Paul. A. Rabbitts    

Author, Parks Historian & Public Speaker

Latest News and Updates


24th June 2018 - possibly one of the biggest crowds at a bandstand concert this year at Stanley Park, Blackpool.

24th June 2018 - donated by Chris Fennell from Evesham and the bandstand playing in the local park. 

24th June 2018 - Make Music Day in Cassiobury Park, Watford

24th June 2018 - Make Music Day in Cassiobury Park, Watford

24th June 2018 - the restoration of Swanage bandstand gets closer every day. Glad to have been part of this too. It is in dire condition. Its also good to see that another Macfarlane 224 bandstand in Leamington Spa is currently away with Lost Art being restored. 

24th June 2018 - Since my last update in April, there has been quite a lot that has happened and all pretty positive stuff. 

  1. The number of talks that I now have booked are considerable with many across the UK, from the NW of Scotland, to SW Wales, the NE of England to the South Coast and right up until the end of 2020. As a result, I have now formed a Community Interest Company called Parks for People CIC, solely to ensure the continued promotion of public parks, their benefits and to ensure that the talks are more formalised. So do give me a call or email if you want to book me.
  2. The big book on bandstands is now out and published by Historic England - 'Bandstands - Pavilions for Music, Entertainment and Leisure' and it is a beautiful book and tells the full history of these wonderful features and how we came to have so many of them. This is a great review from 4BarsRest - link here
  3. Make Music Day 2018 has been and gone and we had a great day in Cassiobury Park in Watford with a wide variety of music on offer. We made excellent use of our bandstand as expected. 
  4. New books on the horizon - Decimus Burton Architect is pretty much complete as a first draft - see below; Christopher Wren is now with Shire - see below too; and I have now persuaded Historic England to do 2 books on parks - an illustrated history using the Nigel Temple Collection and more challenging - a BIG book on the history of our public parks. Very excited by these and glad Historic England are signed up. 

24th June 2018 - the book on Wren is now with Shire Publishing and has a print date of February 2019. The cover reflects what I think is a very pleasant book and introduction to the life and works of Sir Christopher Wren. 

24th June 2018 - excellent progress on the book on Decimus Burton which is now up to 42,000 words with the chapter on his legacy just to really complete. I have submitted a proposal to Historic England to see this published and will know in July whether successful. The initial feedback is positive.There is definitely a need for a book on Burton. 

24th June 2018 - lovely aerial picture of the bandstand in Cassiobury Park, in Watford taken from a drone by David O'Neill at Watford Borough Council. 

1st April 2018 - Really annoying when you miss out on 2 cards you have been following on eBay for days. Good when you can copy and paste and decent images entail. Two of lost Leeds bandstands here. 

30th March 2018 - A lot of gigs lined up in 2018 already and just bought tickets for Nightwish (left), The Rasmus, Tremonti, ELO, Within Temptation, Hollywood Vampires, The Damned and The Darkness. There is a theme to my musical tastes! 

30th March 2018 - As you will possibly know, I do enjoy public speaking and will happily speak to your organisation on subjects I truly believe in, ranging from the History of Public Parks, The Royal Parks, Bandstands (obviously) and the tale of the Earls of Essex and Cassiobury Park. I am on the Bucks, Beds and Herts WI approved speakers list as well as the Arts Society accredited lecturers list. I already have bookings well into 2020 and visits planned to Wales, Scotland, Newcastle, Lincoln, Gloucestershire, Manchester, Cumbria, Hampshire and Cheshire. There have been a few lately and enjoyed in particular one for Wingrave and Rowsham Local Historical Society where I talked about the history of Cassiobury where the Essex Earldom almost died out. 

30th March 2018 - Summer is coming and hoping to see more of this in Cassiobury Park in Watford. 

