Travel Report: The David Bowie Mural – Brixton, London.
May 2019. If The Fairy had only a vague idea about The Beatles and the significance of Abbey Road, she was even less clued up about an English rock star referred to, among other monikers, as Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke. But that didn’t stop me from dragging the poor woman out to the London borough of Brixton. For it is here, just across the road from Brixton Station, that you can find the beautiful David Bowie Mural, a deliciously colorful portrait created by the Australian artist James Cochran in 2013.
May 2019. Cochran made The David Bowie Mural just as he appears on the cover of his 1973 album Aladdin Sane. It’s been a popular London music landmark ever since, though of course its cultural importance reached a whole new level with the sudden news of Bowie’s death on the 10th of January 2016. Some amazing scenes subsequently unfolded here, with almost five thousand fans flooding the street with handwritten messages, stickers and mountains of flowers.
May 2019. The foliage is all long gone, but the fan graffiti remains and in the summer of 2016 The David Bowie Mural was repainted and fitted with a perspex protective cover.
The Fairy was patient with me that morning as I took my time getting lost in the David Bowie Mural’s sea of fan messages. And I’m not shy in admitting that reading these heartfelt scribblings actually got me a little teary.
I’d started out simply wanting to experience the cool art homage I’d seen and read about online. But The David Bowie Mural’s amazing fan graffiti reminded me of just how much his music and fearless artistry has connected with people. And of course I found myself thinking back over my own David Bowie journey and how I’d slowly discovered his work chronologically, album by album.
I remember listening to Hunky Dory as I backpacked around India and dipping in and out of Ziggy Stardust and Diamond Dogs on my way to work in the snowy, sub-zero winter mornings of my Bratislava days. I was busy homebuilding in Amsterdam by the time I got into The Berlin trilogy (my favourite is Low) and later on, after relocating to China, I found myself moving into his eighties output with a first listen of Scary Monsters.
I could have easily stayed at The David Bowie Mural a bit longer, but it was chilly and I had The Fairy to think of. So I mapped out a walking route to Stansfield Road, home to the house he was born in and lived in until the age of six. As if my magic, it’s just an eight-minute walk from the mural so it’s really a no-brainer for any Bowie fan.
Don’t expect much from David Bowie’s former home. There’s no sign or plaque. In fact, there isn’t a single thing to indicate that number 40 Stansfield Road is a building of any significance whatsoever. The Fairy and I initially had trouble finding it, especially as there wasn’t even a number on the door. In the end a weary looking builder on the other side of the road tipped us off with a gruff: “It’s over there”. And then we saw the number 40 written on the bin. Apparently the four bedroom home is owned by Martin Stainton, a man who claims he didn’t buy the property for its Bowie connection and described the site as “no big deal”. He now rents it out and, according to some online reports, it’s worth over six hundred thousand pounds up from the two hundred and seventy thousand he paid back in 2000. Not a bad investment.
For another London music pilgrimage, check out my report from Abbey Road.
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