Locating Sites of Music Pilgrimage in London

Tuesday 27 November 2018, 5.00PM

Speaker(s): Hilary Orange and Paul Graves-Brown

On January 10th 2016, fans flocked to Tunstall Road, Brixton to leave flowers and offerings in front of a mural depicting Aladdin Sane, a character developed by David Bowie, who had died that day. Since 2016, we have been conducting a longitudinal survey of various memorials and tribute sites to rock and pop musicians in London. While our work focuses on David Bowie, we have also been considering the sites associated with the musicians and songwriters, Amy Winehouse, Freddie Mercury, Marc Bolan and George Michael. In addition, we have being following the acquisition and display of tribute materials that are now held within museum and archive collections.

Our work has revealed that these sites share some common characteristics, but have had varied trajectories over time. While the Rock Shrine to Marc Bolan has been curated on Barnes Common for some forty years and appears to be achieved a level of permanency, various tributes to Freddie Mercury have been removed from London’s streets. Tribute sites are thus unpredictable and are liable to change in response to their creation, curation, decay and destruction. In this presentation, we will explore the social, material and cultural forces which lead to certain London locations becoming sites of musical pilgrimage (as well as disappearing). We will also touch on various themes which we have been considering of late, such as the quasi-religious nature of such memorials and dirt/cleanliness. We find that the creation of such shrines tells us a good deal about attitudes to death, commemoration, fandom and celebrity.


Hilary Orange is an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow, based at the Ruhr Universität Bochum, Germany, an Honorary Research Associate at UCL Institute of Archaeology and a council member of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology.  Paul Graves-Brown is an Honorary Research Associate at York and member of the CHAT standing committee. Hilary and Paul are both members of standing committee for the CHAT group.

Please note the earlier start time of 17:00.

Location: K/159

Admission: Free

Email: ade506@york.ac.uk