Swanage bandstand centenary concert cancelled as storm sweeps in

History has repeated itself almost 100 years to the day that Swanage Bandstand was first opened, as the worst summer storm in years has now forced its centenary celebrations to be abandoned.

The Met Office issued a yellow severe weather warning for high winds and thunderstorms throughout Wednesday 2nd August 2023, with Swanage predicted to be right at the heart of the most severe conditions.

Opening ceremony of Swanage Bandstand

The reopening ceremony for Swanage Bandstand in 2019 was also in driving rain

High winds forecast

A combination of approaching high winds, driving rain, a threat of hail and random lightning strikes have forced the bandstand’s much anticipated 100th birthday bash to be abandoned – just as the original opening was, on 31st July 1923.

The 2023 will see an unseasonably deep area of low pressure off the Atlantic sweep through the English Channel between 4 am and 6 pm which could result in gusts of wind of 45 to 60 miles an hour along the South Coast with the very worst conditions off the Needles on the Isle of Wight.

Along with the strong winds, slow moving thunderstorms have been forecast across southern and central England which could lead to rainfall – possibly including hail – of up to an inch within an hour.

The 100th anniversary of Swanage Bandstand was to have been marked by seven hours of music, opened by Swanage town crier Andrew Fleming and town mayor Tina Foster.

Those scheduled to take part included Swanage Town Band, the Southern Union Chorus, Karen Grant, Kelp, the Stonekeys, Aaron Hughes, All Sort’d, the Harmony Rocks Choir, the Singing For Pleasure Choir and Feverstreet.

Mr Bandstand, Alan Houghton, with the rebuilt bandstand

Alan Houghton had to take the difficult decision to cancel the centenary concert

“We didn’t want to cancel but knew we had to”

Leading the recent restoration of the bandstand and the organiser of the centenary celebraions, Alan Houghton said:

“We didn’t want to cancel but we knew we had to, because we have performers travelling a long way to take part and the forecast was for a yellow warning with thunder and lightning through the afternoon.

“Regretfully we have had to cancel the celebration completely and not just postpone it because of how difficult it is to get everyone together.

“So much organisation had gone into the day with people donating their time for free that we couldn’t ask them to do it all over again.

“It has made it very difficult, especially as so many people expressed an interest. We couldn’t have worked it around a little window of sunshine, because who would you exclude with everyone giving their time for free to perform?

“We are very fortunate to have our bandstand back and people just love having it open in the town again, but it is such a shame we won’t be able to mark its 100th birthday.”

A postcard showing the opening of Swanage Bandstand in 1923
Lawrence Sandford

A postcard showing the original opening of Swanage Bandstand in August 1923

The 1923 opening was postponed by two days

When the bandstand was originally opened in the summer of 1923 – the amphitheatre dug out by unemployed soldiers who had returned from the Great War – the ceremony had to be delayed by two days until Thursday, 2nd August because of bad weather.

And when the newly restored bandstand was reopened on Saturday, 26th October 2019 after a £150,000 fund raising project involving the whole of Swanage, the heavens opened once again.

The rescue project had become necessary after more storms – in the winter of 2011/2012 – had damaged the roof of the rare sunken bandstand, revealing asbestos.

Following that, the roof was removed, the cast iron structure believed to have been given away for scrap, and in 2017 Swanage Town Council discussed plans to dismantle what remained and fill in the amphitheatre.

Cutting the ribbon at the opening ceremony of the Swanage Bandstand

Cutting the ceremonial ribbon in October 2019 – drenched but happy

Blighted by weather over the years

Alan Houghton said:

“It does seem to have been blighted by the weather over the years, but the 500 people who stood in the pouring rain in October 2019 and got absolutely drenched loved the day because they were absolutely desperate to get their bandstand back.

“And although we so wanted the centenary celebration to go ahead, these things happen – the main thing is that our beautiful bandstand has been restored to Swanage and will be used and appreciated well into the future.”

Storm clouds over Swanage

Storm clouds over Swanage – drivers have been warned to take extra care

Swanage Carnival events postponed

Other events in Swanage due to take place on Wednesday 2nd August 2023 have been postponed.

As part of Swanage Carnival, the Swanage gymnastics display at 11 am and the Scruff’s fun dog show at 12.15 pm, both planned to take place on Sandpit Field have been postponed to Friday 4th August 2023, at the same times.

This means that the vintage and classic cars will now be displayed on Friday on Shore Road to allow more space for arena events to take place.

Drivers towing caravans need to be cautious

Visitors heading into Swanage on Wednesday 2nd August 2023 were warned to take special care on the roads in the stormy conditions.

Rod Dennis, spokesperson for the RAC, said:

“Yet more heavy rain and strong winds will make driving conditions challenging. As the wind will be especially strong along the Dorset coast, drivers towing caravans will need to be cautious while those carrying items on the roof should make sure these are properly secured.”


Swanage Town Band will be back to play at the bandstand later in August 2023

Further information

  • Check the very latest weather forecast at the Met Office website

Hear the original opening tune for Swanage Bandstand in 1923

Watch the opening of the bandstand after restoration in 2019

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