Paul Rabbitts    

BA (Hons), MLA, FRSA, FLI
Author, Parks Historian & Speaker

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Writers Block? No way

Posted on 10 July, 2015 at 19:00 Comments comments (0)

Its out at last - seems like months since I finished this and in essence it was. Hyde Park - The People's Park is just lovely. Interestingly a number of friends and colleagues said, "it aint the peoples park, Victoria Park was in Tower Hamlets" - yet Grimsby has a People's Park too and there are others too. Yet in essence, ALL parks are people's parks, they belong to everybody. Hyde Park was the Royal Park that became the people's park. 

So whats next? 20 years of HLF funding and restoration of amazing parks. Time to celebrate this with a new book - Book no 8 with stunning photographs and more. Writers block? Its been too long since I wrote and need to get back into it. Book No 9? Bandstands a Social History? As for double figures - thats the challenge. No writers block here and as for parks - they are all parks for the people. 

PS please buy my books!!!

Sunny Days and Balmy Nights

Posted on 5 June, 2015 at 19:05 Comments comments (0)

Terrific few days here in Leighton Buzzard with sunny evening walks with Charlie and rest of the family. I have discovered areas of the neighbourhood I didn't know existed. The joys of having a dog I suppose. This brings me on to a link someone shared with friends and myself on Facebook about "a black dog" which I had never seen before. It resonated very much with me as for a number of months had not been feeling myself and could not understand why - I have never suffered with my health and certainly have never considered that I may be suffering depression - see I can admit it. Watching this was a turning point - see link below - and its just brilliant. My black dog never truly got hold because I dealt with it but its a horrible feeling - truly horrible and I still don't understand why I felt like this. But hey ho, many many of us do. I haven't really spoken about but the black dog doesn't control me - watch the clip and you will get this. Now having a white dog in my life, it was something Ellie said to me on having had Charlie a week - the effect a dog can have on you emotionally, the eye contact and the impact of being "mans best friend" - I don't know where she read it but it too had an impact. White dog wins. So what am i saying? White dogs are better than black dogs? nope! Don't be ashamed of how you feel. We are only human after all. 

https://youtu.be/XiCrniLQGYc

What no blog in 4 weeks???

Posted on 19 May, 2015 at 16:40 Comments comments (0)

I must have been distracted or just simply busy. Both!! In the last 4 weeks I have:-

 

  • Packed in the PhD - it was becoming too much sadly in relation to time commitment;
  • Acquired a dog for the first time;
  • Submitted an application to Companes House for my Community Interest Company - Pavilions for Music CIC;
  • Launched www.bookabandstand.com 
  • Tolerated apalling performances from Newcastle Utd - nothing new there, I should be used to it;
  • Visited many bandstands; 
  • Attended several athletics meetings with youngest daughter who performs well for Leighton Buzzard Athletics Club; and
  • Investigated 3 new potential books. 
So busy and distracted. I must admit the highlight is getting a dog - after months of saying NO!!! our daughter finally ground us down and we agreed to look at getting a Westie and so in short - Charlie arrived from Battersea Dogs Home and he has completely changed everything, for the better. I haven't had a dog since I was 14 years old and he has so reminded me of what it was like. Naturally he has been introduced to bandstands and didn't cock his leg!! 

So a busy 4 weeks and likely to get busier, and I didn't even mention the General Election. 

 

Premiership Champions? Liverpool?

Posted on 16 April, 2015 at 18:40 Comments comments (1)

Had a really good trip to Liverpool last weekend, sorted last minute and with a view to get away but also to sneak a look at 4 bandstands I knew were there - Newsham Park (see Bad bandstands), Sefton Park, Derby Park in Bootle and Stanley Park - all in beautiful bandstands. Saturday was spent wandering around Matthew Street and the Beatles bits - Cavern Club looked rowdy, then a wander up to the Cultural Quarter. Its a magnificent city. Sunday it poured down but this was the bandstand tour. Sefton Park is immense and the Palmhouse is just a fabulous work of art and a restoration beyond recognition. I loved it. As for the bandstand, I scrambled over the bridge to the island bandstand, looking a little bit worn but a great colour scheme. Stanley Park - after a swift look round the outside of Anfield for the Mrs! - stunning, just stunning. The Conservatory restoration is outstanding. Go visit it. Next was Newsham Park - the other side of Liverpool and a park that has had the heart ripped out of it. Truly awful and I must admit I didn't feel safe. 

Derby Park in Bootle I almost broke my neck climbing the fence to get onto it. I still have the war wounds, but it was worth the pain. 

So all in all, 3 great bandstands, one just a shameful wreck, but I came away feeling rather sad and somewhat cheated. I love Liverpool, I supported them as a child, I got my pilots licence at Cheshire Air Training School at Liverpool Airport and it has tremendous parks and buildings. But behind much of it is extreme poverty, hardship, social problems that seem out of control but such buoyant people. I do love the scouse humour. Governemnt afte government, local and national politicians have failed - the system has failed and it is cities like Liverpool where it is felt most. I saw it in Middlesbrough and I saw it here. But I mention this to a dear scouse friend from St. Helens who simply says "don't be sad, be inspired" and she was totally right. Be inspired. It was an inspirational city and  can't wait to go back. 

