Stranglers. He’s been getting out to as many gigs as he can. Just a couple of weeks ago he was able to travel to Torquay to witness PiL, another long-time favourite, in action. He also has his eye on one last outing for his own precious drum kit.

Dave’s connection with the Plymouth music scene goes back four decades. He has played drums with several popular local bands, including Mad Dog McRea in the early 1990s, Bateman and Unusual Stars. Punk is in his blood, and he has been building up a great collection of live videos from gigs he’s attended, sharing them on his YouTube channel (UPK Dave) – including his own farewell party.

Friends initially wanted to take Dave to this year’s Rebellion punk festival in Blackpool. Realising he wasn’t well enough to go they pulled out all the stops to bring the party to him and let him know how much he means to them.

Called A Gig for Spotty – Dave’s nickname inspired by the green-spotted Mohican-haired sidekick of 1980s kids’ TV hero SuperTed – it featured six bands and was organised by his mates Tom Proctor and Kevin and Alison House, with Mickey Byrne and Sweary Mark on guest DJ duties.

“It is really, really lovely. They put it all together in a couple of months. They rang up the bands and they said yes. Cult Maniax from Torrington split up 20 years ago but got back together for this gig, with two original members. We were all together back in the 1980s,” explained Dave, who used to sport his own impressive red Mohican back in the day. “One band came all the way from Blackpool and there was another band from Bristol and the others from Plymouth.”

The full 2-11pm line-up featured Bus Station Loonies, Hellwigs, Wags to Wytches, The Hate, Bad Blood and Cult Maniax.

Co-organiser Kevin House wrote on Facebook: “No words to say how proud we are of absolutely everybody connected with this and I don’t just mean the people that organised, helped, bands, the venue, I mean all of you that came and supported… The party for Dave Whatmore that was the whole reason for this, I hope we did you proud Spotty…”

The last word goes to Dave: “We did this thing, we made some money, and I chose who I wanted it to go to. I’ll be happy if it helps at least one person.”