The Southbank Centre’s 50th David Bowie Celebration – ‘Making a Show’



Aladdin Sane 1973 – Photo Duffy ⓒ Duffy Archive & The David Bowie ArchiveTM

By Flora Masika

David Bowie was recognised for his ability to create wonder so far and yet so vivid from the world we live in. As fans, we could dive into multi-coloured lifetimes during his shows or escape to dream-like scenarios through his words. But other than simply listening to his music repeatedly, is there another way to achieve the full David Bowie captivating concert experience?

Tributes to his life can try to replicate his vibrancy but how do we know when we are doing the musical legend justice? How can you bottle up his influence into museums, films and articles? Is it even possible to capture that energy on stage again? 

As part of a wider celebration of the 50th anniversary release of David Bowie’s legendary ‘Aladdin Sane’ album, the Southbank Centre, London is hosting a series of debates, queer discussions and showcases, culminating in the ‘Aladdin Sane: 50 Years Exhibition,’ from 6th of April to 28th May 2023. 

In the ‘Making a Show’ discussion at the Purcell Room on Saturday 22nd April, top industry professionals tackled the practical and abstract problems of creating a space dedicated to the icon who has changed the mindset of people and the wider society. Chaired by British journalist Pete Paphides, the panellists explored the question of recreating the full David Bowie experience.

Curator duo Victoria Broackes and Geoffrey Marsh shared insights on how they designed the successful museum showcases, ‘David Bowie Is’ (2013) and ‘Pink Floyd: Their Mortal Remains’ (2017) for the V&A. The experts shed light on what makes a successful memoir; how technology and immersive experience museums are reshaping how we learn about history. The talk was paired with a brilliant presentation by panellist Geoffrey Marsh. 

In contrast, the other panellists, the director and creative consultants, Adam Smith and Marcus Lyall, came from DJ and audio/video background. They are known for putting counterculture in spaces where they shouldn’t belong. Smith and Lyall detailed their background in setting up raves in the late 90s to early 2000s. Gradually, both became multidisciplinary artists specialising in installations that play with sound, film and light.  

Broadening the conversation to include socio-economic factors that explored the implications of the digital age, the panellists outlined how technology increased the immersive experience of museums, changing the way we celebrate artwork. They pointed to social media acting as the  equaliser for making information more accessible to the public. Yet, the music and museum business have become more expensive with digital aids that risk closing access to the working class public. This becomes more paradoxical, when museums often place objects, beliefs and lifestyles of the marginalised into their rooms.  Opening up conversations as to how we combat the new challenges was insightful. By sharing concerns of the future the ‘Making a Show’ discussion felt like a conversation not between experts but a talk between Bowie fans.

For more information on the ‘Aladdin Sane: 50 Years Exhibition,’ visit’ :

The exhibition is accompanied by the release of the Aladdin Sane 50 book celebrating 50 years of the iconic photo shoot with previously unreleased photographs of David Bowie by Duffy.

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