Ground Control to Major Tom! A bandstand in Beckenham, London, where David Bowie performed soon after the release of his first hit single “Space Oddity”, has been given a Grade II listing. The legendary singer, who played to a small crowd in Croydon Road Recreation Ground on August 16, 1969, is also said to have penned the lyrics to “Life On Mars” on its steps.
Dubbed the Bowie bandstand, it served as the centrepiece of Growth Summer Festival, a one-day festival that the singer helped to organise and performed at 50 years ago today. The event was created to raise money for a permanent base for his Beckenham Arts Lab project, which the artist ran with his landlord-turned-lover, Mary Beckenham. This, in turn, inspired Bowie to write the seven minute song, “Memory of a Free Festival”.
Now, the bandstand is getting a full-on renovation, with costs being met through the local council and fundraising through the annual festival, renamed Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity festival, which celebrates its 50th year on Saturday.
“It is a rare survival from an historic iron foundry in its own right,” said Historic England’s chief executive Duncan Wilson. “But its significance as a site that inspired David Bowie shows us how powerful our historic places can be and how important it is that we protect them so they will continue to inspire people for years to come.”
The organiser of the festival, Wendy Faulkner, said the musician was aware of the fundraising to restore the bandstand before his death in 2016. “In 2013, on his last trip over to the UK, he took his wife and daughter around certain parts of Bromley and London, to places which were special to him. And he came back to the bandstand,” she said. “The listed status was important. His career started to take shape in Beckenham. And he started to write his song “Life on Mars” from the very steps of that bandstand.”
Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity festival takes place at Croydon Road Recreation Ground, London, on August 17.