The Argus XXI

James Stokes

Jimbo Stokes: a man of many talents

After years in the city, a country boy returns to enjoy a new creative life in Scone.

Words Victoria Carey.
Photography Nicola Sevitt.
‘Atlas’ Video Producer Stephanie Hunter.
With thanks to Jimbo Stokes.

The baby sits in a highchair in a grainy home video that flickers across the screen. Off camera, a woman can be heard saying “he’s been such a good boy. He’s the best little bloke, such a good little person.”

The loving mother is a well-respected rural GP called Bronwyn Stokes. Her young family are gathered around a table and it’s a scene typically seen in many households throughout Australia. Nothing unusual here you might say. Except that the clip is part of the opening sequence for the music video released earlier this year by Dr Stokes’s youngest son Jimbo, in memory of his mother who died of ovarian cancer in November, 2016. 

Awarded an Order of Australia Medal for her services to regional medicine, “Bronnie” made sure her three children – Jimbo has an older brother Charlie, an engineer, and a sister Hester, who is also a doctor like their mother — all learnt to play an instrument.

“Dad was heavy on sport, so I think she was very aware that she may need to balance that, even though I can only remember hearing her play the piano once when I was a kid,” says Jimbo fondly. “But she wanted us to have that in our lives. Mum really drilled it into us.”

It’s a song that has touched the hearts of many, including Grace Brennan, founder of Buy from The Bush. “We first got in touch with Jimbo when we were doing our ‘gift for those in lockdown’ series. Talented people were sending in pieces of music, songs, bush poetry to offer a moment’s escape from lockdown. It was a way of the bush returning the love to the city when they needed it. He sent us a song and we shared it,” explains the Warren-based 2021 NSW Regional Woman of the Year. “When it came to launching Atlas, I asked him to send me the film. We watched it in the office and ended up with tears rolling down our cheeks and scrambling for tissues. Such a beautiful story told so well.”

But the path to country music was not always a straightforward one for Jimbo, who originally trained as an opera singer. Christine Douglas, a very talented soprano and one of Australia’s leading singing teachers, taught him in Sydney for a few years. “I’m so delighted for him that he’s found his niche,” she says about the launch of Atlas. “He came to me for classical singing, but after a while I asked him to bring his guitar to a lesson. He showed me what he was doing at home, at which point I told him that’s where he should be heading. I think he must have known that inside all along.”

After starting out life on a sheep and cattle station near Tamworth and then moving to another property called Cullingral at Merriwa when he was 12, Jimbo could have simply sought a life on the land after leaving school. “Was there an expectation that I would go onto a farm? No, not really. Mum was a doctor. They both encouraged us to get a career outside of farming. With six children [Jimbo has three older siblings from his father’s first marriage], they saw life on the land as a luxury, a nice thing to do, and they also saw it as a massive risk to put all your eggs in one basket,” he explains.

Consequently, Jimbo worked for several years in the corporate world after graduating with a Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Economics from The University of Sydney.

But the call of country life soon proved to be too strong to resist and COVID-19 only accelerated it.

“I was working from home as a management consultant and I had a bit of time in between meetings, so I bought a guitar and started playing. It was the first time I had played consistently since I was 11 or 12 years old,” he says.

He began to write Atlas, a song about his mother, and he also picked up a pencil alongside the guitar and began to sketch portraits which he posted on Instagram. The orders for his drawings began to roll in, giving him enough confidence to quit his job and move to Scone, where a few of his childhood friends were already living — many of them playing for the Scone Brumbies Rugby Club.

“It’s the anchor of the town, the rugby club. And it’s a good crowd, there are two grades in the men’s, they have a women’s team, and the juniors are very strong. A lot of Scone juniors have gone on and played for the Wallabies,” he says.

Today, his brave move has clearly paid off and Jimbo is working for Michael Reid Galleries as a manager, based at the nearby Murrurundi gallery.

“I realised I needed a creative outlet and that I much preferred to be living in the country,” he says. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Jimbo’s latest work is part of the New Crop exhibition at Michael Reid Murrurundi which is on from October 13–19, 2022.

Jimbo’s Address Book

1. The Cottage. This well-known restaurant’s reputation has made it a dining destination over the years for out-of-towners, but locals also love to meet here on weekends for a casual breakfast. “I’m a sucker for a morning coffee at a cafe. Saturday morning is generally the time when our household has no commitments, so it has become a bit of a ritual to head down to The Cottage for a pre rugby breakfast,” says Jimbo. “At night it’s obviously a top-class restaurant, but in the morning it has a nice, relaxed atmosphere.”

196 Kelly Street, Scone NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 1215.

2. Scone Golf Club. A quick round at this new nine-hole golf course is one of the reasons living in Scone is so attractive to Jimbo.

Aberdeen Street, Scone NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 1814.

3. Belmore Hotel. This historic pub on the main street of Scone first opened its doors in 1866 and is only a short walk from Jimbo’s home in Scone. A great bar menu and trivia is on every Wednesday at 7pm. “It’s tradition to head there after a game and Thursday night training,” says Jimbo.

96-98 Kelly Street, Scone NSW. Telephone (02) 7209 5477.

4. Linga Longa Inn.  A 15 minute drive out of Scone, this pub on the banks of the beautiful Pages River is a favourite of Jimbo’s. “A great Sunday destination for lunch and a few drinks,” he says.

2 Riley Street, Gundy NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 8121.

5. The Thoroughbred. This distinctive building is on the corner on the right hand side of Kelly Street as you come into Scone from Sydney. “We go to The Belmore for a beer and The Thoroughbred for a steak,” says Jimbo. “They have one of the best 800g rib eye steaks I’ve ever had.”

222 Kelly Street, Scone NSW. Telephone (02) 6545 3669.

James teamed up with 3 x CMAA Producer of the Year Rob McCormack on his debut single, ‘Atlas’, which dropped on August 18th this year.

Watch the entire thing below.

Music video: @_stephaniehunter

Album cover: @chelseasburke

Victoria Carey

"I listened to Atlas several times during the production of this story and it's a song that really does stay with you," says our editorial director. "Congratulations Jimbo."

Nicola Sevitt

This Sydney-based photographer enjoying spending an afternoon in Scone to shoot this story. "The local football clubhouse was a glimpse from the past. I loved all the dark panelling and trophies," she says.

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