Paul. A. Rabbitts    

Author, Parks Historian & Public Speaker

Latest News and Updates


1st October 2017 - Green Flag Update. I don't think I ever raised this before but was looking down old updates and saw last year we had celebrated 8 Green Flags in Watford in 2016. Well in 2017, we were awarded 11 and we have the greatest number in Hertfordshire and I am very proud of them all. Its been an incredible year in Watford with all the success of Green Flag and opening of Cassiobury Park too. It made me consider a few issues about success, leadership and change? I have written my latest blog with this in mind. Have a quick read. 

1st October 2017 - finally got approval to go on the Lecture Circuit for the Arts Society with approved subjects 

  • Bandstands - History, Decline and Revival
  • A Concise History of our Great British Parks
  • Cassiobury - the Ancient Seat of the Earls of Essex
  • London's Royal Parks  
Interested in the Arts Society? check out the link here

1st October 2017 -  Historic England Book is nearing completion and the cover has now been agreed. Looking great and a monochrome image of a Macfarlane 224 bandstand. 

1st October 2017 - Why Public Parks Matter - and a new blog promoting parks and parks books but actually has a serious message in relation to what is happening to our parks. The link is here 

1st October 2017 - first update of the Autumn, and just back from Stirling from their Heavy Metal weekend. A great time in a fabulous city. Topic of course was bandstands and an emphasis on Scottish connections. 

20th September 2017 - Really looking forward to this event that I am speaking at in Stirling. 

Link is here

20th September 2017 - my favourite son, Ashley graduates at the University of Greenwich in Computer Science with a 2:1 degree. I could not be more proud. 

20th September, 2017 - well on with a new book that Shire Publications have asked me to do on the life and works of Sir Christopher Wren. Enjoying this as it is not my area of expertise but an incredibly fascinating character and a very likeable gentleman. Lovely images of Wren's work to be included by Peter Jeffree again. 

20th September 2017 - delighted to receive the cover for Great Parks, Great Designers, now brought forward and out in November. The cover image is by Peter Jeffree from Watford and is of the lodge as you enter Dulwich Park, London. 

15th July, 2017 - A nice little bit of coverage in the Londonist on Parkitecture - link here

15th July, 2017 - Good to see some Town Councils are are looking at their bandstands and restoring them including Swanage Town Council and Sherborne Town Council - bit of momentum gaining. Rugby Borough Council are also investing in the one on their Rec at Whitehill too. Sadly, the fate of the Lancaster one was less welcome - demolished by the City Council - see link here

8th July, 2017 - Bandstands are beautiful at the best of times, but one lit up at night and they become something else. Almost magical as does the Cassiobury Park bandstand in Watford. 

8th July, 2017 - a busy Spring and summer and books are out - see section under books, but Parkitecture is out, British Bandstands is out, and Postcard Collection books on Cassiobury Park and the Royal Parks are all out. Currently with the publishers are 'Great Parks, Great Designers' and 'Bandstands a Social History' and due out in Spring 2018. 

8th July 2017 - an incredible facility already - Cassiobury Park Hub in Watford 

8th July 2017 - A week later and the new pools in Cassiobury are rammed. Extremely popular already. A very proud parkie 

1st July 2017  - After 6 years of work, the restoration of Cassiobury Park in Watford is opened and the new park hub is ready to open. This was taken the night before. It has to be one of the most stressful periods I have experienced during my work career but one of the most rewarding. Strange having the place to myself. 

16th February 2017 - a record for me, written over a weekend but beautifully captures the essence of Cassiobury Park in Watford, one of my favourite parks. Sarah and I have captured and portrayed some wonderful postcard images of one of our greatest parks, from the many lost features such as the iconic gates, Old Mill, Swiss Cottage to those that remain, the parkland and open landscape of Watford's premier park. Out in April 2017 on Amazon and Amberley Books. Price £14.99. 

16th February 2017 - The outcome of the Public Parks Inquiry by the DCLG. A disappointment indeed. My views on a blog with a link to the report. 

