Standing with dapper elegance is the unofficial mayor of Nambour, body tilted slightly to one side leaning on a stylish cane as he tips his top hat in greeting. The old-world gentlemanly charm is a stark contrast in a crowd of bustling people with Covid masks.
by Rebecca Mugridge
Kevin Bryant is an ensconced character of Nambour; every second person seems to greet him in the busy shopping mall. He knows these people. He knows one person has just recovered from surgery and another has been having a tough time.
Local award-winning wearable art artist and photographer Larissa Salton says Kevi is Nambour’s mascot/ mayor.
“He walks from his home in the morning dressed in fine clothing that has been recycled from the local op shops or some of the local seamstresses in town – including me – have created jackets for him.
“He completes this ritual daily, walking into town he pops into the local shops to say hi and has a chat. Kevi is a friendly character who will always greet you with a smile, a handshake or for those he knows well – a hug. He has also been known to hand out a rose or two to the ladies.
“He is an advocate for our town’s annual Retro Rocks Festival, always on the hunt for fundraising. He loves to have a chat with those less fortunate, or with those from higher social ranks, there’s a sense of calmness and town pride that Kevi holds dear.
“I have known him for over 15 years. I have sat and had coffee on the occasion of a hot or rainy day and have seen him walking to or from home and have picked him up for a lift to get out from the elements. He is an all-round fantastic Nambour community member,” Larissa says with great warmth.
Kevin (Kevi) relaxes in his chair as he talks, over a coffee, at local business Café Bella, where he is personally greeted by the staff like an old friend.
“Last year I got a Christmas card from Paul Skelton at Keyline Realty saying happy 30th birthday in your house Kevi! Thirty years. That is the longest I have ever stuck at anything!”
Kevi says moving to Nambour was a life-changing investment.
“I decided one day to stop running amok, just get serious and really do something.” When a chance came to buy in Nambour, he took it.
Although Nambour was initially quite different to the bustling music scene he was used to. “After six o’clock, back in the day, they rolled the footpaths up and unplugged the lights, it was dead, and I thought, ‘this is boring’. But I came for the real estate!
“There is no way I was going to be able to buy a five-bedroom house in Sydney for 57 thousand. I left Sydney because of the rents, and three months after I left, they closed the place down I was working.” Lucky timing, he says.
Nambour’s biggest issue, at the moment according to Kevi, is the rising costs of rents, houses and living. He has enormous compassion for people, for those that find themselves homeless and struggling to get by, and he says we must all remind ourselves, but for one event in any of our lives, any one of us could find ourselves homeless too.
When you ask about the current issues of Nambour, about families that have been here for generations moving away because of the housing crisis, he says it reminds him of what happened in Sydney, people just can’t afford it anymore.
“I know a single mum who was lucky to get into a caravan park. I have friends of mine paying $150 a month just on medication, and they are on a pension. They are not going to the RSL, they are not going out for dinner, they are not playing a game of bowls. Not even going out for a coffee.
“People say, ‘but they own a house’. Yeah, but they are just existing. Times are tough.
“When you are really struggling on the pension, of course you consider going somewhere else and buying something cheaper. At the end of the day, you do have to say to yourself. Do you want to live or exist? And there is a difference.”
Kevi says what really makes Nambour so special is that it is full of good people.
“I know nearly every business owner in this whole town. They are all amazing. It’s a good positive vibe, lots of good people doing good things.
“Last couple of years the shops have been starting to fill out too. There are new businesses moving to Nambour and setting up, and that is good to see.
“Sometimes someone says to me, ‘oh all the shops are empty’. I say not all the shops! Have you walked around lately?
“Leave the car at home and walk around. Go and see. Because they don’t see, they park under the shopping centre, they go to Woollies, Big W and then they go home, they don’t get out and they don’t see anything.
“There is a whole world out there you aren’t even seeing if you just go to Coles and go home.
“Explore the town,” he says proudly, “Go find the new businesses that have sprung up. Say hello. Meet the people.”
Part 2 in October’s issue: Kevi talks about the Australian music scene, his experiences with ACDC band members, Retro Rocks in Nambour with its custom cars, Rockabilly vibe and ‘50s fashion, and making the most of life.