Researching David Bowie’s Death in Brixton, UK – January 2019

The main focus of my Masters research is dead celebrities and how fans react to their death and in memorializing them create and shape the narrative of that celebrity’s legacy. One of the main celebrities I focus on is David Bowie, and specifically how people interact with him through his hometown of Brixton, a neighborhood in Lambeth, south London. Bowie was born on January 8th, 1947, and died on January 10th, 2016. Last month, I landed in London on January 9th, 2019 for a week and a half of research – primarily on Bowie and Brixton – which has been the focus of my work for the past two years.

Brixton is a unique place in regards to its’ hometown hero, David Bowie. You can spend one afternoon there and follow the entire trajectory of his life. Starting at 40 Stansfield Road, where he was born and spent the first six years of his life. To Stockwell Primary School, to the Brixton Academy which Bowie played in the 90s, to the Community Centre Bowie personally funded (which is now a Buddhist center), to Windrush Square and the Ritzy where thousands congregated the night Bowie died in 2016 to celebrate his life. Much of those celebrations from 2016 spilled onto Tunstall Road, where the Jimmy C. mural of Bowie as Aladdin Sane was put up on the side of a Morleys back in 2013. This mural became a memorial site organically, chosen by the fans. The local council responded by protecting the mural in 2018, and still today in 2019 it remains a location that fans from all over the world flock to in order to pay their respects.

How many other places can you take a day and spend it with a celebrity from birth to death?

Below you can watch some clips from my time there. This included visiting the infamous and post-humorously protected mural of Bowie by the street artist Jimmy C. that became a focal point of memorial the day Bowie died and ever since. Taking a David Bowie themed walking tour (complete with a guide in Aladdin Sane makeup who sang at each stop of the tour). David Bowie’s birthplace. Windrush Square and The Ritzy, where thousands gathered the night Bowie died to celebrate his life. And the Lambeth Council Archives where I examined the 18 items the local council saved from the Bowie’s memorial from January 2016.

An afternoon at the Lambeth Archives. They preserved eighteen tributes to Bowie, collected from the Jimmy C. mural in January 2016 – the first few weeks after Bowie’s death.

All photos and video were taken by the author, Valerie Gritsch, in Brixton, UK between January 10, 2019 and January 18, 2019.

If you enjoyed this piece and the photos/video, you are welcome to support my studies by buying me cup a coffee.

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