Bowie’s Bandstand and Paxton’s Palace

Bowie’s Bandstand and Paxton’s Palace

Bowie’s iron Bandstand was built in Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham  at the end of of the 19th Century. For 120 years it has been the centre of attraction of the park, the venue for all major public events.

In 1854 Paxton rebuilt the Crystal Palace on top of the hill covered by the Great North Wood in South London on what is now Bromley Council’s Crystal Palace Park. At that time the area covered by the park was 2/3rds in Penge and 1/3rd in Beckenham. The new and greatly redesigned and extended palace and grounds cost almost twice that of the 1851 original in Hyde Park (£1,300k v. £150k)

To oversee the construction of his new iron and glass palace, Paxton had moved into Rockhills (1852 to 1865) an elegant Georgian building with views across the park extending to Vale of Beckenham. After just 84 years Paxton’s iron Palace was destroyed by a mysterious fire in 1936.

By that time iron which had been used in most major buildings and products of the British Empire, had been replaced by steel products by the visionary inventor Sir Henry Bessemer. Henry’s grandson Henry William lived for many years in a 17 room mansion called ‘Park Hurst’ at 12 Westgate Road, on the corner of Foxgrove Road.

In 1969, David Bowie moved into the home of Mary Finnigan in Foxgrove Road. With friends, the couple organised the Free Festival in Croydon Road where David and fellow musicians performed on the bandstand.

44 years later (in 2013) Natasha a young lady from Russia moved into Beckenham, close to the Rec in which she discovered the bandstand. It looked familiar. On her bedroom wall in her flat in Moscow, she had displayed David Bebbington’s iconic photo of Bowie on the bandstand in 1969. Nat asked her neighbours who confirmed it was Bowie’s Bandstand. He had performed virtually on her doorstep. Aghast at its condition she persuaded the Friends of the park and Bromley Council to allow her to organise a concert on the bandstand to raise funds for its restoration.

Natasha contacted Mary who gave her the names of those who had performed in 1969 and others who had come to Beckenham in 2001 to celebrate the unveiling of the Bowie Plaque on the Three Tuns’ pub and/or perform in an evening concert during the Pub during the evening. Movie coverage of this event filmed by Brett Allen is on the BHG site.

I spent 6 months of 2001 inviting support from Local residents (CCARA), designing and obtaining quotes for the Plaque, contacting the media and radio broadcasts, using the Bowie Wonderworld site to invite Bowie himself and fans from all over the world. Some years later I was interviewed for the BBC TV Breakfast Show outside the pub.

In 2013, Nat consulted many Bowie fans, including Mary Finnegan and myself. Nat’s plan caught the imagination of the media and she was interviewed on BBC London news which publicised the forthcoming concert. On the day, it rained but this did not deter the many Bowie fans and former colleagues who had been Bowie’s 1969 Free festival from enjoying a typically wet Glastonbury afternoon.

I attended the Friends of Croydon Road Rec AGM later in 2013. Nat had raised some £8k which she thought would be enough for the Bandstand’s restoration.

But the Friends had got a quote for a complete restoration costing nearer £100k and the AGM attendees were told that a bid would be made for HLF funding.

In 2014 Nat organised a second concert in the park when this time she was assisted by Wendy Faulkner who both contacted Bowie fans worldwide and obtained signed Bowie records and posters. This concert raised £9,000k.

Surely this was good platform to demonstrate to HLF that Beckenham people supported Bowie and the aim to restore their local park’s bandstand?

No, fresh from their failure to secure HLF money for the Priory Museum, Bromley Council’s bid was for a project costing £300k or more, to which Bromley Council, as far as we knew, was prepared to contribute nothing.

Bowie Bandstand Historic England Release

Here is the wording of the press release from Historic England regarding the granting of listed status on the bandstand.

Bowie Bandstand, Croydon Road Recreation Ground

Overview
Heritage Category: Listed Building
Grade: II
List Entry Number: 1465007
Date first listed: 08-Aug-2019
Statutory Address: Croydon Road, Beckenham, London, BR3 3PR

Location

Statutory Address: Croydon Road, Beckenham, London, BR3 3PR

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

County:Greater London Authority

District:Bromley (London Borough)

Parish:Non Civil Parish

National Grid Reference:TQ3680469000

Summary

Bandstand. Erected in 1905 to the design of the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry, Glasgow.

