LOOKING BACK: Hopes for forgotten bandstand

Oh, listen to the band ...
Oh, listen to the band ...

Eastbourne has the site of a dead bandstand, forgotten, hidden away behind the Pavilion tea rooms, unwanted because the owner, Eastbourne Borough Council, has no idea what to do with it, writes Harry Pope.

The remains of the bandstand colonnade, barred by metal barriers, are either side of the tea rooms.

There have been three bandstands on this site over the years, a comfortable ten minute stroll east of the pier. When the first bandstand was built on this site in mid-Victorian times the main promenade hazard would have been boys with hoops prodded by sticks. They would have been bored with listening to a military band, the bewhiskered chops blowing into their instruments with gusto.

All three bandstands have had the Redoubt fort in the background. The first bandstand, on the site until the end of World War l, had a viewing capacity of more than 2,000 open air listeners, with their rapt attention kept alive with a different military band every few days throughout the season.

The curved colonnade was built as a barrier to the Redoubt Fortress, with pale stone and a high roof. The construction was dual purpose, as a viewing platform for those above, as well as a protection from the inclement elements.

Between the wars the bandstand was demolished, and a new one erected, this time facing toward the Redoubt, instead of away. This meant that the seating capacity was limited, but the military bands shared the bookings with dance bands, and there was an area for dancing.

Before the outbreak of World War II, it was altered, so the stage again faced the park, with more emphasis on military bands playing.

So, behind the barriers, the beautiful old last remaining part of the bandstand is left to moulder.

It is now a problem that has been conveniently forgotten.

And its future? Nothing obvious. Hide it away, hope that no-one notices it’s still there.

My solution would be a feasibility study to see if the Pavilion tea rooms can be demolished, the colonnade restored to its former glory, and turn it into a tea room, with glass frontage, chairs and tables on the patio, and have music in the background. Maybe concerts, perhaps jazz.

It’s big enough, and can be adapted for all weathers.

What an ideal world I live in.

*Harry Pope is Eastbourne’s only licensed sight-seeing guide. His walks are every Wednesday at 10am, meet at the pier, or Sundays at 11am and 3pm, meet outside Seafront Office by the Bandstand. 01323 734107 or www.harrythewalker.com

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