Date of Degree
Edward D. Miller
Arts and Humanities | Film and Media Studies
Fan Studies, Memorial, Mourning, Pilgrimage, Tourism, London
Following the death of David Bowie on January 10, 2016, his hometown of Brixton, South London, has become a pilgrimage and tourist destination for fans. On the 11th of January, the world discovered Bowie had succumbed to cancer and fans descended on Brixton to celebrate the life and legacy of their hometown hero, culminating in a spontaneous all-night street party attended by thousands. A mural of Bowie as his iconic character Aladdin Sane, originally painted in 2013, became the hub of memorialization in the wake of his passing and a crucial, enduring site for mourning fans seeking to connect with each other and their lost idol. The mural is located on the main road of the neighborhood; Brixton Road is directly opposite the Underground station, and is only a ten-minute walk from the house David Bowie was born in, at 40 Stansfield Road. This means a fan can arrive in Brixton and follow the entire trajectory of Bowie’s life as it repeatedly turned back towards the area in an afternoon: from birth to where countless thousands mourned his death.
Using my own experiences in Bowie’s Brixton as an aca/fan and data sourced from qualitative research (including studying graffiti at the mural, observing material tributes left there, and reading public blogs and social media posts about visiting the mural), I describe how the spontaneous memorial created by fans has shaped Brixton as a place of pop culture tourism. Through their ongoing attention to Brixton, fans have encouraged the local government, the Lambeth Council, to preserve the mural turned memorial. They have also inspired new economic ventures from walking tours to specialty coffees. Remarkably, Bowie’s fans dictated what and where his memorial would be and, in doing so, have become authors of the legacy of “Bowie-in-Brixton,” in addition to creating a new narrative of “Bowie-fans-in-Brixton.”
Gritsch, Valerie, "“Something Happened on the Day He Died”: How David Bowie Fans Transformed Brixton" (2020). CUNY Academic Works.