Belfast-based salon owner and educator, Paul Stafford, on his challenge to bring back the spirit of David Bowie for a breathtaking show

“To pay homage to an icon of David Bowie’s stature is difficult for any creative, on any level. From the Lady Gaga Stars in Their Eyes parody to absurd reinventions of his songs by artists too desperate to make their own name, we’ve seen it all this year, so creating a hair show tribute is potentially bound to be the worst idea of all, right?

“So when I was asked earlier this year to do just that by Italian haircare giant Alfaparf for their Alfaparf Milano Fantastic Hairdresser Awards in Dublin my first reaction was: ‘Er, no thanks.’ But then I thought: ‘Well, why not?’

“My immediate idea was to feature Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, and wrap it around a beautiful ballet – a Black Star meets Black Swan, if you like. But, really it was too dark and almost impossible to it do justice in less than 10 minutes.

“I read everything I could that I didn’t already know and came back to a clip I’d seen of Bowie at the Grammys in 1975, wasted, white and obviously high on cocaine, having recently killed off his Ziggy Stardust persona.

“Bowie had launched an audacious attack on the US by recording his Young Americans album of Philly-inspired soul and R&B, ironically giving him the Fame hit single, and the fame he’d always wanted. Finally America loved him, but he was destroying himself.

“Our show features the man who fell to earth in 1975 at the height of his powers but he is lost. We see him searching for himself to the sound of another lost spirit, Kurt Cobain, and Nirvana’s version of The Man Who Sold the World. Then, enter All the Young Dudes, our homage to the UK’s punk rock revolt against the bloated corpse of 60s stadium rock and the rotten comedy of glam rock. This should have killed off Bowie but, if anything, it takes him on a creative whirlwind, where we see him abandon life in New York to find sanctuary among the underground with the freaks, transsexuals and addicts of Berlin, hanging out with Iggy Pop and taking in the sounds of Kraut-rock  from the likes of Kraftwork, Nue and Can.

“We pay homage to Bowie’s Ashes to Ashes through the industrial electronica of Momus. Here we see Bowie experience the dark side of Berlin and its temptations – our dark ballet represents the mid-70s heroin epidemic that gripped Berlin, famously documented in the movie Christiane F and the book Zoo Station, and the demons that besieged Bowie through his life. Our black swan synchs with our beautiful drag girls’ careless dancing pays tribute to Bowie’s Studio 54 less obvious (than Berlin’s) nights of excess and the line ‘New York’s a go-go and everything tastes nice’.

“The Berlin trilogy – Lodger, Heroes and Low – are considered Bowie’s greatest achievement, and as the 80s approached we see the beautiful mirror image of his fans and, mostly, his ex-wife Angie, who he divorced in 1980, appear on stage in a homage to all the elements of his former persona. The famous Ziggy lightning bolt is reimagined in a punk-inspired Afro, the Ashes to Ashes wedding dress and the famous scene from the Ashes to Ashes video featuring the also recently deceased Bowie-obsessive Steve Strange, with Bowie breaking free from his demons to strains of Beck’s 1,000-strong Sound and Vision choir.

“Bowie miraculously survives the 70s and emerges as a beautiful butterfly – on our stage his feminine self – and so Bowie comes full circle in 1980 as he did a decade earlier as the poster freak of a new generation.

“Our show ends with our group together at a backstreet Soho underground new romantic club, swaying to the sound of his own spectacular track Life on Mars.”

Watch the 8-minute show:

Clubland by the Stafford Hair Art Team
Hair: Stafford Hair Art Team
Styling: Sara O’Neill
Make-up: Frankie McKernon
Photography: Lee Mitchell
Casting: Fleur Mellor
Sponsor: Alfaparf Milano