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  Institute of Contemporary Art's
"A Rock N Roll Suicide"
Special Feature

"When Iain, Jane and I sat down and discussed "A Rock N Roll Suicide" a year ago, I don't think any of us knew just what we had let ourselves in for...The legacy of Ziggy...lies most explicitly in sexual politics, expressive freedoms and theatrical possibilities.  Contributions from the fields of music, fashion and design cite the creation of Ziggy Stardust amongst the boldest and most intricate of artistic statements...Ziggy bore himself, defined himself, faked himself and killed himself in a surge of creative excess.  Nothing related to a reality anyone knew, yet generations then and now bought in unconditionally to a way of life that can only be played out in full on stage.  These two artists (Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard) were born the year that Ziggy died.  Their work expands beyond simply re-enacting the entire sound and aesthetic of historic pop moments.  Through pedantic fanaticism expounded through every detail of the performance they instill the emotion that sets the night alive.  Their critique is less about the past than of the present, re-bridging the gaps which brings a current generation into sharp focus.  Without the drive and vision of Iain & Jane, the studied commitment of Steve and the band, and the skill and wisdom of Natasha, this project would not have been realisable.  I can only thank them all on behalf of the ICA for their "neurosis." - Vivienne Gaskin (ICA LIVE ARTS - 1998)

On Thursday 2nd June and Friday 3rd July 1998, The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in London carried out a novel 25th anniversary re-enactment of David Bowie's famous Ziggy Stardust retirement gig at the Hammersmith Odeon (3rd July 1973).

The re-enactment concerts - called "A Rock N Roll Suicide" were staged live (The Friday performance was also broadcast live by the ICA/Sun New Media Centre on their web site) as a unique art event by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard - two 25 year-old art students who, coincidentally, were born the very same year that Ziggy Stardust "died".  "A Rock N Roll Suicide" was their fifth live art event, and their largest and highest profile undertaking to date. Fan Marcus Reeves caught up with them prior to the concert opening.

Are They Listening Yet? An interview with Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard (Marcus Reeves - 1998)


Front and back cover of concert flyer with Steve Harvey as Ziggy Stardust

"A Rock N Roll Suicide" featured look and sound-a-like Steve Harvey as Ziggy Stardust with "The Spiders" being made up of Jonathon Coombes (Mick Ronson), Alan MacFeeley (Trevor Bolder) and Silke Steidinger as a female Woody Woodmansey! The band were hand-picked and formed by Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard exclusively for the ICA event and also featured "Young Jazz Musician Of The Year 1998" Tom Cawley on piano and keyboards.

Fan Marcus Reeves interviewed Steve prior to the concert opening.

Stardust in His Eyes: An Interview with Steve Harvey (Marcus Reeves - 1998)

Steve Harvey as Ziggy Stardust

The seven Ziggy Stardust costumes worn at the shows were re-created from the Kansai Yamamoto originals by Bowie designer Natasha Kornilof with assistance from Anita Ford (embroidery), Becky Lowe (painting), Schultz and Wiremu (printing and painting) and Keiko Shinmyo (knitting). Along with photographs and certificates of authenticity these were later offered to Bowie collectors for around ŁUK450 each.

Andrea Barney recreated Mick Ronson's costume while the concert hairstyling was done by Toni & Guy, make-up by Terry Blenheim, dressing by Andrea Barney & Susannah Pattinson, lighting by Tim Fletcher & Nick Bache, concert sound by Richard Nowell Sound Services and backstage catering by Poot. The stage manager for the concert was Martin Kennedy while the production technicians were Michael Bollard, Richard Jones, Graham Parker & Ewan Smith.

Prior to the concerts the ICA sought comment and memories from fans and celebrities, including Angie Bowie, Mick Rock, Boy George and Neil Tennant and included them in the concert programme.  Flyers were also produced to accompany the event and both were given free to the audience. The programme explored the artistic, historical and cultural significance of Ziggy Stardust with short written contributions from contemporary musicians, writers and fans.

ICA Concert Programme - Fan/Celebrity Contributions

Steve Harvey as Ziggy Stardust


The two ICA shows were a huge success - with extensive publicity and two sellout audiences that included Boy George, Ian McCulloch from Echo & The Bunnymen, The Big Breakfast's Wayne Hemingway and Mick Ronson's sister, Maggie Ronson. Press coverage of the concerts included Mojo, Record Collector, Select, Xfm Radio, The Sunday Times, Sunday Express, The Big Breakfast, The Independent, The Guardian, The Evening Standard, Attitude, ABC Radio News Network USA, The Big Issue, BBC GLR Radio and World Entertainment News.

"a long way from your typical tribute 'experience'... this time it's about that lost-in-music, life-changing moment that can put you in another place, sometimes forever..." - ATTITUDE MAGAZINE.

"Terrific Ronsonesque guitar playing." - THE INDEPENDENT.

"Of course, no one can do Bowie better than Bowie but Harvey and chums had the crowds screaming in disbelief. Every costume, movement and snippet of dialogue was perfect... I had a fun time singing along to all my favourites... I had a Moonage Daydream." - BOY GEORGE IN THE SUNDAY EXPRESS.

Review of ICA's "A Rock N Roll Suicide" - by Pat Hewitt (1998)

Review of A Rock N Roll Suicide by the ICA - by Sebastiano Patane (1998)

Jonathan Coombes as Mick Ronson

Steve Harvey as Ziggy Stardust

Alan MacFeeley as Trevor Bolder

Following the two successful London shows, plans were then made to take "A Rock N Roll Suicide" on a short European tour in early 1999. The band performed a warm-up gig under the name of "STARMAN - A tribute to Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars" on Friday 2nd October at The Venue, London and then embarked on a four performance tour of Luxembourg, France, Belgium and Holland in January 1999. 

French advert for European Tour

However, the last of the four re-enactment gigs in Amsterdam on Sunday 17 January was cancelled at the last minute, much to the dismay of fans who had specially traveled to be there.  The organisers stated that the show was forced to cancel due to serious problems arising between "the artist, producers and David Bowie's management" - with reportedly the issue of the gigs being made into a full scale tour being the main issue of contention between the ICA and David Bowie's management.

Sadly, things turned worse in August 1999 when the chairman of ICA was reported to be proposing to remove Bowie and seventeen other celebrities from its list of patrons because he no longer considered them to reflect the 'cutting edge' nature of ICA. The report claimed that Mr Ivan Massow had penned a letter proposing the removal to "keep the institute free of the baggage of 'safe' representation and affiliation". Other famous musicians who would be cut from ICA's masthead included Madonna, David Byrne, Pete Townshend and Bryan Eno.

---This page last modified: 12 Dec 2018---

Ziggy Stardust Scarf (1973)