Paul Rabbitts MLA MPMA FRHistS FRSA 

Author, Parks Historian, Public Speaker

News and Updates from 2022

Well, its Sunday 24th April 2022 and I cannot remember the last time I updated my website with anything which kind of defeats the object of having one I suppose. So in bullet points, what updates can I give you.? 

  • I left Watford Borough Council in January 2022, after 11 very happy years there and making a number of friends for life, and achieving a great deal in that time. I left them with 17 Green Flag Award winning parks and with Cassiobury Park in the top 10 parks in the country and Oxhey Activity Park top 15. I am proud of my legacy there which was covered in the Watford Observer and can be found HERE. It was a tough decision to leave and much reflected upon but as I approach the latter years of my career, I felt there was a need for a change. So I took the opportunity to take up as post as Head of Parks and Open Spaces at the new city of Southend-on-Sea. It's a new challenge and so enjoying it and with a much bigger team too and so many parks. I am focusing solely on parks too. 
  • Books books and more books which you can see on my Books link on the website. I eventually had published the first complete monograph on the architect Decimus Burton, published by Lund Humphries. This was well out of my comfort zone and was a challenge but the final result I am delighted with. More 'in 50 Buildings' books done including Carlisle, my home for 8 years and a lovely launch in the Cathedral Fratry in March 2022 with friends and family and former colleagues. I am however, writing a book with my dear Dad on the history of my village where I was born - Cotherstone - A Village in Teesdale. This has been a joy and a delight and we raised £4,000 to see it published in September 2022. Book writing is how I relax and I have many more in me. 
  • The Parks Management Association - we had our first AGM in April 2022 and this grows from strength to strength but does need more attention to sustain this. 
  • Personally, health has been good, despite getting Covid in early April 2022. It wiped me out for a couple of weeks and my wife had at the same time. Life has been tough over the last couple of years with Covid, my need for a job change and other challenges, but I do count myself so lucky to enjoy what I do and with my lecturing and talks, leave a smile on people's face or indeed, make them laugh. 
  • My children thrive - Ashley in ICT, Holly in nursing in UAE and Ellie now a growing and successful Estate Agent. Who would have thought it - very proud of them all. 
  • I am also proud to be Fellows of the Royal Society of Arts, the Royal Historical Society and the Landscape Institute. These are important to me for a number of reasons but most of all, show the importance of what myself and many colleagues in the sector do. 

News and Updates from 2020 and 2021

March 6th 2021 - Not a single update during 2020 which really tells you what that year was like with the impact of Covid-19. The year 2020 was horrendous so am not going to add any news and updates apart from the following:

  • Luton in 50 Buildings was published by Amberley Publishing in February 2020
  • Grinling Gibbons  - Master Carver was published in May 2020 by Shire Publications
  • Bournemouth in 50 Buildings was published in November 2020 by Amberley Publishing, co-authored with the lovely Liz Gordon. 

Book writing continued but many had to be postponed until after the pandemic, but did manage to complete:-

  • Salisbury in 50 Buildings, co-authored with Liz Gordon, due in 2021
  • Welwyn and Welwyn Garden City in 50 Buildings, co-authored with Peter Jeffree, due in 2021

I started the following too:-

  • Carlisle in 50 Buildings, due in 2022
  • Hertford in 50 Buildings, due in 2022

The most significant book, which I have completed and as of today, is now with the publisher, Lund Humphries, and is titled Decimus Burton -  Gentleman Architect and is due in November 2021. This will be the most beautiful book I have completed and am incredibly proud of it. 70,000 words and 140 images, and will retail at £45-00. 

Lectures were nearly all cancelled in 2020 and have resumed in 2021 mainly with Zoom and to date have been really successful. I did the last one on the 4th March for Amersham Arts Society on 'Bandstands' and had over 145 members online where I was described as 'fun' and 'quirky'. If you wish to book me, please do note I can do online at a reduced rate obviously. 

All released in 2020 and now available on Amazon or other online book retailers

Decimus Burton - Gentleman Architect

Lund Humphries

Due out in November 2021

Latest News and Updates


October 27th 2019 - the proposed demolition of Centre Vale Park bandstand in Todmorden in West Yorkshire. Calderdale Council have taken the shocking decision to demolish this iconic bandstand due to its poor condition. After restoring it many years ago, badly, it has once again deteriorated and the Council took the decision to demolish it. A campaign is now underway to save it by the people of Todmorden and current situation is the decision to demolish is on hold whilst the local community seek a way forward. A sad indictment of a local authority in comparison to Swanage. More here and here

