Before he was the Thin White Duke, before he was Ziggy Stardust, before he was even David Bowie, the king of glam rock was a psychedelic folk singer called Davie Jones who played predominately in Beckenham. Back in the summer of 1969, the now legendary artist was just a glint of glitter in the public’s eye with big plans for world domination. Okay, maybe he was just looking for fame and fortune but whichever way you look at it, David Bowie became one of the world’s favourite celebs and a small part of that success is down to a bandstand in Beckenham.
On August 16 1969 – the exact same time as Woodstock – David Bowie organised a free festival for the locals at Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham with the hope of raising funds for the Beckenham Arts Lab – a group project he’d formed. The ‘Free Festival’ was a complete success and years later, Bowie would immortalise the event in the song ‘Memory of a Free Festival’. However, after 44 years, a fan from Russia moved to Beckenham in 2013 to find that the once glorious bandstand that saw Bowie’s free performance was, well, a bit shabby to say the least. To restore the old bandstand that’s now a genuine piece of rock history, the super-fan organised a brand new Free Festival, which saw a cash injection from Aladdin Sane himself.
Now, David Bowie is putting his hand in his pocket again to restore the ancient bandstand. Tomorrow (August 16), exactly 45 years since the original gig, Free Festival will be returning to the park and though the man himself won’t be there, he has sent a load of signed merchandise that’s up for auction. As well as an auction, you might want to check out some of the live music, which includes three of the original artists that played in 1969, the food stalls and a beer tent. But, as a sign of the times (or, y’know, the good cause), entry to the festival will be £5.
Find out more at facebook.com/beckenham.bowie.