Reasons for Designation

The Bowie Bandstand, erected in 1905 at Croydon Road Recreation Ground, Beckenham, by the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry, is listed at Grade II for the following principal reasons:

Architectural interest:

* as a rare and substantial example of cast-iron work by the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry, Glasgow, and the only bandstand by this foundry known to survive in Britain; * for the high quality of the design and the execution of the cast-iron work and casting, which survives well;

Historic interest:

* for its historic association with David Bowie, one of the most influential musicians of the C20, who played, compered and co-organised the Growth Summer Festival at the bandstand during his rise to fame in 1969; arguably the first festival in England of its kind, and immortalised by his song “Memory of a Free Festival” on “the ecstasy that swept that afternoon”.

History

The first bandstands in England were built in the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens, Kensington, London, which opened in 1861. They were designed by Captain Francis Fowke of the Royal Engineers (best known as architect of the Royal Albert Hall) as circular structures with domed roofs supported on cast-iron columns. Captain Fowke may have seen a similar pavilion displayed at the Paris Industrial Exhibition in May 1855 when he was working in the city. Bandstands provided a focus for music, serving as the venue for regular concerts, and became widespread by the end of the C19. Some manufacturers, such as Walter Macfarlane of Glasgow, provided catalogues from which a choice of bandstand designs could be chosen.

Croydon Road Recreation Ground, Beckenham, was purchased by the Beckenham Local Board and laid out by Reid and Bornemann of Sydenham in 1890. It formally opened on 23 September 1891 following a local campaign to secure public open space. On 30 January 1905 Beckenham Urban District Council commissioned a surveyor to obtain designs and prices for two bandstands after examining 25 designs from 16 contractors. On 6 May a sub-committee recommended the award of the tender for the two bandstands costing £135 each to the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry provided that the work was executed within 10 weeks. The foundry was based at the Ruchill Iron Works, Glasgow, where the firm also produced gates, railings, rainwater goods, and ironwork for porches and glasshouses. The second bandstand was erected in Alexandra Park, Penge, but no longer survives. The Beckenham example is now the only bandstand from the foundry surviving in Britain according to a recent gazetteer (Rabbitts 2018). It is illustrated in a 1909 advertisement for the firm.

Croydon Road Recreation Ground has hosted celebrations for coronations, jubilees, hospital fetes, Empire days, May Queen festivals, as well as commemoration services to servicemen of the First and Second World War and formerly a major annual flower show (once rivalling Chelsea). In 1902 Britain’s first public air mail balloon left the park, dropping post at three points in Kent before crossing the Channel and landing near Calais. Three years later, Harold Bride, a radio operator on the Titanic, was carried round the park and spoke from the bandstand after surviving the disaster. In 1935 the Mayor of London presented Beckenham with a Charter of Incorporation as a borough within the grounds.

The musician David Bowie (1947-2016) had several associations with Beckenham and the bandstand. Born in Brixton, he moved to Plaistow Grove, Bromley, with his family at the age of eight and went to Burnt Ash Primary School and then Bromley Technical High School (now Ravens Wood School). In April 1969 he began lodging on Foxgrove Road, Beckenham, with Mary Finnigan, his landlady, and subsequently lover and co-founder of the Beckenham Arts Lab. During this particular year spent in Beckenham Bowie continued to advance rapidly on a musical level, working very hard at perfecting and improving his natural talent for writing songs and, working with the other musicians of the Arts Lab played at the Three Tuns (now (2019) Zizzi on Beckenham High Street). The Arts Lab (with Bowie’s close involvement) subsequently organised the Growth Summer Festival, a free one-day festival playing from the Beckenham bandstand on 16 August 1969, which has been described as ‘the first of its kind in the UK’ (Goddard 2019, 92). According to Finnigan, the intention was to set a similar kind of free agenda for artists and musicians as seen at Woodstock. The Beckenham festival followed the release of Bowie’s first ever hit single Space Oddity in July that previous month. One of Bowie’s signature tunes the song told the tale of an abandoned astronaut, Major Tom, marooned in space. It was released in the same year as the first Moon landing and is thought to have been one of the songs Bowie performed that day on the Beckenham bandstand. Although Space Oddity is considered by many to be about the Moon landing Bowie himself said it wasn’t. He explained the song – and Major Tom – as a metaphor for our sense of isolation after having seen and been amazed by Stanley Kubrick’s epic mystery 2001: A Space Odyssey several times on its release in 1968, the year before the Moon landing. The Beckenham festival clearly had an impact on Bowie as it inspired him to write a song about “the ecstasy that swept that afternoon” – ‘Memory of a Free Festival’; a long seven-minute closing piece for his second self-titled album recorded in September 1969 which was later released in 1970 as a carefully re-worked two-part single in homage to the festival. It has been suggested that Bowie may also have penned the lyrics to the song Life on Mars from the steps of the bandstand (May, 2017). In 2013, a new commemorative Memory of a Free Festival was held on the bandstand to raise money for its restoration. It was repeated in 2014 before being replaced by a new event called ‘Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity’ since 2016. The bandstand has now become known as the ‘Bowie Bandstand’ (London Borough of Bromley, 2019).

