Let’s put the band(stand) back together: David Bowie backs concert to save Beckenham's rock landmark
“It was ragged and naive/ It was heaven,” sang David Bowie in a hymn to the free rock festival he staged in the unlikely location of Beckenham on the same weekend as Woodstock.
Now rock’s most elusive star has rushed to the rescue of the dilapidated bandstand under which he strummed at that performance 44 years ago.
In mid-1969, Bowie was an aspiring – but broke – psychedelic folk singer who played pub gigs in and around the south-east London suburb of Bromley, where he had grown up and gone on to study art and music at Bromley Technical High School.
On 16 August, while 500,000 hippies were converging on Woodstock in the US, Bowie organised a concert at Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham, designed to encourage donations for his free-thinking Beckenham Arts Lab. Bowie, who played tunes which would soon appear on his Space Oddity album, later immortalised the experience on his 1970 single “Memory of a Free Festival”.
While Bowie used Beckenham as a launch pad to fame, the bandstand has fared less well. A Bowie fan from Russia who moved to Beckenham and discovered that the location has fallen into disrepair, is staging a second concert next Sunday to raise funds to return the stage to its former glory.
Bowie, who has turned down all offers to play live since the success of his surprise comeback album The Next Day, is not expected to return to Beckenham. But the star has sent signed albums which will be raffled and sold in an auction for the cause.
The Memory of a Free Festival concert features Amory Kane, a US folk musician who performed at the 1969 show, a Bowie tribute band and young bands inspired by rock’s great chameleon.
Natasha Ryzhova Lau, the concert organiser, said: “We’re very grateful for David Bowie’s generosity in supporting our event. We want to celebrate [his] time in Beckenham but our most important objective is to rescue the bandstand, which is part of Beckenham’s heritage and urgently needs repairs. It is totally dilapidated but cannot be restored with funding from the public purse.”
The bandstand’s coronet is extensively corroded and repairs to rotten roof timberwork, roof coverings and ironwork are urgently required.
On this occasion, the organisers are charging a £5 entrance fee to cover expenses. The 1969 event, attended by 3,000 fans, raised £200, with Bowie’s soon-to-be-wife, Angie, selling hamburgers cooked in a wheelbarrow.
Bowie played solo despite the death of his father just days before.
GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival
TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride
FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head
Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treattv
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 'Cheeky' Nando's under fire for apparently coming onto a customer on Twitter
- 2 Playboy model April Summers speaks out about being a victim of revenge porn
- 3 There is something wrong but very right about this Bible illustration
- 4 iPhone 'effective power' text: how to be safe from iOS bug that lets people crash your phone
- 5 Man jumps into bear pen at zoo, fights bear and loses
Jay Z's Tidal could be about to lose Beyonce's music in ultimate humiliation
Royal Academy of Arts' Tim Marlow: Bronze statue of lovers embracing at St Pancras station is a lesson in 'how not to do' public art
Britain's Hardest Grafter: Petition set up as Twitter reacts to BBC 'poverty porn' series pitting low-paid workers against each other
Britain's Got Talent 2015: Jamie Raven divides Twitter as fans expose mind-boggling magic trick
Big Brother contestant Aaron Frew removed from house for 'inappropriate behaviour' after flashing fellow contestants
EU referendum: David Cameron's rules are a 'democratic disgrace', says French-born Scottish politician set to be denied a vote
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
SNP fury as HS2 finds 'no business case' for taking fast train service to Scotland
A nation of inequality: How the UK is failing to feed its most vulnerable people
Australian man punched in the face for defending Muslim women from abuse on train
EU referendum: David Cameron to deny EU migrants and under-18s the chance to vote