On June 7 1980, Bob Marley & The Wailers played what was to be their last, and said to their biggest, London concert at Crystal Palace Bowl. And it was also the first time London fans, some of whom were making their way home from the open air concert in the south London borough of Bromley, heard Bob Marley performing the unaccompanied last song of the night – ‘Redemption Song’.
Last week, to mark the 40th anniversary of this historic concert, a Nubian Jak Community Trust blue plaque was unveiled on part of the steel-framed bandstand affectionately referred to by locals as the Rusty Laptop.
The plaque, which had the added feature of the Ethiopian/pan-African/Rastafari tri-colours painted on the edge, was officially unveiled by the Mayor of Bromley Cllr Hannah Grey, with special guests including Member of Parliament for Lewisham West & Penge Ellie Reeves, Crystal Palace Ward Councillor Angela Wilkins, Crystal Palace Park Trust Co-Chairs Phillip Kolvin QC and Martin Tempia, Friends of Crystal Palace Park representative Lucy Hopkins, and Nubian Jak CEO Jak Beula, in attendance.
Unlike last year’s unveiling of a Nubian Jak plaque to the Wailers trio, Bob Marley, Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh, at the old Island recording studios in Ladbroke Grove, west London, where fans thronged across the neighbouring streets, this Wailers unveiling was an austere affair with just a handful of specially invited guests, due to present Covid-19 measures.
The plaque was the idea of the Friends Of Crystal Palace Park’s effort to get the Bowl in shape as a major performance space. The initiative was supported by Bromley Council, The Crystal Palace Park Trust, BBM/BMC (BritishBlackMusic.com/Black Music Congress), and Marley’ record company, Island Records UK, which made a financial contribution to the plaque crowd-funding campaign.
2020 is a particularly special year, as it marks the 40th anniversary of the said concert and the release of ‘Redemption Song’, the last song Marley performed on a London concert stage, and Marley75. The event also marks African History Month in the UK.
Unlike last October’s unveiling where there was hot soup for the crowd, and the night ended with Wailers DJ sets at the near-by Mau Mau Bar, fans can check out photos of this month’s unveiling ceremony, the history of the Bowl and the 1980 concert at https://www.crystalpalacebowl.com/bob-marley.
This is the first Marley or Wailers plaque south of the River Thames. The metropolis, where the Marley/Wailers global fame was launched, boasts of a Bob Marley & The Wailers plaque in the north-west borough of Brent – the 2020 London Borough Of Culture includes Harlesden, which is the reggae capital of Britain.
There’s a Marley plaque in the central London part of the borough of Camden. And last year, apart from the Wailers plaque unveiled in the west London part of the borough of Kensington & Chelsea, English Heritage also unveiled a Marley plaque in the south-west end of the borough.
Louis Bloom, President Island Records, said:
“Bob Marley is a truly defining artist for Island Records. His music and his message are constant reminders of the power and the importance of music in people’s lives. The Crystal Palace Bowl concert is legendary and was also the last time Bob played in London. To have this giant of music and culture, honoured in this way, will help to inspire future generations and keep his message of love, hope, activism and spirituality alive“
Dr Jak Beula, Founder Nubian Jak Community Trust, said:
“Having once shared the same manager in Don Taylor, the Crystal Palace Rose plaque is of particular importance to me. On behalf of the trustees of the Nubian Jak Community Trust, we fully support commemorating the last and largest musical appearance in London of Bob Marley & The Wailers. By installing a 40th-anniversary plaque at the Crystal Palace Bowl, we believe this would be the perfect continuation of our previous commemorations celebrating the life and work of this legendary music icon and band.”
Kwaku, Founder of BritishBlackMusic.com/Black Music Congress (BBM/BMC), said:
“BBM/BMC supports this plaque project, which marks the last Bob Marley & The Wailers concert in London, and the first live performance of ‘Redemption Song’ in Britain.”