The bow fencing around the bandstand is thought to be a replacement of 1990. It is not of special architectural and historic interest, and is excluded from the listing.

Details

Bandstand. Erected in 1905 to the design of the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry, Glasgow.

MATERIALS: a cast-iron structure on a brick and granolithic concrete plinth with a timber felt-covered roof.

DESCRIPTION: an octagonal bandstand with eight slender cast-iron columns standing on a brick and granolithic concrete plinth approached by steps. Between the columns is a cast-iron railing decorated with ornamental foliage work. Between the railings there are fluted columns but above it are plain columns with Corinthian capitals. The columns support decorative cast-iron brackets and elaborate fretwork beneath the roof. The bandstand has a felt-covered tented roof crowned by an open cupola enriched with scroll and leaf decoration and other ornamental pattern work, which is surmounted by a finial. The roof has an iron structural frame and a ribbed and boarded ceiling.

Sources

Books and journals
Conway, H, Public Parks, (1996)
Finnigan, M, Psychedelic Suburbia: David Bowie and the Beckenham Arts Lab, (2016)
Rabbitts, P, Bandstands: Pavilions for music, entertainment and leisure, (2018)
Websites
London Borough of Bromley: Bowie Bandstand, accessed 10 April 2019 from https://www.bromley.gov.uk/info/200073/parks_and_open_spaces/1076/bowie_bandstand_restoration_appeal
The Friends of Croydon Road Recreation Ground: History of the park, accessed 10 April 2019 from http://www.turnipnet.com/becrec/history.htm
The Scottish Ironwork Foundation database: London Beckenham bandstand, accessed 10 April 2019 from https://ironworks.scran.ac.uk/database/record.php?usi=000-002-000-262-C&scache=1irdgf8mb6&searchdb=ironworks_scran
Other
Goddard, S, ‘The Starman Cometh’ in Record Collector, Issue 490 (March 2019), 84-91
May, L, ‘Nine David Bowie landmarks in Bromley every fan can visit in just over an hour’ in Bromley Times (4 August 2017). Available online at https://www.bromleytimes.co.uk/news/nine-david-bowie-landmarks-in-bromley-every-fan-can-visit-in-just-over-an-hour-1-5135589
Personal Communication, Brian Blandford: historical information on the bandstand (June 2019)

Legal

This building is listed under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 as amended for its special architectural or historic interest.

The listed building is shown coloured blue on the attached map. Pursuant to s1 (5A) of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 (‘the Act’) structures attached to or within the curtilage of the listed building but not coloured blue on the map, are not to be treated as part of the listed building for the purposes of the Act. However, any works to these structures which have the potential to affect the character of the listed building as a building of special architectural or historic interest may still require Listed Building Consent (LBC) and this is a matter for the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to determine.

End of official listing

 

David Bowie Festival 2019

Maybe I should announce it? Should I?…”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity is an annual fundraiser, supported by David Bowie when he provided signed items for auction at the event.

This year the Bowie Archive has donated another item signed by him, more details of which will follow before the festival in August.

Money raised goes to the Bandstand Restoration & Plaque Fund. Meanwhile here’s the press release from Wendy Faulkner, with ticket links, etc…

More below…

“Oh, to capture just one drop of all the ecstasy that swept that afternoon”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity Celebrates…

The 50th Anniversary of The Growth Summer Festival of 1969

Music lovers and fans worldwide will again be invited to come together in Beckenham, South London on Saturday 17th August to celebrate:

DAVID BOWIE★ THE GROWTH SUMMER FESTIVAL OF 1969,★ THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, ★ THE ARTS LAB and beyond…

The fourth Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity will take place at Croydon Road Recreation Ground, centred around the same iconic bandstand where Bowie and his friends from the Beckenham Arts Lab held their Growth Summer Festival and Free Concert back in 1969. The festival coincided with the release of Bowie’s first hit single, Space Oddity, and the day was later immortalised with another song, Memory of a Free Festival.