15th January 2017 - Happy New Year all. Lets hope its better than 2016. Too many celebratory losses and especially Bowie, Lemmy, George Michael, Prince, Greg Lake & Keith Emerson and now we have lost Rick Parfitt from Status Quo. Interesting reading an article from Robert Peston, highlighting that if we thought 2016 was bad, 2017 will be or could be so much worse - the year we get Brexit and we get Trump, in 2016 we only agreed to have them, now we actually get them. Worrying times. 

2017 updates from me as usual and to look forward to? 

  • Most importantly this year, my two eldest graduate this year - Ashley at Greenwich studying Computer Science and Holly at Middlesex, studying Children's Nursing - I am so incredibly proud of their achievements and how well they have settled and embraced London life. 
  • My youngest Ellie is well into GCSE's this year so head down as I am sure she too will end up at University. 
  • Cassiobury Park book in April (with Sarah Kerenza Priestley) - the quickest book I have ever produced - done in less than a week. Its easier if you have the material already! 
  • New Bandstands of Britain book in May
  • New Parkitecture book in the summer
  • Working on a lovely Royal Parks book celebrating their buildings and monuments this time and some cracking images from photographer Peter Jeffree
  • Historic England book completed on the history of the bandstand and due out late 2017 I hope. 
  • Starting a book on Great Parks, Great Designers, covering Paxton to Pettigrew. This will be a challenge as I don't have a huge amount of material. 
  • Historic England want me to look at a definitive history book of parks too. Thats a big project and will need to focus on that one. 
  • Gigs coming up? Black Sabbath and Kiss I am very excited about - not seen either before. 
  • I have many talks lined up this year as well as a couple of conferences too, one an APSE conference where I am speaking about the changing role of the Park Manager - the last of a dying breed? 
  • I will also be giving some thoughts about my own future in 2017 - as a person that thinks too much on occasions I do need to consider where I want to be in the next 10 years - career, place of abode etc. I am 52 this year and had an unplanned 'chat' with my father before Christmas about such issues including retirement. In truth I have no concrete plans but no I need to resolve what and where I want to be sooner rather than later. Property prices are rocketing in the SE, and as I am still at a very workable age, need to probably make some changes at some stage. 

So 2017 could be a rather interesting year. It could of course be sweeter if Newcastle Utd bounce straight back up into the Premier League - looking likely. Brentford vs Newcastle just has not got the same ring to it as Liverpool vs Newcastle. Onwards (and upwards). 


December 12th 2016 - cover has arrived for the new Parkitecture book. Great image of the Coutts fountain in Victoria Park, London by Peter Jeffree. Book out next summer. 

September 21st 2016 - They want to demolish this bandstand - scrap it, because no one wants it. Who? Lancaster City Council. Link here . Needless to say I disagree, as this bandstand in Ryelands Park deserves better. No money apparently. 

September 21st  2016 - received the cover of my latest book which is out in May 2017 - British Bandstands. The wonderful image of Cassiobury Park bandstand on the front, from my very own Watford. Published by Amberley Publishing and is a celebration of restored bandstands in the last 20 years. 

September 10th 2016 - lovely review of the Great British Parks Book here from Fields in Trust. Most welcomed. 

10th September 2016 - one happy Parks manager and bandstand geek, at the opening of his restored bandstand. 

10th September 2016 - the Cassiobury bandstand has returned to the park in all its glory, stunningly restored by Lost Art Ltd. 

10th September 2016 - The deadline for the public inquiry into parks is looming - closes 30th September 2016, so please get your submission in. The link is here

I have now submitted mine. If you want to see mine, the link is here

11th August 2016 - Great piece in the Daily Mail on parks and on my book. Really pleased with this coverage. Link is here

31st July 2016 - Bandstands book for Historic England text is now finished. What's the next stage? Proof reading, tidying it up as well as now selecting a load of images. That's the fun bit. I am also having a go at crowd-funding for this one too so a link will appear soon. 

31st July 2016 - something a bit more high brow than the U3A and WI this time. Speaking to my peers at an APSE Seminar in London in September - subject? Bandstands of course. Link here 

31st July 2016 - not all new bandstands are bad bandstands. They have got rid of the rotten Ollerton bandstand in Hemel Hempstead and replaced it with this colourful and rather neat bandstand. 

