Up to London for Labyrinth Masquerade Ball – a screening with audience participation, singalong, and fancy dress!
As the screening is due to start quite late, I’ve booked into a hotel. I check in and leave my luggage, then go out for some more Bowie-related activity.
First stop is Brixton, to visit the Bowie mural. This time last year I was spending a lot of time here – some of it writing the Labyrinth sonnets that would become my book. Things have changed a little since then. The mural is now protected by a thick acrylic sheet, and there are signs asking people not to write on it. The department store next door, Morleys, has repainted its window frames white (though writing is starting to creep back over them again). There are new posters for Iman’s line of cosmetics, and already the faces of the models have that distinctive zigzag drawn on them.
And there are flowers, of course – always flowers. I light a candle and sit for a while, but it’s too cold and damp to stay long.
So I head off to my next stop – the Proud Gallery, in Chelsea for the Bowie by Duffy exhibition.
The late Brian Duffy took some iconic photos of Bowie, including those for the Aladdin Sane and Lodger covers. It’s interesting to see images you’ve been familiar with for years on an album sleeve – like the clown from Scary Monsters – suddenly larger and on a wall – makes you look at them with fresh eyes. There was also a Bowie photo I’d never seen before – one of him with a cute little black Scottie dog.
I get talking with the guy on the desk, who’s a Bowie fan. He shows me some smaller versions of the prints for sale – I’m quite tempted, but reluctantly decide to be sensible. The exhibition’s running till 19th February.
Time to go back to the hotel and change into my costume, then walk to the Prince Charles Cinema in Leicester Square. This is London, so no-one bats an eyelid at someone in a ball gown – though I do hear one woman say “This is why I love Soho.”
The Labyrinth Masquerade Ball is always sold-out – so you have to start queuing an hour before the doors open if you want a seat at the front. I take my place in line, next to a couple of girls who’ve come all the way down from Scotland to watch the film. It’s cold outside, so we’re all glad when the queue starts to move.
As we go into the auditorium, we’re each given a little paper bag with some goodies – a fizzy peach to bite, a miniature bottle of bubble mixture, and a party popper. The screening is hosted by a Jareth lookalike – but with a beard – and a hilariously overstuffed crotch!
He talks us through the responses you’re supposed to yell when different characters come on screen, then invites those in costume up onstage for the costume contest. There are some good costumes. Lots of Jareths and Sarahs, a grown-up Toby, a Didymus, and even a couple of worms.
Then it’s time for the film itself. Seeing it on the big screen is always a treat – and it’s not often I get to watch it with 300 people who love it almost as much as I do. Jareth (of course) gets a round of applause when he appears. The worm gets a chorus of “Ahhhh, cuuute!” We sing along with the songs, bite our peaches when Sarah does, blow bubbles during the ballroom scene, and pop our party poppers at the climax.
But all too soon, it’s over. There’s a rush for the tiny toilets, where people are trying to change out of costume before they head home. I just have to stroll around the corner. I pass a drag queen outside a bar and we mouth “You look fabulous!” at each other.
At the hotel, I’m not quite ready to sleep, so I decide to nip into the bar for a night-cap. It’s only when I get the bill that I notice the name of the bar – Henson’s. How appropriate!