This year’s event kicks off at noon and we’re pleased to announce the return of some of the Growth Festival line up, reuniting for the first time in 50 years. These include Keith Christmas, Bridget St John, David Cousins (The Strawbs), Amory Kane and Bill Liesegang.

The event will also see the return of Maggi Ronson and her band. The full line up will be available on the Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity Facebook page shortly.

We also have the pleasure of announcing that Kevin Cann and Phil Lancaster will be at this year’s Oddity. They will be signing copies of their books; Any Day Now and At the Birth of Bowie – Life with the Man who Became a Legend.

Other attractions on the day will include food and drink by local vendors, memorabilia stalls, face painting, kids’ rides, raffle and of course the auction of Bowie related items (including a signed David Bowie item kindly donated by davidbowie.com /David Bowie Archives.)

Tickets:
£15 adults, although we have a limited amount of Early Bird tickets priced at £10 *available online only*
£5 for ages 10 to 16, , under 10’s go free!

Tickets are available online in advance from:
https://www.wegottickets.com/sct/uhqqwyAj2K

Tickets will also be available at the gate on the day of the event.

Just over £71,000 has been raised via the Festival, brick sales and donations, the H.L.F (Heritage Lottery Fund) grant application failed for the second time and because of that the council has put in £83,000 into the bandstand fund. The restoration cost is at present £191,000, so we’re not that far away from the work being started now.

Fans can also support the event via the personalised brick sales, which will be laid in their name (or a loved one etc) around the bandstand on its restoration. They can also donate to the Bowie Bandstand Restoration & Plaque Fund, that will honour not only David Bowie, but everyone that took part in the initial 1969 festival.

https://www.bromley.gov.uk/…/bowie_bandstand_restoration_ap…

B.B.O. Organiser Wendy Faulkner

“We are so close now to reaching our target to finally be able to get this iconic bandstand restored and this is down to the Bowie fans worldwide uniting and getting this done! Beckenham has never been on the main Bowie related map of places to visit – let’s hope that changes when the bandstand’s finally restored!

I hope to continue with the Festival but when the work on the bandstand has been completed, we can move on to raising funds for other Bowie related projects etc., only time will tell.
A massive thank you to everyone that has supported the Festivals to date. To quote a certain Bowie song lyric – I bless you madly.

I’d like to give a special mention to Vernon Dewhurst and thank him for kindly allowing us to use his iconic Space Oddity album image of David Bowie for this year’s event. and of course to Mark Adams, davidbowie.com, Tony Visconti and Woody Woodmansey for all their support”

“To paint that love upon a white balloon”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity is supported by the Friends of Croydon Road Recreation Ground, idverde, Bromley Parks and the London Borough of Bromley, who have named the bandstand The Bowie Bandstand in his honour. For further information go here: Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity

Photograph by Vernon Dewhurst.

 

 

David Bowie Festival 2018

BOWIE’S BECKENHAM ODDITY is an annual fundraiser, supported by David Bowie when he provided signed items for auction at the event.

Money raised goes to the Bandstand Restoration & Plaque Fund.

More below…

 

BOWIE’S BECKENHAM ODDITY/BANDSTAND DAY 2018
Saturday, 11th August – 12 noon to 8.30pm
Croydon Road Recreation Centre, Beckenham, BR3 3PR

“Someone passed some bliss among the crowd…”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity continues…..

 

Tickets: http://bowiesbeckenhamoddity.com/tickets
Email: bowiesbeckenhamoddity@gmail.com
Mobile: 07538 984631

 

David Bowie Festival 2017

BOWIE’S BECKENHAM ODDITY is an annual fundraiser, supported by David Bowie when he provided signed items for auction at the event.

This year the Bowie Archive has donated another item signed by him, more details of which will follow before the festival in August.

Money raised goes to the Bandstand Restoration & Plaque Fund.

More below…

flyer image 1

 

BOWIE’S BECKENHAM ODDITY/BANDSTAND DAY 2017
Saturday, 12th August – 12 noon to 8pm
Croydon Road Recreation Centre, Beckenham, BR3 3PR

“Someone passed some bliss among the crowd…”

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity continues…..

In 1969 a young curly haired man who went by the name of David Bowie co-organised a festival at Croydon Road Recreation Ground, South London. He even later went on to immortalise that day in his song ‘Memory Of A Free Festival’, which also appeared on his Space Oddity album. Bowie fans worldwide – join us in celebrating the life and musical legacy of David Bowie, The Growth Summer Festival of 1969, The Arts Lab, The Spiders From Mars and beyond….