October 27th 2019 - The restoration of Swanage Bandstand is complete after years of campaigning and fundraising and incredible work by the Friends of Swanage Bandstand. Well done Lost Art, another fine restoration. Check out the link here

October 27th 2019 - AN INSTITUTE FOR PARKS MANAGEMENT - a plea to all those working in parks management. There are moves to look at how park manager can be represented by a professional organisation and both the Landscape Institute and Chief Cultural and Leisure Officers Association suggesting they represent us. However, do we have our own institute instead? Have your say here and make your views known on the survey monkey link 

October 27th 2019 - a book signing that actually went incredibly well this time Watford in 50 Buildings with Peter Jeffree. Many sold too and really good feedback. Waterstones Watford reported that it was the best book signing they had ever had and had sold more than any previous.

27th October 2019 - Lots of talks recently including North London Arts Society, Marlow Arts Society and Dorset Gardens Trust in Sherborne. All thoroughly enjoyed and spreading the message on the value of parks and bandstands. Wonderful feedback too. It was fantastic to see the bandstand restored too.

2nd August 2019 - Out on September 15th this fantastic book celebrating buildings of Watford - from St Mary's Church to the Cassiobury Hub all pictures by Peter Jeffree. Available on Amazon

14th July 2019 - One of the best bits about doing talks on bandstands is that I get to speak to people who ask ​me do I know about 'this bandstand' - in this case The Rye in Wycombe - a new one indeed.

14th July 2019 - a lovely bandstand taken by Howard Rogerson and this one Boppard, on the Middle Rhine

14th July 2019 - Whitehall Rec in Rugby and a very rare image of the bandstand here. Attempts are being made to raise funds to have it restored.

14th July 2019 - Finsbury Park bandstand

"The salubrious North London suburb, of which Finsbury Park is the centre, was, on Sept 20th, 1893, the scene of a lively escapade. Mr James Sanger's 'Jim,' as sketched by a P.I.P Artist, was the offender, 'Jim', a big twenty-five years-old elephant, had been for some days at Mr Sanger's depot in Woodville Grove, St. Anne's Road, Tottenham.

"On the Wednesday afternoon Mr Turner took this elephant and two llamas for a walk through the streets. The llamas were led by boys, and Mr Turner was leading this elephant with the usual hooked stick used by keepers attached to one of the animal's ears. When outside the Manor House Finsbury park, the elephant, usually of most docile disposition, became restive, and, breaking away from his keeper, dashed at break-neck pace into Finsbury Park.

"The brute ran straight forward ; neither railing nor fence proved any obstacle, and those bars which he could not step over the elephant wrenched up or broke down. After trumpeting loudly several times, the elephant charged the bandstand, and damaged a few chairs. The keeper found plenty of people willing to assist the chase, and it was no difficult matter to get up to the brute, but to secure him was another thing. Leaving the park by the gates at the other end 'Jim' ran into Blackstock Road, followed by several policemen and a large crowd of men and boys. 'Jim' then carried on through Highbury, Clissold Park, Stoke Newington, Newington Green, Dalston Lane, Lea Bridge, Stamford Hill and ended up in a field he knew near Bruce Grove, from where he went quietly home."

Presumably the one above was an eventual replacement. 

14th July 2019 - The Parade Gardens bandstand. Various files exist relating to the work of the Bath Spa and other related Committees of Bath City Council and one of these relates to the building of a new bandstand and lavatories at Institution (later Parade) Gardens. This includes a 1911 letter from William Schottler to the Spa Committee asking for a new bandstand to be built as the present one was ‘quite unfit for playing music in’ and letters/memos from the Committee promising to look into the matter. The main body of the files holds correspondence from 1925 which includes estimates, tenders and other information relating to the building of a new bandstand in the Institution/Parade Gardens. (It also mentions drawings of the original design by the architect but these do not appear to have survived with the correspondence). The most-recent dated document within this correspondence is a letter of May 2nd 1925 from Alfred J. Taylor the architect to J. Basil Ogden, Town Clerk, referring to ‘the hexagonal bandstand being erected in the Institution Gardens’ so presumably the bandstand was completed soon after this.

4th July 2019 -

The Scarr Bandstand, near Coleford in the Forest of Dean was used for over 100 years, both for local brass and silver bands, and for other activities such as sheep sales, and carnivals. The “Hospital Sunday” events raised huge sums to keep the local hospitals going before the NHS, and were attended, apparently, for 3-4000 people.

The FC are restoring the Scarr Bandstand, which fell into disuse at the end of the 1970s. So far it has mostly been paperwork and funding applications, but they have secured the structure, and cleaned up the site. The first events for at least 25 years take place last summer; a production of “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, then a festival including two local silver bands, and finally a theatre-piece based on local reminiscences of brass bands in the Forest.