31st July 2016 - and a great review in none other than Friday's Daily Mail. I will take that thank you. Link here too. 

8th July 2016 - A great week for Watford's parks - 8 Green Flags

  • Cassiobury Park
  • Oxhey Park
  • Waterfield Rec
  • St Mary's Churchyard
  • Callowland Rec
  • Cheslyn Gardens
  • North Watford Playing Fields
  • Woodside Playing Fields
Sweet because was always told - Watford will never get more than 3 Green Flags!!!!! Not on my watch boys and girls. 

8th July 2016 - two new book deals this week from Amberley Publishing. #1 Parkitechture - Buildings and Monuments of Public Parks and #2 British Bandstands - both image orientated but very excited by the Parkitechture one. What makes a great park? buildings, fountains, statues, bandstands, memorials, pavilions, bridges. 

8th July 2016 - The stunning bandstand returning to Cassiobury Park in Watford. Lost Art are doing amazing job. Looks almost oriental. 

8th July 2016 - Representing Team Watford Parks Department collecting the award. No idea who the chap is hugging me. 

8th July 2016 - Team Watford Parks team - at the inaugural Custodian Awards - Best Parks Restoration Project

3rd July 2016 - another bit of good news - Watford won the inaugural award for Best Parks restoration project for the Parks Improvement Programme - part of the Horticulture Week Custodian Awards held at Chelsea Physic Garden. Link here

3rd July 2016 - Me and my job as featured in Horticulture Week. Nice bit of coverage too. Thanks HW. Link is here

3rd July 2016 - Cassiobury Park's bandstand is on its way back thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and BIG. Bright and colourful, this will be a well used bandstand. 

12th June 2016 - OUT THIS WEEK!!! £25-00 and a celebration of all that is good in our parks. Link here 

12th June 2016 - The Bowie bandstand in Beckenham - I met their lovely team on Saturday to do a video shoot for a crowd funding campaign to raise over £200K to see this restored and the need for match funding for a lottery bid. A wonderful project and this solitary McCallum and Hope bandstand must be restored. Bowie performed here in 1969 at a Free Festival so its iconic status cannot be matched anywhere. Watch this space. 

2nd May 2016 - A lovely article here in the Daily Mail. The revival continues and some great images. All mine of course. Click here for the link to the article. HLF have funded over 100 bandstands in the last 20 years and it continues. The article celebrates this. 

30th April 2016 - Newsham Park community spirit seems to be working to save this park, including the very poor condition bandstand. 

Great link here

21st April 2016 - the day after the night before, possibly the best band I have ever seen live, Jeff Lynne's ELO live at the O2. And the same day I saw the Queen. Beat that for a day. Great little link here on Youtube

20th April 2016 - one of the greatest days I have experienced. I was invited to the opening of the bandstand in Alexandra Gardens, Windsor, by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. Stunning day and I have collated the pictures here in the gallery. One I will never forget. 

18th April 2016 - Book No.9 now commissioned - "Pavilions for Music - The History and Heritage of the Bandstand" - publisher this time is Historic England. Details are here. Very much a social history this time. 

18th April 2016 - the original bandstand in Alexandra Gardens, Windsor with the castle behind it. 

18th April 2016 - by Royal appointment. Guess who has been invited to the opening of the Windsor bandstand  on 20th April in Alexandra Gardens, Windsor, opened by none other than the Queen and Prince Philip. ME!!!! Apparently I am a bandstand historian. A beautiful recreation by Lost Art of a long lost Lion Foundry bandstand, replaced to celebrate her 90th birthday. 

13th April 2016 - Paying for parks? Well this is the thin end of the wedge. A huge public outcry so hopefully it will be reversed. Paying for a parkrun in Stoke Gifford near Bristol. The link is here

Check out my blog link here 

1st April 2016 - new book deal and this time through Historic England Publishing. "Pavilions for Music - The Heritage of the Bandstand" - a much more detailed history of the bandstand and covers the social history of public entertainment in parks.