Newsham Park Entrance

Derelict Lights

The bandstand as it was

The bandstand today

Sefton Park Palmhouse

Inside the Palmhouse

Andre Le Notre 

On tour

Posted on 21 March, 2015 at 18:15 Comments comments (0)

I recalled recently a presentation I gave many years ago as a student of Landscape Architecture at Edinburgh University where my tutor, the wonderful Seamus Filor went ballistic at me for waffling and rambling on about a rubbish scheme I had prepared. He scared the hell out of me, apologised afterwards but said he meant every word. He was of course right. Many years later I was asked to give a talk to a Women's Institute whilst working in Carlisle. I never looked back and must have done several hundred WI's since then, in Cumbria, Co. Durham, North Yorkshire, Bedfordshire and now Buckinghamshire. I actually go out of my way to do them as I LOVE them. Why? Passion for my subject - unequivocal passion. This last 2 weeks has seen me in Leamington Spa, addressing the Leamington Society, a number of WI's, a Friends of Museum in Watford, a small church group, a Flower Club, and today a 120 mile round trip to Hornchurch in the LB of Havering to speak at an annual Parks Forum. They are all a delight, even with 2 a day on occasions. The days are long since gone since the public humiliation by Seamus, but I thank him for it. I still have twinges of nervousness but enjoy them all. 

At the other end of the scale, I have seen 2 great bands on tour in a week. Thunder, live at Hammersmith Apollo - a venue new to me and 7th time seeing one of my favourite bands and last night, Europe with the Black Star Riders (aka the old Thin Lizzy). Both legends of rock and capacity audiences. Almost as enjoyable as speaking at the local WI. Maybe not!!

Black Star Riders


Europe

A weekend bandstand festival!!!

Posted on 9 March, 2015 at 16:00 Comments comments (0)

A lovely weekend just gone as my lovely youngest daughter was running in the Inter Counties X Country Championships - so proud. It was in Birmingham and a city of bandstands. Done most of them here but not some of the surrounding areas or towns such as Stourbridge where there are 2 stunners - Stevens Park and Mary Stevens Park. However it appeared that there are 2 Stevens Parks and I went to the wrong one initially. Correct one found and what a stunning bandstand - bit scruffy but a Lion Foundry 23 model - similar ones in Southport, Barnsley, Handsworth and Smethwick. This one needs attention but the Friends of Stevens Park, Quarry Bank, Stourbridge do exceptional work in looking after this lovely park with Dudley MBC. 


Moving on from Stevens Park, was Mary Stevens Park, oh a lovely park, a truly wonderful park being restored currently with HLF funding under the Parks for People Programme. I love this bandstand, currently a wreck but not for much longer. Soon to be restored is the local Hill & Smith bandstand, manufactured in nearby Brierley Hill. It fronts my latest book, Bandstands of Britain, and it is a stunning remnant of their foundry and the absolute pivotal point of this fabulous park. Not only did the bandstand inspire me, the war memorial was stunning and the main entrance was fit to grace any of the Royal Parks. 

War Memorial

Mary Stevens Park Entrance


New brilliant bandstands

Posted on 3 March, 2015 at 16:45 Comments comments (5)

Wow!! the boys at Lost Art have done it again. New bandstand opens at St. Helen's Victoria Park as well as a new one going up in Wilton Lodge Park in Hawick. 

St Helens is a Walter MacFarlane model and replaces a bandstand that was always planned BUT never built. I am really pleased about the Hawick one as I wrote and submitted the Round 1 HLF bid way back in 2011 and they are now on site building it. This one was from the foundry of McDowall Steven and Co. Really delighted to see them back. Other new ones being replaced include one possibly in Alexandra Gardens in Windsor and Wardown Park in Luton. Bandstands are coming back.

St Helens Victoria Park


Wilton Lodge Park, Hawick

Detailed designs 

Fantastic works under way

Want to see more - see www.lost-art.co.uk  and thank you Heritage Lottery Fund www.hlf.org.uk 


The Daily Mail reports.....

Posted on 22 February, 2015 at 14:15 Comments comments (0)

Its been a good week for bandstand publicity and I am not complaining. A great feature in the Daily Mail online although I am no landscape gardener!! Plus a couple of bandstands have been restored that say haven't. But I am smiling. 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2963090/Then-pictures-Britain-s-iconic-bandstands-Landscape-gardener-tours-country-s-parks-research-treasured-structures.html


The Times reports....

Posted on 16 February, 2015 at 17:05 Comments comments (0)

It may only be a few words but I made The Times today! 


A Valentine's Blog

Posted on 14 February, 2015 at 4:30 Comments comments (0)

A day for lovers. Lovers indeed. Loving who? Loving what? I think we are all soft arses at heart, and I suppose in my case thats why I cry every year at my favourite film - Love Actually. Love does make the worl go round and the start to 2015 has been a poor one for many, the news filled with shocking stories of violence, tragedy and little to celebrate. Personally it has been a difficult start to the year too. But nevertheless, it is the way of our weird yet mostly wonderful world. 

I have been reading a lot this week on Victorian Values and the rapid urbanisation of our industrial society and the conditions that so many lived in. As an amateur historian, the Victorian way of life had much to offer yet at the same time was an incredibly dark age for the masses toiling away in appalling conditions. Their ways of recreation (bear baiting, cock fighting, dog fights) were bloody and brutal but as times changed, became much more controlled and ordered and this is where parks came in along with music halls, choral socieities, Sunday Schools, the brass band movement, reading rooms and libraries. And yet over 100 years later on, we still have many of these. Our continued love of all things nostalgic never wanes - the 12" LP is making a comeback, books are becoming more popular, and still one of most popular recreations is visiting our local park. Cassiobury Park in Watford has over 2 million visits a year, the Royal Parks generate more visits per year than most popular national tourist attractions - and yet most of these are Victorian or earlier in origin. 

So in our weirdly wonderful world, often scarred with daily tragedy, among it are many wonderful man made creations we must continue to love and treasure and above all value. Without them, the world would be a much sadder place (and I didn't mention a bandstand once... but I do LOVE Em!!!)


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