Bowie Bandstand in Beckenham Listed on Festival’s 50th anniversary

Published Friday, 16 August 2019

The historic bandstand in south London where David Bowie performed at the Growth Summer Festival 50 years ago today (16 August) has been listed at Grade II.

The historic bandstand in south London where David Bowie performed at the Growth Summer Festival 50 years ago today (16 August) has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England.

  • Historic bandstand in Croydon Recreation Ground, London, is listed at Grade II
  • Bandstand was centrepiece for Growth Summer Festival which David Bowie helped to organise, compere and perform at 50 years ago today
  • Bandstand’s striking design is thought to be the only surviving example from the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry in the country 

Is there life on Mars?

David Bowie was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century, with a career spanning nearly 50 years. Although born in Brixton, at eight years old Bowie moved to Bromley with his family and as an adult he lodged on Foxgrove Road in nearby Beckenham with Mary Finnigan, his landlady and later his lover.

Soon after his first hit single Space Oddity, Bowie and friends organised the iconic Growth Summer Festival in August 1969. The hope was to raise money for a permanent base for his and Finnigan’s Beckenham Arts Lab project, which began life as a folk club in the backroom of the nearby Three Tuns pub.

The one day festival was free, emulating Woodstock’s style and feel with its emphasis on freedom of expression for artists and musicians. The bandstand was the centrepiece of the day and the stage from which the young Bowie performed to an audience of a few hundred people.

Thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, the festival inspired Bowie to write Memory of a Free Festival, a seven minute song for his second album released later that same year, in homage to the day.

Bowie spent some of his most creative early years in Beckenham, with his landlady Mary Finnigan claiming he composed many songs whilst living under her roof. It has even been suggested that Bowie may have penned the lyrics to Life on Mars from the steps of the bandstand. Today it is known and loved locally as the Bowie Bandstand.

Heritage Minister Rebecca Pow said: “David Bowie is a cultural icon and 50 years on from his performance at the ‘Bowie Bandstand’ in Beckenham it is right that we remember his influence on music and culture in this way. Our country's music industry is a huge success story and artists like David Bowie will always play an important role in how the rest of the world views the UK, helping us to attract millions of visitors each year to experience and enjoy our rich history and culture."

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England said: “Walking past this typical yet characterful bandstand, you probably wouldn’t expect it was once the stage for a young man who would become one of the most iconic musicians of the 20th century. It is a rare survival from a historic iron foundry in its own right, 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.” 

Councillor Colin Smith, Leader of Bromley Council said: “The news of the Grade II listing of the Bowie Bandstand is very important both locally and further afield too. After many years of fundraising, thanks largely to the efforts of the Friends of Beck Rec and Memory of a Free Festival, confirmation of the bandstand’s new status will help us significantly with the final part of the fundraising campaign. It is still not too late to purchase a personalised Bandstand Brick towards the restoration appeal, with details on the Council’s website and all of this, combined with the Council’s support, offers renewed promise that the restoration work will proceed sooner rather than later.”

A musical focus for over a century

The first bandstands in England were built in the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens in Kensington, London, which opened in 1861. They were built to be a focus for music, serving as the venue for regular concerts, and became widespread by the end of the nineteenth century.

Croydon Road Recreation Ground in Beckenham opened in 1891 following a local Campaign to secure public open space for the area’s growing population. It has long been a place for local festivities, witnessing regular celebrations for coronations, Jubilees, May Queen festivals and commemoration services for soldiers who fought in the First and Second World Wars.

The bandstand itself was built in 1905, to the design of the McCallum and Hope Iron Foundry and is thought to be the only bandstand from this foundry still standing in Britain.

Today the bandstand is owned by Bromley Council and watched over by the Friends of Croydon Road Recreation Ground.

Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity

Croydon Road Recreation Ground has played host to a one day festival in August for many years since the Growth Summer Festival of 1969. Today known as Bowie’s Beckenham Oddity, the festival will take place on Saturday 17th August in this special 50th anniversary year.


NOTES TO EDITORS

About Historic England

We are Historic England the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.


Listing

The National Heritage List for England is held and managed by Historic England on behalf of the Government and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It identifies the buildings, sites and landscapes which receive special protection, so they can be enjoyed by current and future generations. There are over 400,000 items on the List, covering England's most valued historic places.

There are three grades of listing – Grade II, Grade II*[star] and Grade I.


For media enquiries;

Rosie Ryder, Historic England Press Office. Tel: 07789 927 584 or email: Rosie.Ryder@HistoricEngland.org.uk

Andrew Rogers, Communications Executive, Tel: 020 8461 7670 or email: andrew.rogers@bromley.gov.uk