1st April 2016 - Parks Matter 

Had a great day poking about today in the East Midlands with the camera. Why do parks matter? This is why. Abbey Park in Leicester is one of the nicest parks I have seen. On a warm sunny April day, Easter holidays, it was providing everything a park should. Parks Matter!!! 

26th March 2016 - The Infrastructure Bill

I was sent this by friends who are equally concerned and must admit I hadn't seen it. Worrying without a doubt. Will be speaking to my planning colleagues next week. 

 The Infrastructure Bill has somehow managed to slip through to its Second Reading in the House of Lords from 1830 Wednesday 18th June 2014, with almost zero news coverage – and I mean anywhere. I picked it up from Schnews and the keen politicos. So don’t feel bad for not having heard about it, feel bad for democracy.

The Bill contains a clause that will end local decision making over use of publicly owned land. As Schnews puts it, this ends the rights of Council’s: granting or denying planning consent, cancels any rights of way or any need to ask the people of England and Wales if they mind losing their parks, playing fields, allotments, woodlands, public facilities or village greens to housing developers, fracking companies, road- or railway-builders. It’s the land grab to end all land grabs.

With much of the say over land development moving to the Land Registry, we come to the next issue.  The government is selling off the Land Registry to private, profit making interests.

The government has also ordered local authorities to transfer up to 90% of brown field sites (previously developed sites that have become vacant, contaminated but could be reused) into the hands of the Homes and Communities Agency (the latest quango) where Eric Pickles (and his successors) and just two inspectors will control the planning decisions.

The Infrastructure Bill contains a clause which will allow ALL public land to be privatised. There’s no need to reference the Forestry Act 1967, the Countryside Rights of Way Act or any other protective law, because Schedule 3 of the Bill– states that “the property, rights and liabilities that may be transferred by a scheme include… property, rights and liabilities that would not otherwise be capable of being transferred or assigned.”

In plain English, this means all preceding regulations, legislation and other protections for this site are null and void – fill your boots.

If this Bill passes, we will have the private sector deciding the sale price, planning requirements and development plans for publicly owned land.  The government is taking our land – our communally owned parks, rivers, beaches, moors, mountains and fields – handing the lot over to the control of one private company, and removing any democratic mandate for decision making whatsoever.

And they’re doing the same to the roads.

Those long sounded warnings about toll roads being re-established across the UK (such as the M6 – which has been a complete disaster) are also gaining relevance with the next element of this Bill.  The Highways Agency is also becoming a government owned company, rather than an executive agency of the Department of Transport. This means strategy for road-building, funding and yes, tariffs will be handed to the private sector aswell.

The bottom line, is whether its schools, hospitals or choosing what to do with our own land – this government promised a ‘localism agenda’ and delivered the greatest shift of power from local to central government since the days Thatcher.

After a tussle when more people became aware and opposed to the plans, the government announced it’s intentions to proceed at 5pm on the day before the Easter holidays began. David Cameron dropped this bombshell privatization announcement while the country is closed for Bank Holidays and then flew off to sun himself in Lanzarote.

24th March 2016 - Trip to Wokingham today for an APSE parks forum. All good but took time out to go see Forbury Gardens in Reading. Weather awful but what a great space in the heart of a very dense area and highly built up. This was an early HLF restoration and its still looking good. 

21st March 2016 - one of the best stories I have seen telling why parks matter. Just wonderful. A short film about Brockwell Park. All politicians should watch this and learn. Link is here 

6th March 2016 - a new bandstand for Luton's Wardown Park. I am not a fan of it and much prefer the original MacFarlane 279 model. Listen here for the debate on BBC 3 Counties Radio. Scroll in 44 mins and 30 secs.  

6th March 2016 - a new talk added on Cassiobury - The Ancient Seat of the Earl's of Essex - see here . This has always gone down well locally in and around Watford but would probably interest those in garden history from anywhere. I have also added a further talk on the Royal Parks too. 

