The main entrance of Herne Bay bandstand
Herne Bay Bandstand today

The central bandstand has been a key landmark on Herne Bay seafront for more than 90 years.

But those who have known the town for a while will remember when rather than a hub and meeting place, it was a boarded up eyesore – and twice demolition was discussed.

The bandstand started as a design by Herbert Kempton Dyson, a founder member of the Concrete Institute. It was built in 1924, straddling the beach so the tide could come in and out underneath, with two sea-facing balconies where deckchairs could be placed. There was also a stage inside with seating on the prom and on the roof, including in the domes that are still visible today.

Herne Bay bandstand in the 1930s with lots of seats outside
An early view of Herne Bay's bandstand in the 1930s

Musical performances became so popular that the seating area was extended, right to the edge of the road, and in 1932 a new frontage was added. The alterations included walls all around but no roof over the centre and could accommodate up to 1,000 people.

Bandstand concerts were such a part of Herne Bay life that one vicar in Herne used to make sure his Sunday services finished in time to allow the congregation to catch the bus to town for the evening performance.

There was a real sense of occasion, with a red carpet laid from the Connaught Hotel opposite (now the bingo club) for the conductor to use and queues back to the pier.

But as with any seafront structure, the bandstand suffered damage by the elements. By the 1970s it had fallen into disuse, parts were closed to the public because of safety fears and there was even talk of demolishing it.

Luckily, the majority of councillors opted for restoration and it re-opened, with a 20-year lease granted to Clipperview in early 1987.

But the October storm that year caused more damage, and left Clipperview with a £25,000 bill. Some work was completed but in 1990 a legal row broke out over its maintenance, which meant the bandstand was again left deserted and closed to the public.

In 1995, councillors were again asked to consider demolition but again voted for refurbishment, with repairs needed to the walls, roof, floor, steelwork, railings and turrets as well as new glazed windows and a new sea wall. The restoration was backed by English Heritage and a lottery grant in 1997 made it possible.

The bandstand has been home to the town’s Visitor Information Centre and a pub, and the current tenants are an Indian restaurant and a coffee shop that is part of the MaKCari’s brand.

Spex the band performing at the bandstand as part of BayBusk
Spex perform at Herne Bay Bandstand during BayBusk in 2014. Photo: Alan Stewart

The stage area remains open and a popular venue for entertainment including Punch and Judy, magic shows, concerts and art exhibitions.

In 2013, it was a key venue as part of the celebrations to mark the centenary of French artist Marcel Duchamp’s visit to Herne Bay and hosted a live cartooning session with some of the industry’s top artists.

Herne Bay Bandstand in the 1920's
Herne Bay Bandstand in the 1920's