Paul Rabbitts MLA MPMA FRHistS FRSA
Author, Parks Historian, Public Speaker
A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, I was born and brought up in rural County Durham in 1965, Teesdale to be exact, and I went to Barnard Castle School, which I loved. After pretty poor A' Level results, I ended up taking a BA Honours degree in Geography at Sheffield City Polytechnic and spent 3 brilliant years there. Two years at Edinburgh University followed swiftly and a Masters degree in Landscape Architecture (MLA). I was then gainfully employed for just over 2 years in a small landscape architectural practice on the island of Jersey.
Returning to the mainland, I took up a post at Carlisle City Council for 8 years working in Parks and Countryside where my obsession with parks began, and where I was ultimately responsible in 1996 for one of the first HLF Lottery funded park restorations at Hammond's Pond in Carlisle itself.
A return to the North-East saw me take over a Landscape and Countryside Development team at Middlesbrough Council and managing a vast range of projects including the £4.4 million HLF funded restoration of Albert Park and where I also built the biggest skatepark in the country at Prissick Playing Fields. Eight years at Middlesbrough saw me move back into private practice with Halcrow Group Ltd, a global environmental and engineering consultancy where I was their "parks" expert, and over the 4 years saw me working from the Scottish Borders to the Isle of Wight with all my clients in the public sector. Projects included the Stage 1 HLF application for the restoration of Wilton Lodge Park in Hawick, now completed.
However, a return to the public sector beckoned with a daring move south to take up a role as Head of Parks, Open Spaces & Projects with Watford Borough Council - (no one moves south do they?) and they all thought I was mad. Here I have overseen the HLF funded £7.2 million award winning restoration of Cassiobury Park, the Ancient Seat of the Earls of Essex. From January 2020, I took on Heritage, Arts Development and Events and promoted to Head of Parks, Heritage and Culture.
In January 2022, I took the opportunity of a move and a new challenge after 11 years at Watford, and took on the role of Head of Parks and Open Spaces at Southend-on-Sea City Council, a large in-house team, managing circa 120+ staff. A big challenge and loving it.
Throughout though, has been a growing passion for parks, and their history and evolution. An early morning shower (where often the best ideas are born) whilst still living in the North-East led to the idea of a book which had long been a desire - on a "history of the bandstand", generated by my involvement in the Albert Park restoration and the replacement of the bandstand there. "Bandstands" was ultimately published in 2011 by Shire Publishing and the move south generated further opportunities to write, and in particular on the Royal Parks of Regent's Park, Richmond Park and Hyde Park for Amberley Publishing, and a new general history of them for Shire. More books have since followed and I have now published 25 books. The bandstands obsession continues and has seen me appear in a BBC4 Documentary called 'Britain's Parks Story' with Dan Cruickshank, on the Simon Mayo drivetime show on BBC Radio 2 as well as recently published in the BBC Music Magazine (May 2014) and more recently on BBC Radio Wales, BBC London, BBC Three Counties, BBC Coventry and the scary heights of the Leighton Buzzard Observer, and ultimately saw me receive the accolade as one of Britain's Dullest Men - appearing on the Jeremy Vine show and Have I got News for You.
Now living in Leighton Buzzard, I continue to write, and am still counting bandstands... oh as well as hold down a full time job...oh as well as keep my family entertained by my intermittent ramblings on all things geeky.
The writing and passion has also allowed me to do many public speaking engagements, in particular for local groups including the Association of Public Service Excellence, University of Leicester, several Garden Trusts, Women's Institutes, Luton Museums, Watford Museum, U3A, Civic Societies, Local History Societies, Church groups etc... in fact anyone who wants to listen. I am now an accredited lecturer for the Arts Society too, which I am very excited about and now lecture across the UK.
In late 2019 and into early 2020, I established and founded with a number of colleagues, the Parks Management Association www.parksmanagement.org.uk which is the first organisation that represents those professionals working in public parks. I am currently the chairman and am proud to see this go from strength to strength.
Of course this website tells you a lot more about much of this but feel free to contact me about absolutely any of this.