27th February 2016 - very disappointed to hear that HLF are not awarding me a grant to fund a pilot project in the East of England that would have seen bandstands brought back to life in places like Kettering (see image), Bedford, and Wellingborough. Very disappointed as it had lots of support from Brass Band England, Making Music and others. Need to have a rethink. 

27th February 2016 - A thrilling Parks Chief!!! this was lovely to see in the Watford Observer

14th February 2016 - Portugese bandstands - sent by a friend who spends a lot of his time out there but have a look at this link here. Just stunning. 

5th February 2016 - devastated by the loss of these guys 

Left - Bowie

Top right - Jimmy Bain

Bottom right - Lemmy

All part of my life. 

5th February 2016 - Lottery bid submitted for a bandstand project in Northants, Herts, Essex and Bedfordshire. Also contact made with Ironbridge Gorge Museum of Iron for a bandstand exhibition in either 2017 or 2018. Lets see where that takes us. 

5th February 2016 - A good start to the year, new book completed - "Great British Parks - A Celebration" out in June and link here. Richmond Park is also out in paperback too. Link here. New book in the offering, "Pavilions for Music - The History and Heritage of the Bandstand", this time published by Heritage England, so very excited by that one. Another proposal submitted too, "Great Parks, Great Designers". This one is overdue celebrating the works of Joseph Paxton, Edward Milner, James Pennethorne, and many others. 



*(excludes Man Utd fans)

19th December 2015 - I know I can't dance and here is the evidence - front row, 2nd from left in the white trackie top and baseball hat. At least I will have a go. I can't think of many employers in the public sector who will put on an awards like this. It was a great party. But I still can't dance !!

19th December 2015 - not sure how I could forget this one, but I am one of Britain's dullest men!! officially! And this gained fantastic national coverage. I made BBC Radio 2 Jeremy Vine show as well as Have I Got News for You. Lots more here too. And lots on my last blog too. Book available on Amazon too.  

15th December 2015 - "Great British Parks - A Celebration" is finished. 90,000 words and 320 images and celebrating 20 years of Green Flag Award and HLF lottery funding for parks. Its purpose is indeed a celebration, but a stark warning that the State of UK Parks is at its best ever, BUT are we about to return to a severe decline in standards as a result of 30-50% cuts in local authority budgets?  We in parks management teams across the country fear this is so.

The book is due out in June 2016 through Amberley Publishing.

Funding from the following:-

  • Veolia
  • Green Flag Award
  • LUC
  • Southern Green Ltd
  • LDA Design
  • The 'award winning' Lost Art Ltd
  • Cleveland Land Services
  • Watford Borough Council
  • Ground Control Ltd
  • Archie & Marianne Pitts

15th December 2015 - Coventry War Memorial Park looking to get a new bandstand. I do hope it is none of these "beasts". I am sorry if I offended anyone on BBC Coventry but these are not bandstands. At least respect the wonderful art deco of the park and be inspired by what came before us. These certainly do not. I have no problem with modern contemporary bandstands but there are some horrors about - Bexhill on Sea is a great example. I visited War Memorial Park in summer 2015 and it deserves something respectful. 

15th December 2015 - Now this isn't good news. Check this link out  - as times get harder for local authorities, we are resorting to charging for things we really should not be. Children's play??? Also some dire coverage re the future of local authorities here. Are we really slipping back to basics as Government cuts dig deeper. And the Times reported about parks cuts digging deep and hurting hard. History repeating itself. Link here . Are we expecting a return to the late 80s and early 90s and see such horrors as in People's Park in Halifax - see image left. 

14th September 2015 - now this IS good news. Funding to form a new membership forum from HLF, through the Parks Alliance. A replacement for GreenSpace and CABE Space and ILAM, who all disappeared? I really hope we can sustain this. Link here

14th September 2015 - the new bandstand appearing in Alexandra Gardens in Windsor, due to open on 21st September, best get cracking. I've been invited as a VIP guest, and taking Mrs R and daughter who were ...errr...delighted. 

