It was a beautiful day and the sun shone. People gathered in anticipation, got their faces painted in a Bowie style and wore Bowie dream catchers around their necks. There was no doubt what this festival was about.
For the last few years in Beckenham, the Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity festival has taken place to try to raise money to ‘save the bandstand’. The bandstand is in desperate need of a makeover and so the festival is one of number of ways to try to save it. For Bowie fans, this is a mecca; a significant setting for the steps of this bandstand is where the beginnings of Life On Mars took shape. Bowie lovers had travelled from throughout the whole of the UK and beyond to attend and support the bandstand festival as well as meet other fans and enjoy the live music.
The music celebrated David Bowie music. It was a celebration reminiscent of the 1969 free festival held at this very bandstand that Bowie performed at. In fact, this year we were lucky to have Keith Christmas performing. He was here at the original 1969 festival (with Bowie) and also used to frequent the Three Tuns where the Arts Lab was held. Keith Christmas is still making new music and is a shining example of what the festival is all about. Other artists also played their own style such as the legendary Philip Rambow, who is no stranger to Bowie crowds as he played support to Holy Holy in 2015 UK tour. Philip gave us a sample of his own unique style of music which fitted the vibe of the festival perfectly.
Some artists chose to play a set of Bowie covers; John J O’Sullivan and his band included rare covers such as Valentine’s Day and Can’t help thinking about me. It was really great to hear such a range of very talented artists with a genuine love of Bowie play to die-hards. In between the acts, Bowie songs blasted out as fans chilled in the summer sunshine. Bowie is accessible to all ages as a young 12-year-old Alfie came on with his guitar and played Space Oddity. It is good to see the love of Bowie in our younger generations. The future of Bowie music is safe in his hands.
The headline act was David Live. He came on almost identical to a Serious Moonlight Bowie and said with conviction, ‘Tonight I am your David Bowie’. With a killer set list, he had the whole crowd on their feet singing along to every track. Fashion had us all looking left and right and classics such as Life On Mars and Heroes had the whole audience on their feet singing at the top of their lungs. Cat People, China Girl and opening with Modern Love gave this act a real 1983 feel. Charlie Fowler who plays Bowie not only sings like him but has many of Bowie’s mannerisms and dance moves. This is a great tribute to Bowie and the crowd obviously loved it.
After the music had finished, Wendy, one of the organisers, took to the mike and said ‘This festival is not only about the bandstand, it’s about bringing the Bowie family together.’ This is so true. David Bowie’s last gift to us was not Blackstar as many believe, it was the gift of new friends – a Bowie family. Wendy went on to thank her brother (who has also passed), without whom she would not be a Bowie fan. Her words were really heartfelt. The show finished with the traditional ‘Memory of a free festival’. After the show, there was an auction to raise a bit more and people bid generously. Over £11, 000 has already been raised but much more is needed to complete all the work that is required.
The whole festival has a really lovely vibe. Strangers chatted to each other and became friends. Kids came along to understand the Bowie love. It really is a family affair. The sun machine came down and oh boy we had a party!
If you want to join the festival next year or help donate to the bandstand or buy a brick:
To buy a brick or make a donation: www.bromley.gov.uk/bowiebandstand
For information about the festival: http://www.bowiebandstandday.com/