Our celebratory day promises to be better than ever with food and drink, market stalls, merchandise, face painting plus a Bowie themed raffle and auction. This year’s festival kicks off at midday. Our line-up will be announced shortly, so watch this space: http://smarturl.it/BowieBandStand

Tickets are £10 (under 10’s free) and all money raised will go to the Bandstand Restoration and Plaque Fund.

At last year’s event Bowie fans united from around the world and helped raise over £17,250 for the project. The Edwardian bandstand in Beckenham (now named the Bowie Bandstand), will always be the ideal place to honour his memory (especially in the Beckenham/Bromley area), as well as being an important part of local history.

This is the first Festival anniversary year without Bowie. In 2016 we were all shocked by the news of his death as for many of us he was the soundtrack to our lives. His musical legacy continues and will gain new generations of fans around the globe for many years to come. The Oddity event organiser, Wendy Faulkner, had this to say:

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“Aylesbury will soon have a Bowie statue as a lasting tribute to the great man, Brixton also has its mural. And so we need the Bowie Bandstand in Beckenham fully restored in his honour and for all the other musicians that performed at that original event of 1969.

Bowie will always be loved and sadly missed by millions of people worldwide, so let’s get this bandstand restored!”

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Tickets: http://smarturl.it/BowieBandStand
Email: bowiesbeckenhamoddity@gmail.com
Mobile: 07538 984631

The event is supported by London Borough of Bromley Council and sponsored by Lollipop Events

“We’re gonna have a party…”

David Bowie Festival 2016

bowiefestival

Info from https://www.facebook.com/bowies.beckenham.oddity/

BECKENHAM FUNDRAISER TICKETS ON SALE NOW
“And away they soared…”
Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity is an annual fundraiser which David Bowie supported by providing signed items for auction at the event.
This year the Bowie Archive has donated another item signed by him, more details of which will follow before the festival in August.
Money raised goes to the Bandstand Restoration & Plaque Fund.
Meanwhile here’s the press release, with ticket links, etc…
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BOWIE’S BECKENHAM ODDITY
A festival celebrating the life and legacy of David Bowie and The Beckenham Arts Lab
Bowie fans and music lovers from Britain and beyond will come together in Beckenham, south London on Saturday 13 August 2016, in the park where his rise to stardom took off in 1969.
Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity will take place at the bandstand at the Croydon Road Recreation Ground, where Bowie and his friends from the Beckenham Arts Lab organised The UK’s first Free Festival on 16 August, 47 years ago. The festival coincided with the release of David’s first hit single Space Oddity and was immortalised with another hit song, Memory Of A Free Festival.
This year’s event kicks off at 1.00 pm with a stellar line up of musical talent, who will reprise lots of Bowie’s greatest songs including Life On Mars?, which he wrote while sitting on the bandstand steps. Featured artists include Malcolm Doherty, Daphne Guinness, Maggi Ronson, Phillip Rambow and Boe Huntress.
There’s a welcome return from Amory Kane who played at the 1969 Free Festival and also at the 2013 and 2014 Memory of a Free Festival events organised at the bandstand by Beckenham resident Natasha Ryzhova Lau. The avant garde duo Raf & O are also welcomed back, following their performances in 2013 and 2014.
David’s co-founder and organiser of The Beckenham Arts Lab, Mary Finnigan, will be signing copies of her recently published book Psychedelic Suburbia.
The two Memory of a Free Festival events raised £16,000 towards the bandstand restoration fund. Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity organiser Wendy Faulkner says her aim this year is to raise even more.
“After the devastating news of David’s death in January we felt we had to do a tribute for him — and there’s no more fitting place to do this than the bandstand where he played in 1969,” she says. “It’s not just about Bowie, but also all the people who were involved with him along his path to stardom”.
Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity is supported by The London Borough of Bromley, which has named the bandstand in his honour. When enough money is raised, it will be restored to its former glory.
Other attractions this year include food and drinks by local caterers Dizzy’s Diner, plus market stalls. There will be an auction of Bowie memorabilia before the end of the day at 7.00pm.
Tickets for the event cost £10 (under tens free) and are available on the day or in advance here now: http://smarturl.it/BBO2016Tickets
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For the latest information please use our contact form  or call Cliff Watkins on 020 8650 7347

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David Bowie Concert 2016

Concert 05

Last Saturday, 13th August 2016, a thousand Bowie fans arrived in Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham from all over the World.  (Photo by Cliff Watkins)

They were in the park to enjoy the third concert to raise funds to restore the Bandstand made famous by David Bowie’s Free Festival  in 1969.  This year’s  giant gig  began at noon and the crowds were still in the park at 7 pm and well over £10,000 was raised towards the restoration of Bowie’s bandstand which ,we were told, needed £100k to restore.  Including the previous two concerts in 2013 and 2014, The ‘Friends of the Bandstand’ have now raised some £25k.