11th September 2015 - really delighted with this. I was asked to do a blog for the Heritage Lottery Fund - currently the biggest funding partner along with BIG for public parks in the UK. Nearly £800 million invested. So the chance to write a blog for them was very welcome. The link is here 

9th July 2015 - Brockwell Park Bandstand

A gorgeous website link sent to me on twitter. A history of the long lost bandstand in Brockwell Park in Brixton. Check the link here

9th July 2015 - Hyde Park - The People's Park

Out now and its such a lovely book. Book signings being arranged by Amberley Publishing. Book No. 7 and No.8 and No. 9 in planning phase. 

30th May 2015 - Back to where it all started

My dear friend Pherenice and her lovely boyfriend back in Albert Park, Middlesbrough, and my first bandstand love. Facebook told me they were both in the park today, travelling up from Bromley in Kent to the Boro. I was so pleased they sent me this and they look so happy. But my bandstand is looking a bit sad, leaking gutters and soundboard looking compromised. Its barely 10 years old. Its not even used anymore. I am really not prepared to let this happen anymore. Why take the grant money and then neglect it?? 

As for Pherenice and David, well maintained and no neglect here!! xx

19th May 2015 - has over 1,500 hits in its first week.

The feedback on this has been amazing. The website is coming together and one of the nicest responses was from "home" in lovely County Durham - the Land of the Prince Bishops. They sent me this brilliant picture of Consett and Blackhill Park, restored as part of an early HLF project and now well used. The fun pictured here where the community has been brought together and is focused on this beautiful bandstand is wonderful. Its what it is all about and what I want to see much more of. 

2nd May 2015 - Lost Art win major award

Guess who won at the Museum & Heritage Award for restoration? The guys from Lost Art for the incredible restoration of the Paisley Fountain in Glasgow. Check out the link here. Well done lads. 

2nd May 2015 - PhD News

Sometimes it takes a lot to admit you either made a mistake or took too much on. I started a part time PhD last October at Salford University studying the history of Public Entertainment in Public Parks 1833-1939 in London. I took on too much, and in the words of Carole O'Reilly, my superb supervisor, if you can't give it 100% at the exclusion of everything else, I can't do it. True, so very true. So after writing 10,000 words and read lots of books on Victorian Recreation, I have stepped away from it reluctantly. But it opens other doors - more time to focus on bandstand projects, as well as looking at another book or three!! Those 10,000 words will be useful. But thank you Carole and Dr. Deb Woodman. I really enjoyed my trips back oop north. 

27th April 2015 - "Pavilions for Music CIC" 

Its long been a desire to set up my own company with a view to "Bringing Bandstands back to Life". This came a step closer today with my formal submission to Companies House and the CIC Regulator to set up Pavilions for Music CIC. Lets hope its approved. Initial very early discussions with HLF and Veolia Environmental Trust look promising but a long way to go yet. But exciting times ahead. 

26th April 2015 - Hawick Bandstand returns to Wilton Lodge Park

Extremely pleased about this one as I instigated the HLF bid way back in 2010/11 whilst doing some work for Scottish Borders Council. I wrote the successful Round 1 application to HLF but afterwards moved on to Watford Borough Council. I am so glad it actually happened, and a great park. I included in my first book on Bandstands where it was noted as an Elmbank Foundry bandstand. Turned out it was a McDowall Steven one! pah! For link, click here

3rd May 2014 -  Britain's Parks Story on the iPlayer with Dan Cruickshank and me!!!

or watch the Part 3 section on bandstands

29th June 2014 - A new book on the history of Hyde Park - The People's Park - due early in 2015

1st August 2014 - Cassiobury book finally submitted to the publisher - what a lovely book this will be - launch at Watford Museum in November 2014

7th August 2014 - Bandstands of Britain finally went to print and due early November.

9th August 2014 - Blog started

11th September 2014 - Cassiobury - the Ancient Seat of the Earls of Essex went to print. Due early November. 

13th November 2014 - the book launch for Cassiobury book at Watford Museum - 6-8pm

23rd December 2014 - Bandstands of Britain available for sale  

1st February 2015 - is launched 

22nd February 2015 - A great story in the Daily Mail online - Click here

22nd April 2015 - Pavilions for Music CIC submitted to Companies House.