Sunday, 27 October 2013

We emailed David Bowie...

If you've lived in the Bromley borough for more than about 5 minutes there's no way you haven't been told that you're living in David Bowie's hometown. Bowie was raised here during the 1950s and continued to live in Beckenham and Bromley during the '60s and '70s, so apart from Bob Crier from The Bill and H G Wells he has to be up there with Bromley's most famous residents.

In 1969 Bowie set up The Arts Lab, a varied arts and music venue in Beckenham with friend and journalist Mary Finnigan. Every Sunday The Three Tuns, now Zizzi's, turned into a celebration of local arts and music and by its fourth week it had become so popular that it expanded out into the conservatory and garden. Bowie explained the project in an interview with Melody Maker in 1969: "I run an arts lab which is my chief occupation. It's in Beckenham and I think it's the best in the country. There isn't one pseud involved. All the people are real - like labourers or bank clerks. It started out as a folk club, arts labs generally have such a bad reputation as pseud places but there's a lot of talent in the green belt and there is a load of tripe in Drury Lane. I think the arts lab movement is extremely important and should take over from the youth club concept as a social service. We've got a few greasers who come and a few skinheads who are just as enthusiastic. We started our lab a few months ago with poets and artists who just came along. It's got bigger and bigger and now we have our own light show and sculptures, et cetera. And I never knew there were so many sitar players in Beckenham."

From the very beginning of the project BACI agreed that having an arts and cultural space in the town centre was just as important as the revitalisation of the decaying Royal Bell and what David Bowie says about his Arts Lab really rings true with us. We hope to provide a truly inspiring community and arts space to Bromley which is open to all and provides a platform for local artists and musicians, just like the Arts Lab once did. A town without arts and culture lacks something profoundly important and we hope to inject that element back into Bromley through our project at The Royal Bell.

Recently David Bowie sent some signed albums to a local group (Beckenham Arts Lab) who want to repair a bandstand where he and many other musicians played a Free Festival that he organised there in 1969 (on the same weekend as Woodstock) at Croydon Road, Beckenham Recreation Ground. Read the Independent article here. The group organised a festival in honour of the Free Festival of 1969 in September 2013, you can watch the YouTube video of the day below

So after much umming and ahhing I decided we should write to David Bowie in the hope that he would add his name to our growing list of supporters. We are not asking him for any money but would simply like him aware of the work we're doing in his hometown, which has many things in common with his original Arts Lab. The News Shopper ran this article on it here

I'll keep you posted on Bowie-related developments as they happen people don't you worry...


  1. What email address did you use? What did he say? Did he respond?

  2. I have tried to contact him through his website, PR company and Tony Visconti. I also tried to contact Beckenham Arts Lab to see how they got in contact but am yet to hear back. Any avenues I haven't thought of would be greatly appreciated!

  3. Have you tried his publicist Mitch Schneider Organisation? The email address is - from Kim Wood at Brownhill Insurance Group

  4. Found another contact address you could try if you haven't already - 76 Oxford St. London W1N OAX - from Kim Wood at Brownhill Insurance Group


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