1 October 2019

Big Band Scene (Oct. 2019)

Good news. Eastbourne Bandstand is continuing its programme of Summer Thursday evening Big Band and Swing Sound concerts in 2020. There are eight scheduled, with the first on 2nd July and the last on 27th August. And a gap on 6th August.

     Performances are a single set starting at 8 and finishing at 9:30. The aim is to finish setting up, including sound checks, by 7:30, when the doors open for the paying audience. The stage is cleared at this time, until the band goes back on ready to play. There is a green room with warm drinks of questionable quality from a machine. The key is available from the bandstand staff, together with the key to the adjacent toilet.  So far, the band has been entitled to free tea and coffee from the bar which is open by 7:30.  Alcoholic drinks must be paid for.

     Vehicular access to the bandstand is allowed, but only for loading and unloading. Parking on the seafront is free after 6 pm, so any time after that is suitable to start preparations.

It is worth bearing in mind that the sixth concert, on 13th August, coincides with the opening date of the Eastbourne International Airshow.  The upside is the prospect of a substantially larger audience. The downside is extreme traffic congestion and difficulty finding parking.

     Although this bandstand offers more weather protection than most, nevertheless it is worth taking along your regular precautions for adverse weather to prevent the music flying off the stand, or for that matter, the stand failing to maintain the vertical. The lighting in the roof is adequate, but stand lights can be helpful, particularly near the end of the season when it is dark about half way through.

     The fee is £300. But if there is a significant overrun past 9:30, this may be reduced in order to compensate the bandstand staff, who have to clear up afterwards.

     If you are interested in taking part, application is on line at http://www.eastbournebandstand.co.uk/contact-us/performer-pages/. Among the information required is:- the name of the band, the contact for the band, and their position within the band, the postal address of the contact, the email address as well as a brief synopsis of the band that can be used for publicity. Also you should indicate which date or dates you are available. This Summer eight gigs were shared between just two Sussex big bands, with four each. 

     The contents of the programme should follow a Big Band sound theme with a selection of the great hits from this memorable era.  Although I do not see any mention of the compulsory minimum of two Glenn Miller tunes this time. The band should be made up of a balanced combination and a minimum of 17 players (18 including the conductor).  In other words the conventional big band line-up.

     The closing date for applications is Sunday 20th October. The schedule is usually published late December.

     For the purpose of balance, I should mention that there are other bandstands in Sussex. In the past, there were nearly 40 bandstands in the county, but these days there are fewer. As recently as 2016 the Montague Place bandstand in Worthing was demolished. But all is not gloom and despair. In Summer 2018, Crawley Bandstand was reopened after relocation and refurbishment. And, later in the year, a new bandstand was installed in Denton Island, Newhaven.

     Although Eastbourne is the only bandstand in the county to run a regular season of big band music, other bandstands include big bands among their concerts. For instance, the Carfax bandstand in Horsham put on three big bands during their Summer Saturday concerts this year and the Horsham Park Podium bandstand had two for their Sunday series. The Brighton Birdcage hosted one.

     I haven’t found any reference to big bands for other local bandstands, including Bexhill De La Warr Pavilion, Bognor, Burgess Hill, Hastings Alexandra Park, Littlehampton and Worthing.

     I shall try to glean more information, including application requirements, on these other bandstands and publish it in future columns.

Next month:  Hopefully another band profile, and more news about big bands based in, or appearing in, the county. If you would like your band featured, and I have not already contacted you, please get in touch.  Anything else, such as gig news, or feedback on this column, that you would like me to include in November’s Big Band Scene, please send it to me by Sunday October 13th. My email address is g8aac@yahoo.co.uk.


Patrick Billingham

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