Calling of the Kooks: The World Fan Convention Determined to Keep David Bowie’s Legacy Alive
Fans from across the globe will be coming together next year in Liverpool to celebrate the life and work of the late David Bowie at a city-wide convention
Starting from June 17, over the 50th anniversary weekend of the release of the revered 1972 album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, Liverpool is to host the very first David Bowie World Fan Convention. The three-day event will feature a star-studded line up of the late musician’s closest friends and collaborators, joining together alongside hoards of fans to celebrate his life and work.
Organised by Liverpool’s Sound City alongside David Bowie Glamour – the team behind the applauded Bowie-obsessed fanzine – fans are invited to unite in celebration and unity over their shared adoration for the late icon, who passed away in early 2016.
"If you look at the outpour of emotion for David Bowie when he sadly died, an event like the one we’re doing is a way for people who loved his life and the work he did to come together and talk to each other" says Sound City CEO/lifelong Bowie fan Dave Pichilingi.
Taking place across multiple of the city’s venues, the weekend will feature a costume ball and numerous one-of-a-kind exhibitions and discussions with numerous renowned Bowie associates. From the photographers and designers who helped capture his most iconic looks, such as Brian Duffy (the man behind Bowie’s emblematic lightning bolt-adorned face on 1973’s Aladdin Sane), Brian Aris, Denis O’Regan, Philippe Auliac and Jonathan Barnbrook (Blackstar designer), to the numerous musicians who helped shaped his career, aka guitarist Carlos Alomar, bass-player Gail Ann Dorsey, legendary drummer/last surviving Spider from Mars member Woody Woodmansey and more, the convention will see the entirety of Bowie’s inner world come together for the very first time.
In the light of Disney’s immensely popular new Beatles docuseries, Get Back, which has revitalised the work of the fab four for new generations, Pichilingi hopes the convention will deliver the same regenerating effect.
The idea for the event was thought up by Pichilingi during 2020’s lockdown, where like many of us, he was left twiddling thumbs looking for new activities to divulge in that surpass the usual routine of a restriction-bound lifestyle. As he began to think about new ways he could explore his love for Bowie on a larger scale, he noticed a gap in the market for fan-based Bowie events, with the last major convention taking place back in 1983.
Reaching out to official fan groups and online communities to set his idea in motion, he contacted David Bowie Glamour editor Andy Jones, who has firm ties to the Bowie sphere through his work with the fanzine. The pair soon began to collaborate, both driven by their love of the late musician and their refusal to allow Bowie's legacy to fade into obscurity.
“The fact we’re keeping David Bowie’s music and legacy alive, that’s what’s important to me about fan culture: belonging to something that’s intent on reminding people of a great man who did extraordinary things" says Kitty Riggs, author of What If Bowie Were A Woman, and one fan of many who is to attend next year's event.
David Bowie’s impact on the world has been without a doubt monumental, from his musical output alone, countless musicians such as Lady Gaga, The Sex Pistols, Joy Division, Madonna and The Cure, have followed in his footsteps and gained success in their own careers pushed forward by his influence. Across his 26 studio albums, Bowie sold an estimated 140 million records, and reached the top spot in the UK charts with nine of his albums, and similarly in the US with five. He additionally received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, among countless other accomplishments.
“Bowie pushed boundaries. His costumes, his style, his music was immense, he produced the greatest run of albums in music history from The Man Who Sold The World in 1970 through to Let’s Dance in 1983; a 13 album run never equalled” Jones enthuses.
Numerical successes aside, Bowie was considered to be more than just a globally celebrated rockstar. His chameleon-like aptitude for shapeshifting his style as an artist and performer granted him lifelong relevance, serving as a reliable and ever growing vessel for creative and individualistic expression. His championing of LGBTQ+ movements, being a proud and outed bisexual throughout his career (especially during times where it was more culturally unaccepted), granted those of similar non-heterosexual identities solace in the freedom to be themselves, among other individuals who had been outcasted as “outsiders” for simply being "different" in their own way.
"If you look at what Bowie was doing in the 70s, he was drawing attention to those issues in a very positive way. He wasn’t the only one, but he certainly was leading the cry to issues regarding sexuality identity, and giving the opportunity to those people to come out, and to be proud of it" says Pichilingi.
Bowie was, too, a huge entity within the world of fashion and film, and as Pichilingi puts it, was representative of a “wider passion for art itself”.
Speaking of why it's important to sustain the singer’s legacy through running the event, Riggs says, “I don’t think there’s been anyone like him since. Someone who champions the unusual, believes in the extraordinary and pushes the boundaries of everything and anything. If that’s not worth continuing to celebrate, then I don’t know what is.”
Bowie’s cultural importance as being a symbol of the misunderstood, tied with the significance of the convention being organised during a time where so many people have felt incredibly alone, feels entirely apt. Pichilingi's main aim for this event is to create a safe space where Bowie fans of all ages, creeds and levels of knowledge about the musician could come together in a place that left elitism at the door – a trait that he thought was all too prevalent at previous conventions. But most importantly, it’s an event for individuals to come together to “share their ideas and their experiences, to laugh, to joke, to sing and to have a good time together” says Pichilingi. “So it's fantastic to do that and do it in the real world. And I think particularly in light of what we’re still going through right now with the whole pandemic that we’ve all lived through globally”.
While Riggs adds, “Feelings like loneliness and acceptance aren’t restricted to a particular corner of the globe; and somehow David was able to translate that. He showed everybody it’s okay to be different, to push boundaries and to have fun. He showed us all how to be ourselves without apology.”
Speaking of the importance of fandom in the "obsessive" Bowie community, Jones comments, “Fan culture connects people with similar interests from around the world. You’ll rarely be lonely if you’re a member of a fandom. David Bowie has an enormous back catalogue and was also involved with art, fashion, design etc. There’s always something to learn from other fans.”
As for the future of the convention, Pichilingi hopes that it will become an annual venture that changes location year on year. For 2023, he has his sights set on Berlin, a place of huge relevance within Bowie’s career, which gave birth to some of his most praised albums; Low, Heroes (both 1977) and Lodger (1979). Putting out a call for those interested in the event’s next instalment, he says, “I would say if there's anyone in Berlin who would like to be involved to come forward and message me”.
You can find more information and purchase tickets for the David Bowie World Fan Convention 2022 here.