GALLERY: ‘I wanted to paint something intimate’ David Bowie fan honours starman at former home of Beckenham Arts Lab
PUBLISHED: 16:49 21 February 2017 | UPDATED: 17:19 21 February 2017
The former Three Tuns pub is now an Italian chain restaurant
The former home of an arts movement which proved a key stepping stone in David Bowie’s journey to stardom has been given a fitting tribute.
Formerly known as The Three Tuns, Zizzi’s in Beckenham was once the base of the Beckenham Arts Lab, a creative movement that culminated in a free festival at Croydon Road Recreation Ground in the summer of 1969.
Bowie was at the heart of the movement, and would immortalise his performance at the ground’s Victorian bandstand in his song, Memory of a Free Festival.
Now the chain restaurant has been given a brand new look, with two murals honouring the Starman, who died of cancer at the start of 2016.
The artist behind the work, a self-confessed Bowie fanatic, feels the town has now become synonymous with the singer’s success story.
“Beckenham is becoming to Bowie fans what Liverpool is to fans of The Beatles,” said Sara Captain.
Bowie moved to the town having grown up in Bromley, and as well as the former home of The Three Tuns, which has a red and gold plaque remembering the iconic singer, fans often travel to his childhood home in Plaistow Grove.
During his five years in the town, Bowie met his future wife Angie, and penned the lyrics to his 1971 hit, Life on Mars, sitting on the steps of the Croydon Road bandstand.
The bandstand is now at the centre of a campaign to restore the landmark to its former glory.
Whilst living with landlady and lover Mary Finnigan, a fellow arts lab member, Bowie would also write Oh! You Pretty Things.
Pictures from his time in the town paint a different picture to that of Bowie’s iconic 70s alter ego, Ziggy Stardust - another creation spawned in Beckenham.
It was this change in character that Ms Captain tried to depict in her work.
“Everybody has seen the lightning bolts and the blackstar, I wanted to paint something more intimate.
“The one where you see can Bowie in 1969 has lyrics from Memory of a Free Festival, it’s a more human side.
“He looks dreamy and naive, because when he was writing those lyrics, he could see the hippy ideology fading and the 70s coming in, that’s why I painted the sun setting behind him.
The lyrics written on the wall are painted in small notes, a technique Bowie often used when writing his timeless songs.
Despite his death last year, the actor, musician and artist picked up four posthumous Grammy awards earlier this month, and leaves behind thousands of adoring fans.
Ms Captain explained what made the Starman so special to her: “For me he was so individual, he is just impossible to repeat and gave so much more than we realised.
“He took high culture and brought it down to the masses, so people who wouldn’t normally have access were suddenly hearing about Andy Warhol or Jean Genet.”
The murals were unveiled earlier this month, and can be seen at the Zizzi’s restaurant in Beckenham High Street.
Pia Fairhurst, creative director, Azzurri Group, added: “It only felt appropriate that we honour such a legend with our bespoke murals created by Sara Captain after learning that David Bowie developed Ziggy Stardust in the former Three Tuns pub, where our Beckenham restaurant now resides.
“We hope that customers enjoy the murals and the little touches we’ve incorporated into the restaurant to celebrate Beckenham’s Starman.”