David Bowie Is: read Tilda Swinton's speech at V&A exhibition launch

Actor thanks 'every alien's favourite cousin' at opening of show dedicated to Bowie's career

The exhibition David Bowie Is opens at the V&A museum in London on Saturday.

At its launch on Wednesday, Tilda Swinton gave a speech, in the absence of Bowie himself. The actor recently appeared in the video to the singer's latest single The Stars (Are Out Tonight).

The exhibition features 300 Bowie-related artefacts, including photographs, film, set designs, handwritten lyrics and 60 stage costumes.

Swinton's speech – via the V&A's website – was as follows:

Dear Dave

When I asked you if you wanted me to say anything here tonight, you said: "Only three words, one of them testicular …" So I'll pass that on.

Here I am at surely the most eclectic of all the London branches of Bowie Anonymous. All the nicest possible freaks are here.

We're in the Victoria and Albert museum preparing to rifle through your drawers. It's truly an amazing thing.

This was my favourite playground as a child. Medieval armour: my fantasy space wear.

And, alongside, when I was 12 – and a square sort of kid in a Round Pond sort of childhood, not far from here – I carried a copy of Aladdin Sane around with me – a full two years before I had the wherewithal to play it.

The image of that gingery boney pinky whitey person on the cover with the liquid mercury collar bone was – for one particular young moonage daydreamer – the image of planetary kin, of a close imaginary cousin and companion of choice.

It's taken me a long time to admit, even to myself, let alone you, that it was the vision and not yet the sound that hooked me up – but if i can't confess that here and now, then when and where?

We all have our own roots – and routes – to this room.

Some of us – the enviable – found the fellowship early in the funfests of Billy's Bowie Nights or equivalent lodges from San Francisco to Aukland to Heidelberg and all points in between.

For others, it was a more lonesome affair, paced out in a sort of private morse code like following bread crumbs through a forest.

I'm not saying that if you hadn't pitched up I would have worn a pie crust collar and pearls like some of those I went to school with.

I'm not saying that if you hadn't weighed in, Princess Julia would have been less inventive with the pink blusher.

Simply that, you provided the sideways like us with such rare and out-there company. Such fellowship. You pulled us in and left your arm dangling over our necks. And kept us warm – as you have for, isn't it? – centuries now.

You were … you are … one of us.

And you have remained the reliable mortal in among all the immortal shapes you have thrown. Nothing more certain than changes.

Always with a weather eye out. Always awake and clocking the fallout

Those Mayans must have known something when they set their calendar down before January 2013. Because, of course, now all bets are off.

I know, because you told me, how tickled you were to knock Elvis – for once! – out of the headlines on your shared birthday this year.

There's so much for all of us to be happy about since then.

Yet, I think the thing I'm loving the most about the last few weeks is how clear it now is – how undeniable – that the freak becomes the great unifier. The alien is the best company after all for so many more than the few.

They wanted a Bowie fan to speak tonight. They could have thrown a paper napkin and hit a hundred. I'm the lucky one, standing up to speak for all my fellow freaks anxious to win the pub quiz and claim their No 1 most super-fan T-shirt.

I want to give thanks to the Victoria and Albert museum for indulging us so. For laying on our dream show. For showing us – look at their advance ticket sales – that, as is written along the bottom of this month's Q magazine, "why we all live in David's world now".

To Gucci and Sennheiser for putting up the cash, laying on the sound and vision. To Geoffrey and Victoria for curating an entire universe so beautifully, on behalf of us all.

When I think of what it used to feel like once: to be a freak who liked you; to feel like a freak like you – a freak who even looked a little like you …

And then I think of the countless people of every size and feather who are going to walk through this trace of your journey here and pick up the breadcrumbs in the great hub of this mothership over these spring and summer months … And how familiar and stamped you are into ALL of our our collective DNA … I'm just plain proud.

So … where are we now?

Well, I know you aren't here tonight, but somehow, no matter. We are – and you brought us out of the wainscotting like so many freaky old bastards. Like so many fan boys and girls. Like so many loners and pretty things and dandies and dudes and dukes and duckies and testicular types. And pulled us together. Together. By you. Dave Jones. Our not so absent, not so invisible, friend.

Every alien's favourite cousin. Certainly mine.

We have a nice life.

Yours aye,


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