Why is there a sculpture of David Bowie, in Aylesbury under the archway of the old Corn Exchange at the bottom corner of the Market Square?
Not everyone knows that David Bowie had a strong connection with the Friars music club in the Market Square; the world debuts of two albums, Hunky Dory (in September 1971) and The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars (in January 1972) were both at Friars.
Bowie had formed The Spiders From Mars in the tiny Friars dressing room at the Borough Assembly Hall after the September 1971 gig, with Mick Ronson, Woody Woodsmansey, and Trevor Bolder. Then Bowie played for Friars at Dunstable in June 1972, and played at Friars in Aylesbury with the Spiders again in July 1972.
According the the Friars website:
“The third Friars Aylesbury gig was in July 1972. Friars was so special to Bowie that he flew in 50 of the top US journalists to witness this gig. Friars Aylesbury was featured in the US Rolling Stone magazine, a magazine dedicated to Andy Warhol and many other US publications. That really put Friars and Aylesbury on the world map.”
And the first track on the Ziggy Stardust album, Five Years, starts with this:
“Pushing through the Market Square - so many mothers sighing”
Of course, it’s a reference to Aylesbury.
In March 1977 David Bowie was in Aylesbury to play keyboards for Iggy Pop. The Friars promoter David Stopps was walking towards the Market Square through the Corn Exchange arch. Two people walked towards him. One was David Bowie, who greeted David Stopps with, “What’s a clean cut kid like you still doing in a small town like this?” David Stopps never forgot this accidental meeting.
On the 10th of January 2016 came the news that David Bowie had passed away. He was 69. The following Saturday saw Friars hold a memorial event in Aylesbury to celebrate his life, under the Corn Exchange arch. It was supposed to be a low key event, but over the day, more than three thousand people attended.
That day, a petition was started to create a Bowie statue in the town, and it soon had 2,000 signatures. A Kickstarter campaign raised over £115,000 to start the project and the statue was unveiled just over a year ago on March 25th 2018, on the spot under the arch where David Stopps had bumped into David Bowie 41 years before.
On Sunday 24th March this year, David Stopps presided over an event to mark one year since the unveiling. I was there. The sculptor, Andrew Sinclair, gave a speech about the making of the bronze statue. You can see the sculptor in a couple of the photos.
He explained that within the two main figures, of Bowie as Ziggy Stardust circa 1973, and again of him in his 2002 “Heathen” period, are triangulated steel supports that reach deep into the ground. It’s very strong; Sinclair leant on the outstretched arm of the Ziggy figure and it didn’t flex at all.
It was a fairly quiet event, as people sat back in the warm sun to watch, or gathered round when speeches were being made, though it was chilly in the arch, out of the sun. There were cakes and t-shirts for sale. The security men had specially printed fluorescent vests and had a nice quiet day; it was all very relaxed.
There’s still a shortfall in the statue fund. I think it’s about £15,000 but I am unable to find out where you might donate. But you can go to the Friars website where the t-shirts, reproduction gig posters, and a book about Bowie and Friars called The Thin White Book can be bought. For the book and shirts at least, profits go towards the fund. It's a shame that they don't seem to be selling cake from the website...