Latest News and Updates
17th May 2019 - As well as all the 'other stuff' I do have a full time job and we were shortlisted for the Eastern Region RICS Awards in Bury St Edmunds for Tourism and Leisure as well as Community Awards for Cassiobury Park in Watford. Sadly not winners but Julian, Robert, Helen, Hayley and Mayor Taylor all had a great night.
17th May 2019 - Always good to pop in and see a bandstand in a park somewhere and here we have Victoria Park in Ilkeston restored by Lost Art and funded by the the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
17th May 2019 - A busy couple of weeks with lectures for a number of Arts Societies in Henfield, Harrow and Lymington. I have Winchester, Helmsley and Cranleigh all coming up too. Subjects include Great British Parks, London's Royal Parks and of course Bandstands.
Lovely to receive feedback as always at the end and emails from those that have enjoyed. I thoroughly enjoy and always meeting new people.
4th May 2019 - Wondering into Leighton Buzzard today I saw this in a local shop window and popped in - selling lots apparently. Available here too. This is a book I am really proud of because its where I live. Others under way including Salford, Manchester, Windsor & Eton, Watford, Luton and Bournemouth. Considering Aylesbury, Milton Keynes and Lyme Regis/Bridport.
4th May 2019 - Delighted to have been invited to speak at the Irish Landscape Institute in May at Dublin Castle. Addressing Irish Park Superintendents and giving them the benefit of my experience of over 30 years.
26th April 2019 - Lacking in our industry - these volumes are so old its about time they were updated. Leave this one with me as I know a few who will be happy to contribute.
26th April 2019 - as many of you will know, I have being promoting the value of parks for many years now and latterly one of my 'beefs' is the lack of a body or organisation to represent Park Managers or landscape professionals. We have lost ILAM, CABE Space, GreenSpace, and have a small number of organisations promoting the value of green space, but as a body of professionals, we have no single voice. To me this is something we can do quite easily. By affiliating ourselves with an existing organisation, we get the benefits of an existing structure, organisation and administration. Step forward The Landscape Institute who are very interested and have asked us to 'tell them what we need'. A small group has been established which includes myself, Eddy Curry from Nottingham CC, Liz Stuffins from Dudley MBC, Chris Worman MBE from Rugby BC and Ian Baggot from Community First Partnership. Progress is being made. If you wish to see my paper on this, please refer to my blog - link is here.
26th April 2019 - a bandstand geek I am but many of these bandstand foundries made a vast variety of cast iron features - a letter box here in Stow on the Wold and a railway station column in Chesham.
26th April 2019 - One of the oddest calls I had was from a historian in a small town called Fray Bentos in Uruguay who had a bandstand and wanted clarification on its maker. Yep! Fray Bentos does exist and the bandstand is a Lion Foundry bandstand from Scotland.
26th April 2019 - Another bandstand on my travels ticked off and this Macfarlane 279 replica in Victoria Park in Widnes. Great condition and a really buzzing park that weekend.
26th April 2019 - One of the joys of book writing is the people you meet but often the opportunities you get to work with other people. Deb Woodman, Carole O'Reilly and Liz Gordon are all stars and just started a book on Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings with my old mate Rob Ickinger who lives in Old Windsor. He's inspired but his response when I asked him was 'mate, I haven't written anything since we were at Sheffield Poly doing our degree, and even then I copied you'!!
26th April 2019 - always good to see books you have done on a shelf as seen here in WHSmiths in Watford. Top shelf for one of them too. I did shuffle them about a bit as one does.
26th April 2019 - A day at Hampton Court over Easter and spotted this intricate piece by Grinling Gibbons. Time to get on with the book I am doing with Peter Jeffree on this.
26th April 2019 - Another bandstand restoration commences as Lost Art win the tender to restore the Swanage bandstand, a Macfarlane 224 and in terrible condition. This is one I have campaigned for to see restored after there were rumours of its demise. Thankfully saved thanks to the Town Council and especially the Friends of Swanage Bandstand. Link here.
26th April 2019 - I was lucky enough to be invited to speak at the North West Friends Parks Forum at the magnificent Birkenhead Town Hall in early April - subject, the 21st century park manager and what attributes are now needed. A good crowd and some debate as to whether local authorities should be sweating their assets more. Many disagreed. An enjoyable day and good to finally meet Professor Robert Lee and catch up with Dr Katy Layton Jones again.
26th April 2019 - another month gone and a busy one too. I was delighted to have been accepted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) as well as a Fellow of the Landscape Institute (FLI). Membership of both does mean a lot to me, purely because it gives me an opportunity to push the value of parks even more - so important in challenging times.
16th March 2019 - lots going on in the world of parks at the minute - some good, lots not good. As mentioned before I am working with the Landscape Institute to see if we can get parks management professionals represented by a professional institution and the LI seem a good fit. Progress being made but needs to gather pace. Government still do not get it sadly but some funding as noted here is a start but is a drop in the ocean. I have written a blog based on an article which will appear in Historic Gardens Review this Spring. The link is here.
