Imagine this: picnic rug unfurled, the tooting of trumpets and trombones, and deckchairs crowded around a bandstand. Believe it or not, this absurdly twee image of a summer’s day has made a comeback thanks to our new appreciation for life’s simple pleasures. While many of London’s bandstands have vanished in recent decades, there are perhaps two dozen or so left – each offering a perfect focal point for a lazy, sun-drenched afternoon. Here are eight places where you can find the best bandstands.
Most scenic... Horniman Museum and Gardens, Forest Hill
This nineteenth-century bandstand in the Horniman Museum and Gardens in Forest Hill offers superb views of the city from all sides. Rock up with a picnic and listen to some jazz.
Grandest... Clapham Common
The Victorian structure sitting on Clapham Common is London’s biggest bandstand – and the musical events are duly elevating affairs. This year’s busy programme, beginning on May 27, promises everything from choral to Afro-Cuban.
Nicest setting... Victoria Park
Created to give Londoners a break from the dirt and pollution of urban life, Victoria Park encapsulates the social mission of planned green spaces, and equally, bandstands. This season’s music proudly boasts 15 bands, two orchestras, two choirs and a mini-festival. It starts on May 14.
Best family vibes... Greenwich Park
With its views, nearby museums and space for picnics as well as football, 180-acre Greenwich Park is a quintessential south London day out. What’s less known is that it’s got a historic bandstand, too. The park’s Friends have details of when the music is happening. Weather permitting, it gets going on June 24.
Saddest history... Regent’s Park
Of all London’s bandstands, it’s the one in Regent’s Park that has the most significant backstory to it. Bombed in 1982 by the IRA, seven soldiers lost their lives here during a concert. It remains a place for open-air music.
Best sound quality... Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath
The likes of Pink Floyd and Fleetwood Mac played at old bandstands on Parliament Hill. The modern-day structure has appropriately got very good acoustics to it; the sloping ground helping to keep soundwaves in (as well as providing a bank for sunbathers). This year’s band listings are here.
Best for lunching... The Boundary Estate, Shoreditch
The Boundary Estate, which claims to be the world’s oldest example of social housing, has at its centre an octagonal stand which rises out of a beautiful garden. The residential setting means less music – but this is the perfect shady spot for munching down a lunch from nearby Shoreditch.
Most Instagrammed... Northampton Square, Clerkenwell
Another unusually located bandstand is found in Clerkenwell’s Northampton Square. The haunt of City University students, this pretty, quiet enclave features what is surely one of London’s most photogenic structures in a park. Keep your eyes peeled for the possible return of summer busking events for 2017.