David Bowie, a legend, a musical genius, an inspiration but have you forgotten his roots. Although David Bowie died in 2016, his memory lives on in Beckenham where he moved in 1969. Local Beckenham resident, Kat Webb has created a walking tour of ‘David Bowie’s Beckenham’. 

Tours are run every Sunday by Kat Webb, you are there to experience Beckenham the way David Bowie did. To create this tour Kat Webb talked to locals who knew Bowie and scoured the Bromley archives to find more information. Kat was driven to create this tour as she grew up in Beckenham as a huge Bowie fan and when she found out that Bowie lived in Beckenham at the same time she did it amazed her. After reading up on Bowie’s four years in Beckenham Kat felt compelled to share her knowledge and thought it would be fun to start a tour to do this.

The tour lasts about 3 hours but the time flies by and the tour encompasses many Beckenham landmarks such as Beckenham Place Park, Beckenham High Street and of course the iconic bandstand. The tour starts at Beckenham Junction and moves towards Foxgrove Road at the site of his apartment where he wrote Space Oddity. It then moves to Haddon Hall were Bowie’s popularity grew, children from the local schools would come to loiter outside his house in the hope of a glimpse of him. However, when you move onto Beckenham Place Park where Bowie would escape the crowds of fans and spend time with his friends. As you walk down the High Street, you observe all the shops that Bowie would have used, the companies have changed but walking in his footsteps was amazing and made me look at the High Street a completely different way. We then reached the Zizzi's which used to be The Three Tuns pub where Bowie played and set up a music night. There is now a commemorative lightning bolt outside on the pavement. We then proceed past the cinema and into Croydon Recreation Ground to see the bandstand where Bowie organised a free festival, this is the point where many people get emotional. It is not currently accessible to the public but when on the tour you can go into it. There is a funding programme to restore it to its former glory, which £2 of your ticket is donated to. The tour ends here with cake, songs and a lucky prize draw.

The tour is lead in small groups which gives it a wonderfully personal feel, people have come from all around the world to go on this tour. Some fans can get emotional as they have been fans for 50 years, Kat feels it is an honour to be able to tour people around and share Bowie’s story.

This tour was set up in 2016, the first tour was on September 16th, this was just 8 months after Bowie died and 51 years after David Bowie changed his last name from Jones. Kat Webb came up with this idea in 2004 but was only driven to put it into action after Bowie’s death. She spent months researching, doing practice walks and receiving feedback, before she finally started the tour. The tour is always being updated with new information coming to light.

It is important to honour Bowie’s memory in Beckenham because it is where his fame developed. When he moved to Beckenham he was 22, he had very little fame, very little money and he was heartbroken. When he left he was an international star, had millions of fans and had married. Kat Webb loves telling people about his inspirations, where he performed, where he lived, hung out and shopped. This honours his life before fame and shows a different side to him. 

By Emilia Beveridge