Context 163 - March 2020

54 C O N T E X T 1 6 3 : M A R C H 2 0 2 0 narrative, however, the critique is concerned with how construction tied to modern industry excludes traditional approaches: structural, formal and historic. The common emphatic stance of the opposition also betrays common limitations. It is uncomfortable that the shared moral dimensions that inspire the rhetoric are largely also hidden by it. And ironic – and revealing – conflicts also arise: Making Dystopia ’s own author- designed front cover celebrates Nash, Smirke and others who represent some of Pugin’s most reviled leaders of contemporary and establishment taste. Evidently the history of the built and historic environment, not least its erratic engagements with history and structure in conservation, is not as straightforward as many might hope. The philosopher Karl Popper contended that in historically- inspired and evidence-based polarised disputes such as these, only one real-life case is needed to undermine them. Most will have their own experience to call on. This reviewer’s offering on the positive values and potential of progressive modernism – and its own exclusion due to a received taste – comes from when, in a previous post, I was involved with attempts to help save a charitable foundation established to care for post-war servicemen. Developed in a modernist style much loved by its modern residents, it boasted some of the best modern caring environments, all sitting comfortably within a design concept that had no qualms about its progressive aesthetic. When its amenity was threatened by over-development, including part demolition, resident-led opposition ensued. The residents tried to get the complex and its largely contemporary local environs designated and managed as a part of a conservation area valued precisely for its modern style.Which is where we came in. The initiative failed, however, as the area’s modernist aesthetic – notably the urban design approach founded on a contemporary social housing backdrop – did not fit the historic profile of the traditional, conservation-area-friendly suburb. It was not the styles, or even the technology, that undermined care and survival, but the same legacy issues in contemporary taste and planning that our authors here also address. The real drivers of change and care in places are invariably more diverse than past trends, style or taste. That is why we must secure the right skills and capacity across the systems and specialists that manage those drivers, not least the conservation services and officers. Seán O’Reilly, director of the IHBC Rational recreation Bandstands: pavilions for music, entertainment, and leisure Paul Rabbitts, Historic England, 2018, 248 pages, 244 colour illustrations, softback, ISBN 978 1 848023 72 7, £25 Anyone who expects merely a celebration of the familiar cast- iron bandstand, an example of which graces the front cover of this book, will find it to be far more. It is a study of open-air music and its links with private pleasure gardens, the development of 19th and 20th century parks, and the expansion of seaside resorts as places of entertainment and leisure. Published by Historic England, with the aid of 111 supporters, its academic credentials are established by a comprehensive index and gazetteer of both existing and lost bandstands with dates, manufacturer or foundry, full bibliography and extensive notes. The early chapters review leisure in private pleasure gardens and move to the ‘rational recreation’ of public parks and the place of music within them. Surprisingly, it was the sounding boards of bandstands that were important in amplifying northern brass bands and those of the military to increase public appreciation of music in parks. A further chapter deals with the varied art and architecture of bandstands, not only the familiar cast and wrought iron so excoriated by Ruskin and Mawson, but also to those of arts- and-crafts influence, such as that at Rushdene in Nottinghamshire by Sir Albert Richardson. From there Rabbitts notes the post-war decline through changing musical taste and lack of local authority maintenance. He records the change in attitude to parks in the late 20th century, and the numerous restorations and replacements of bandstands fostered by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The book finishes positively with the array of uses for bandstands as focal points for our restored and vibrant parks. A brief recital of the book’s coverage gives little indication of the treasures to be found within. There are wonderful and varied historic and modern photos of the bandstands (including shells) in use. Drawing on contemporary commentators, there is considerable detail on events up and down the country, which lauds the variety of musical entertainment as seen through the eyes of citizens. A book for savouring, it will repay close reading for a wider historical understanding of the place of music in entertainment and leisure, and its role in the democratic nature of public parks. Cast-iron enthusiasts will sift through a treasury of varied designs by Macfarlanes and the other Scottish foundries of the central belt. They exported their wares to