So me and my boyfriend arrived in London last night to stay with my Uncle for the next five days. The main purpose of this visit: to see the David Bowie Is exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum. And this is exactly what we did today.
I’d booked our time for half twelve which meant we left the flat at the ridiculous time of half ten to battle the infamous London traffic. Even with the congestion charge and a driver who knows the city well getting to the other side of London is still an entire test of patience. The journey took an hour and a half in total, which would probably get me from Manchester (my local town) to the coast.
However leaving so early was a definite and we arrived at the V&A with a good half an hour to spare meaning there was enough time for a coffee but we totally got completely Bowie’d up. Also, after spending that long in the car a brew was definitely a necessity.
I must have booked the tickets to see this particular exhibition about three months in advance and have been really excited ever since. Due to this I don’t know if I can decide whether it was as good as I was wanting it to be or a bit of a disappointment.
There was a bit of a queue to get in but not as much as the website had been making out, which seemed okay but once inside the amount of people really started to show. There was a lot of stuff to see, and it was in quite a small space meaning essentially the reason the museum advise you leave two hours to make your way round is because you have to spend ages queuing just to look at one item. I’m personally not used to this form of viewing; normally it can be taken at a leisurely pace with enough space around you for it to not feel like you’re involved in some silent game of sardines.
However, if you started to attempt to ignore the vast amount of people and become immersed in your headset which included music, interviews and information about David Bowie it began to feel a bit like you were in a world of your own. Plus the extent of costumes, lyrics, diary entries, artwork and music was as advertised, massive. Most of the famous costumes were on show, suits worn by the Thin White Duke, eccentric cat suits Ziggy Stardust brought to the stage and the exaggerated trouser legs of Aladdin Sane. Every album released by Bowie was exhibited at some point alongside original written lyrics and diary entries written by Bowie himself. In addition there was a collection of Bowie’s own art, mainly featuring Iggy Pop, and hand drawn storyboards and stage designs for his tours. Then there were photographs, so many photographs, all of which were beautifully taken and revealed an entirely new aspect or angle to the superstar.
The final room had to be my favourite. This was a room in which three of the walls were giant screens and speakers featured on every side. On these screens they played live broadcasts of songs and I could have honestly sat there for hours just watching each individual one, as if I was actually seeing David Bowie live. Due to the size of the screens and the volume of the music it was a truly overwhelming way to end the exhibition.
Besides the final room feeling like “this was it” the rest of the exhibition seemed to be curated in an odd manner. It felt like there could have been more of a general flow to the whole thing, it didn’t seem to be organised by time periods but initially gave the impression that it was. Also more space was needed, purely for the crowds, or a better use of the space given was needed perhaps so there was less standing around waiting to view one photo. By the end of the exhibition I must admit, I did feel quite stressed, but this is London and it was David Bowie Is. Crowds are inevitable.
In order to complete the day we visited the Natural History Museum in order to see the dinosaurs, and a blue whale skeleton which was pretty impressive. Then we walked through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens which was lovely and a bit weird. It’s odd that there’s all this green space and pretty much no noise of traffic in the middle of one of the busiest cities in the world. But then we got to Oxford Street and the tranquillity was swiftly shattered. If you know Manchester, think Market Street but a million times busier. We hit it at rush hour and God did we know it. Spending four pounds on a pint seemed only natural and this concluded the first day.
The first day was exciting; the David Bowie exhibition made that a definite. But London generally is exciting and tiring, very, very tiring. However I’m looking forward to the rest of the week and some proper tourist sight-seeing tomorrow as we visit the Houses of Parliament and Tower Bridge, hopefully meaning I’ll have lots more exciting things to write about. And so that’s it, the end of day one and it’s been fab!