30th March 2018 - This has to be one of the finest photos that I have been sent of a bandstand and the background to it. It was sent to me by Claire Englishby who works at the Port of Blyth. Her mum heard me do a talk on bandstands in Watford where I work and asked her to send me this image. So glad she did. It is of the bandstand in Blyth on The Battery with the Port of Blyth behind. The vessel in the air for maintenance is the GMS Endeavour, a 'jack up vessel' used for a variety of specialist works which requires stability out at sea. Brilliant picture. 

10th March 2018 - an important piece of consultation is currently underway with regards to the future of the Heritage Lottery Fund's priorities and where these lie. With reductions in lottery funding, HLF are looking at streamlining their funding streams which means the loss of the incredibly important Parks for People Programme. You have a chance to be part of this as well as sign a petition insisting they retain this programme. The link to the consultation is here. The link to the petition is here, and please do sign this, it is incredibly important. 

10th March 2018 - Waiting on the results of a funding bid for another book on Victoria's Parks - with over 80 named after her and many worldwide, I felt that a book celebrating these was worthwhile as the impact as we know was phenomenal and worth celebrating. A bid of £4,500 was submitted to the Marc Fitch Fund so should know in April 2108. 

10th March 2018 - started a book on this chap this week - the very much under-rated and little known Decimus Burton, Regency Architect and protege of none other than John Nash. Burton worked and designed many famous buildings in London including Hyde Park Corner, the Athenaeum Club in London, London Zoo, Kew Palmhouse, the Wellington Arch and many fine buildings around Regent's Park. He spread his wings to St Leonards -on - Sea as well as Fleetwood in Lancashire. I have yet to secure a publisher but worth starting the write up as he is in mine and many views one of our finest architects. A good link here on Burton. 

10th March 2018 - I attended Directory Day for the Arts Society this week and what a fabulous day it was. Came away with 12 bookings from Devon to Argyll. Looking forward to many more too as now an accredited lecturer for the Arts Society

February 14th 2018 - something I don't talk about much is my love (and at times loathing) of Newcastle Utd who I have followed since a teenager and when I idolised Kevin Keegan. I do often avoid it these days as its pretty hard work been a Toon fan, but Sunday 11th February when we managed to get one over the red scum of Manchester was a great day. Cracking goal by Matt Ritchie and a stunning match. 

February 14th 2018 - work is a huge part of my life and what I do I love but what really makes it are the people I work with - these are from the Staff Awards at Christmas in Watford Colosseum. 

February 14th 2018 - The book on Sir Christopher Wren has been revised and resubmitted to Shire and hoping the minor tweaks have been enough. I am looking forward to seeing this published. Shire are great to work with and the quality of their books is excellent. 

February 14th 2018 -  a stunning photo of the Hill & Smith bandstand in Cassiobury Park in Watford restored by Lost Art and taken by Peter Jeffree. 

14th February 2018 - I still get sent many images of bandstands. This one recently in Sheffield's Firth Park, sadly long since gone. The only one that remains in Sheffield is found in Weston Park. Those that have gone include Endcliffe Park, Meersbrook Park, Hillsborough Park and the Botanical Gardens. 

14th February 2018 - How about this for a great park image and down by the River Colne in Waterfield's Rec in Watford. Bygone days and a wonderful era when so much of what we did was shaped by our external environment. 

10th February 2018 - My life doesn't just revolve around bandstands and Victorian Parks clearly but my amazing family too. Middle child Holly Rabbitts graduated at the end of 2017 and is now a full time paediatric nurse. Here she is at the Methodist Hall in Westminster. A very proud day. She is now based at Barnet Hospital and works in A&E.  

10th February 2018 - The City of Lincoln sent me this yesterday. A long overdue restoration of the bandstand in Boultham Park in Lincoln - before (left) and after (right). A wonderful restoration by Lost Art of this very Art Deco bandstand. Similar one in Victoria Park in Ilkeston which they restored and others like this one in Mary Stevens Park, Stourbridge, and Willenhall Memorial Park, Walsall. 


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).