The FC are hoping the bandstand will become a useful venue for all sorts of community events, once people are aware that it is back in business. They also plan to obtain more funding, if possible, to get electricity to the site, and maybe even changing rooms and a toilet! All these facilities would be shared with the community football pitch which is close to the Bandstand site - it all seems to make sense. They would would also like to restore the roof of the bandstand, which was burnt down in the ‘80s - but maybe have it made in something less flamable this time!

14th July 2019 - Some of our greatest parks have been designed by none other than Park Superintendents and two of the most well known are WW Pettigrew (left) who designed most of Cardiff and Manchester's Parks and Captain Sandys Winsch (right) who designed Norwich City's most well known parks. Both are discussed further in Great Parks, Great Designers by me - link here

14th July 2019 - Memorial Park in Burnley and colour scheme inspired by bandstands elsewhere and from my book, Bandstands of Britain.

14th July 2019 - Thanks to Lost Art and these copies from Ironbridge Gorge Museum for these WA Baker Bandstands. Not many of these left but 2 good examples in Barnes Park, Sunderland and Queen's Park in Crewe. 

14th July 2019 - Levengrove Park, Dunbarton and a Sun Foundry bandstand and a large open space is all that remains 

14th July 2019 - Drinking Fountains, cast iron ones and a great link here for Saracen Foundry ones. Possibly a book on this sometime? Saracen not only made drinking fountains but of course many bandstands too. The one on the left is in Grimsby and the one on the right is in Congleton Park, Cheshire.

23rd June 2019 - I have hit 5,000 words of Grinling Gibbons book for Shire and really getting into this. Stunning images taken by Peter Jeffree and will be completed by July 2019.

9th June 2019 - the number of bandstands I get sent are still many. Friends of friends even send them now or relatives, especially when on holiday. This beauty (left) came from friend and work colleague Hayley Page's folks whilst in Naples and is simply delightful. Thank you Roger and Sue Page. The one one the right, is in the Botanical Gardens, Singapore, from favourite middle child Holly Rabbitts.

9th June 2019 - the bandstand visits continue and a few recent visits include Ilkeston's Victoria Park (left) and Horsham Park (right). Both excellent examples of bandstands. The Ilkeston one recently restored by the legends of Lost Art from Wigan.

9th June 2019 - new book deal, another in 50 Buildings and this time the City of Salisbury, again with my Bournemouth co-author Liz Gordon, a marketing and PR maestro from that lovely county of Dorset. Completion May 2020 so lots of time but some delicious buildings to get stuck into here.

9th June 2019 - The talks continue and recent ones included

  • Winchester Arts Society, 2 lectures given
  • Irish Landscape Institute, Dublin Castle
  • Bishops Stortford WI
  • St Alban'd Catholic Women's League
  • Henfield Arts Society.

Lots more coming up including:-

  • Flamsteed WI
  • Little Chalfont Methodist Group
  • Cranleigh Arts Society, 2 lectures
  • Helmsley Arts Society
  • Houghton Conquest Horticulture Society
  • Much Hadham WI
  • Chiltern U3A
  • North Herts Arts Society
  • The Royal Horticultural Society

9th June 2019 - The near completion of another book - this time Windsor & Eton in 50 Buildings with my old uni mate Rob Ickinger who lives on Old Windsor. All buildings and text completed and just the odd photo to update and then its off to the publisher at Amberley. Its already available for pre-order - link here. Some great buildings and associated stories too. Out in November 2019.

9th June 2019 - I had an amazing trip to Dublin a couple of weeks ago where I was guest speaker for the Irish Landscape Institute, addressing a number of landscape architects and parks superintendents. My role was to give my experience from my perspective of being a landscape architect and my move to parks management and my thoughts on the profession in challenging times. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was a great chance to meet some cracking people. A tour of Phoenix Park was an incredible bonus and a chance to see much of Decimus Burton's work there.

9th June 2019 - a refresh of the website - a bit crisper and clearer I think, and less orange. An incredibly busy last few weeks and need to catch up with myself. I hope you like the refresh. Comments welcome.

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 - Lecturing is a joy as you will see from my many updates and found this on YouTube when I spoke at the Arts Society Directory Day in 2018. Link is here

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.

17th March 2019 - Its good to see the bandstand in Regent's Park getting some use this year and hope to get down and see some performances here. The Link is of course here. Want to know more about the history of bandstand, a link here too.

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."

"Thank you very much indeed for today's lecture, which was so much enjoyed. It was good to have you with us, and also to have the pleasure of your parents' company, which made it special." 


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

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).