This year the fans refused to go home and were treated to an evocative rendering of vintage Bowie songs sang by his music colleagues who been with him on the bandstand in 1969.  This was followed by an auction of donated Bowie memorabilia and signed photos, and a message from Tony Visconti thanking Wendy Faulkner for organising the event.

Meanwhile, cash strapped Bromley Council has just launched a Crowd Funding appeal for funds.

Here is some video of the 2016 event filmed by Cliff Watkins.

David Bowie Festival 2013

MEMORY OF A FREE FESTIVAL

“…The Sun machine is Coming Down, and we’re Gonna Have a Party…” 

Bowie It raineth 01

CELEBRATING DAVID BOWIE AND THE BECKENHAM ARTS LAB.

Sunday afternoon in the park in the residential south London town of Beckenham may not conjure up visions of youthful exuberance and rock music – but on Sunday September 15th, 2013  in Croydon Road Recreation Ground hundreds of people enjoyed typical Glastonbury style rain to celebrate David Bowie – Beckenham’s most famous former resident, the legacy of the Arts Laboratory he co-founded, and the sensational Free Festival that he and Arts Lab members staged on the Bandstand in the park in 1969.

The Festival was “free” as the modest entry fee of £5 plus donations were collected to raise funds to restore the historic bandstand which:

  • was opened in 1891 by Beckenham’s recently celebrated Tom Thornton
  • 21 years later, was used by Beckenham’s Harold Bride – the hero of the Titanic – to address cheering crowds in the park.
  • and for most of the 20th Century, witnessed civic and royal ceremonies, balloon flights and flower shows which rivalled Chelsea in popularity.

Today in an age of austerity there are not council funds to pay for repairs and it was left to Natasha Ryzhova, a Bowie fan from Russia, to galvanise the Friends of Croydon Road Rec into action. In her room in Moscow, Natasha kept a copy of the iconic photo of the young curly headed Bowie on her wall. When she moved to Beckenham a few years ago, she was surprised and delighted to find that, virtually on her doorstep, was Bowie’s bandstand; but aghast at its condition. So she persuaded the Friends to stage an event similar to the original Free Festival.

Members of the Arts Lab some 40 years ago were encouraged to do their own thing and this ethos underlined the 2013 event. As well Bowie classics created and performed during  Bowie’s five years in Beckenham from 1969 to 1973, the seven groups taking part (some 70 musicians in total) played much of their own original music.

All the performers  quoted David Bowie as their inspiration to take up music and they played for free. As a result over £900 was raised to repair the roof on the bandstand.

The 2013 Free Festival provided over 3 hours of live music from 3 to 6.30 pm. The performers taking part included:

The Thin White Duke a Bowie tribute group which played 5 Bowie numbers including Life on Mars and Space Oddity – both of which have links to the band stand.

Bill Liesegang  Bowie’ s own tribute to the 1969 event song – Memory of a Free Festival

Amory Kane who flew in from the USA to reprise some of the songs he performed in the 1969 Free festival.

Others taking part were  Raf and O, Keval, Low Rent Tractors, Scott Fuller and John Aldington.

Have a look at the picture gallery here

and some video here

Bowie Festival 2013 Picture Gallery

BHG Events Memories of a Free Festival 2013 photos

The following were taken by Cliff Watkins  who organised the previous Beckenham tribute to Bowie in October  2002  when a Plaque was fixed to the wall of the Three Tuns Pub in the High Street where members of the famous Arts Lab met, mused and performed from 1969 to 1974.

Please see moments of the December 2001 ceremony filmed by EditPoint  here

The Unveiling of the Plaque on the Three Tuns pub was by Arts Club founder Mary Finnigan who also introduced the Free Festival concert in Croydon Road Rec in 2013.

There is some video of the event filmed by Cliff Watkins here.

Click on any image to see a slideshow. Click on right hand side of expanded image to advance or left hand side to go back