A ‘bandstanding’ ovation for Banks Group grant

February 21, 2012 | Community News

Performers can now make use of a new stage in Darlington after an historic bandstand in one of the town’s parks was reopened for community use following a major restoration project.

The 113-year-old North Park bandstand was restored with the help of a £10,000 grant from local developer The Banks Group, via its Banks Community Fund, and was officially reopened last year.

 And now, the group behind the regeneration of the bandstand, The Friends of North Park, are inviting local singers, dancers, speakers or musicians to make use of this historic performance space, thereby returning it to its original use as the vibrant hub of the park.

 The cast-iron bandstand had become badly run down with missing railings, assumed to have been removed during the Second World War, and the structure had become uninviting and potentially dangerous.

 Now the bandstand is restored to its former glory and available for use as a community venue and, while The Friends of North Park are inviting any type of performer to take up the opportunity, they are not expecting its use to differ too greatly from its original purpose.

 Having researched the minutes of Council Parks Committee meetings going back many decades, the Friends discovered the park was originally created to give the local community a space to come together and to provide children from nearby houses without gardens with an outdoor space in which to play.

 Over a century later, North Park is still meeting those original aims, and bringing the bandstand back into use was a key element of the overall regeneration project.

 Shirley Winter, chair of The Friends of North Park, says: “We tend to think about bandstands only as a space for brass bands to perform, but our research found that, when the park originally opened, it was a venue for speeches, dancing and all kinds of music, so we’d therefore encourage any kind of contemporary or traditional style performers to make use of this wonderful community facility.

 “Since being formed in 2005, The Friends have undertaken all kinds of projects within the park, like providing children’s play equipment, but the bandstand was always a main aim and we wanted to restore it properly.

 “Finding the funding to do this was always a major concern, so receiving support from The Banks Group was a huge help to us and a great relief too – we’re very grateful for their contribution towards making the  bandstand something to be proud of once again.”

 Banks is the company behind plans for the recently-approved Moor House Wind Farm, which will be sited on land to the north east of Darlington, around three miles to the east of the A1.

 A new community benefits fund will be made available once the wind farm is fully operational, offering £375,000 of funding over the 25-year lifetime of the scheme for local community groups, environmental and voluntary projects, in order to provide further tangible long-term benefits for the community from Banks’ presence there.

 Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at the Banks Group, adds: “We’re very pleased to have helped make this historic structure available for public use once again and hope that local people enjoy a great variety of performances on it during the next 100 years.”

 Additional funding for the project was received from Marks & Spencer Greener Living and Darlington Borough Council.  Anyone interested in applying to use the North Park bandstand as a performance space can contact Pippa Smaling by calling 01325 383 099 or 07977 982 090 for further information.

 Projects, community groups, or organisations looking for funding in the vicinity of a Banks Group development should contact Clare Johnson at the Banks Community Fund on 0191 378 6342.

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