Examining the enigma of the mercurial Bowie in UL

Alan Owens

Reporter:

Alan Owens

HOT Press deputy editor Stuart Clark, appearing via Skype from Dublin as part of the panel discussion that began the David Bowie Symposium in the University of Limerick last week, said that the rock star would likely “chuckle at the notion of such a conference” in his name.

HOT Press deputy editor Stuart Clark, appearing via Skype from Dublin as part of the panel discussion that began the David Bowie Symposium in the University of Limerick last week, said that the rock star would likely “chuckle at the notion of such a conference” in his name.

“He likes us all to keep swimming in soup, wondering what he is up to,” said the Hot Press scribe of Bowie, whom he has interviewed several times.

“He struck me as a man very comfortable in his own skin and so he should be, with the best back catalogue of all time. He is happy for us to join the dots on his mystique and let us work that out for ourselves,” added Mr Clark.

If there was anything concrete to be drawn from an entertaining panel discussion seeking to get to grips with Bowie’s legacy, it was that the famously mercurial, enigmatic artist is almost impossible to categorise among existing genres - a sentiment fitting with the name of the three day symposium, Strange Fascination.

For the first time ever, academics from around the world came together to discuss and debate Bowie’s cultural impact and influence, with 300 sociologists, historians, music, culture and art academics from all across Ireland, Europe, Australia and America coming to UL for the conference.

Dr Eoin Devereux, one of the organisers and senior lecturer in UL’s sociology department, said the Bowie symposium “was very successful” - even more than previous such events held in UL on Morrissey and The Smiths.

“It attracted speakers from all over the world,” he said after the three day event.

“There was a really interesting collection of academics, Bowie fans and academics who are Bowie fans involved in a discussion about one of rock’s truly iconic figures.

“Events like these bring an energy to the university. The symposium underscores the shared interest that a group of us at UL have in the analysis of popular culture and in the examination of popular music in particular,” he added.

Others participating in the panel discussion included Paul McLoone, Today FM presenter and front man of The Undertones, Bowie biographer David Buckley and Bowie’s former press officer at RCA, Chris Charlesworth, who was also news editor of pop mag Melody Maker.

The latter said of Bowie: “He set the perfect example of how to conduct a career as a rock star. He didn’t sit on his laurels, experimented and took chances and that is why we are still talking about him today”.