16th March 2019 - more talks booked and more talks and lectures delivered with some lovely feedback. 'The lecture was well received not just because it was delivered well but also because our mostly elderly membership had memories of past park glories, had lamented the deterioration of parks in recent decades, and had welcomed the restoration of some parks under new management regimes'. CB 13/03/2019
Another was 'your talk was fantastic. So interesting and your style was hilarious! I've already ordered the Dull men book on Amazon.... I do hope we shall meet again'. MA 21/02/2019
16th March 2019 - the end of last month saw a great trip to Istanbul to look at their parks with a view to them becoming Green Flag entrants. We looked at 6 parks and despite the very cold weather, were incredibly impressed with what we saw there. Staff in parks, management structures, horticulture being practiced, no litter, huge investment and incredible heritage. Parks there especially important with over 15 million people crammed into this busy, bustling and vibrant city.
16th March 2019 - 2 new books out this month and delighted to see them hit the shelves. A shire biography on Sir Christopher Wren and also Leighton Buzzard in 50 Buildings. The thrill of seeing yourself in print never lessens and both books I am very proud of. More to come this year including a biography on Grinling Gibbons, Watford in 50 Buildings, Manchester in 50 Buildings and Windsor and Eton in 50 Buildings. 2020 will see Salford in 50 Buildings as well as Luton, Bournemouth and Aylesbury in 50 Buildings.
16th March 2019 - the grand reopening of the bandstand and delighted to see it come off 'BAD BANDSTANDS' after many years of getting to this point, it great to see it restored. Well done Lost Art, the Friends of the Pump Room Gardens, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Warwick District Council. This is one of four original 224 Macfarlane bandstands left in the UK. This tells the story of the restoration - follow the link.
9th February 2019 - honoured to have been asked to do two things this month.
- I have been asked to become a Green Flag International Judge and assess parks abroad. The first port of call is Istanbul, Turkey in late February to look at and advise pre-applications as part of Green Flag.
- I have also been asked to give a lecture at the Lindley Library for the Royal Horticultural Society this year on the social history of London Parks.
9th February 2019 - Books progressing well. Manchester in 50 Buildings submitted already with co-author Dr. Deborah Woodman from Salford University and Salford in 50 Buildings with Dr Carole O'Reilly also from Salford University. Both really good projects to have worked on.
9th February 2019 - Another book proposal submitted and this time for Bournemouth in 50 Buildings with the wonderful Liz Gordon who I met many years ago when she was the PR guru for the bandstand marathon way back in 2012... and happens to live in Poole.
9th February 2019 - A wonderful piece of film of the legends that are Lost Art. This is a great introduction and well worth a look. Link here. Iconic restorers of bandstands, street furniture, fountains, railings, gates and basically anything cast in iron! Do take a look at this.
23rd January - One of my key concerns is the lack of professional representation for parks managers. Since the demise of ILAM, CABE Space and GreenSpace, there is a distinct lack of an organisation to fight our corner. The obvious connection is the Landscape Institute and spent time today drafting a proposal paper on how this could happen in partnership with a number of organisations such as the Heritage Lottery Fund, Green Flag Award, APSE and others. Lets hope this progresses.
22nd January - A number of books being worked on at present including a book on Grinling Gibbons, Salford in 50 Buildings, Luton in 50 Buildings and finalising of Decimus Burton. The concept of describing the history of a town or city through 50 iconic buildings is a great idea and excellent way of learning about local history. (Luton Town Hall below)
19th January - Buckinghamshire Gardens Trust at the County Museum in Aylesbury and an afternoon lecture on the History of the Bandstand - this being my favourite subject. Treated to a divine lunch and returning for a 75 minute lecture, their final request was to see the small tattoo of a Macfarlane 279 spandrel on the shoulder but forgetting that under the jumper, I was wearing a Motorhead T-shirt. It was extra pleasing to see a number of books sold too. A return visit is due in 2020.
17th January - tonight was Furzefield WI in Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, and a talk on The History of the Royal Parks - a great crowd tonight and on the subject of some of my favourite parks. They all went home knowing that Regent's Park was once called Marylebone Park.
8th-9th January - A visit to the North-West of our great country and the first lecture of the year, and to the Arts Society for Appleby-in-Westmorland. With nearly 150 in attendance (and my parents in the audience), it was a pleasure to deliver a lecture on 'Great British Parks' with a local twist, connecting to parks in Cumbria and their importance to local communities in Carlisle, Kendal and Penrith. A wonderful visit with the added bonus of seeing red squirrels for the first time in very many years and a quick look into Castle Park in Penrith before returning home by train.
Feedback after the lecture was welcomed -"I very much enjoyed your entertaining talk today on A Concise History of Public Parks. It took me back to my childhood in Yorkshire where I was a frequent visitor to Cliffe Castle in Keighley and Manningham Park in Bradford where I learned to row a boat. I’m due for a revisit I think-Cliffe Castle is still pretty good with a worthwhile museum, but I haven’t seen Lister/Manningham Park for sometime."
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 -