Then and now: Kelvingrove Bandstand

The gig was The Stellarites and the date 1911 but enthusiasm for this open air gig at Kelvingrove Bandstand was in no way stilted by the times.

The Kelvingrove Banstand and amphitheatre in 1925, the year after it opened. PIC: Contributed.

Thousands of people “thronged” to the open air venue to enjoy some music on a warm night in August, just as will be the case this year with the new season getting underway in the park this week.

The dazzling reaction to the show, printed in papers of the day, illustrates how the powerful, positive effect of live music was in full flow in Kelvingrove 106 years ago, just as it will be this summer.

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The Stellarites, a musical comedy act from south London, in the Music Hall built in Kelvingrove Park for the 1911 Scottish Exhibition of National History, Art and Industry before decanting to the bandstand for an evening show.

A report in the Evening Times described a “godly sight” as thousands of people enjoyed themselves “with not a thought of tomorrow” on show.

It added: “One sees so many serious and intent faces on the streets, dull eyed and listless, that it is refreshing to forget for a time this negative side of humanity and abandon oneself to the contagion of jollity.

“It is the most epidemic disease, the most sought after, and the most welcome. It was the mere fact that there is such an unassailable spirit of happiness in Kelvingrove that set us wandering off at a tangent.

An open day held in the 1990s as the campaign to save the bandstand got underway. PIC: Friends of Kelvingrove Park.

It added: “People become for the time being citizen of an ideal city whose laws are so simple that all can understand and respect them.”

The original wrought iron bandstand in Kelvingrove where The Stellarites played was created for the first International Exhibition in 1888.

In 1924, it was moved to the Alexander Hamilton Park in Stonehouse, where it later became a tea room before being restored to its original state.

The new bandstand in Kelvingrove was built in 1824 and could sit up to 3,000 people with another 7,000 standing on the natural gradient of the land.

Wet Wet Wet were one of the Glasgow bands to play in Kelvingrove during the early 1980s before they were signed. PIC: Contributed.

Capacity today now sits at around 2,500.

While musicians including Nile Rogers, The Pixies, Chaka Khan and Arab Strap will take to the stage this summer, the programme back in its early days featured free classical concerts on a Sunday with jazz and traditional Scottish music performances later scheduled.

Military bands were a popular choice in the late 1920s with the bagpipers of the Royal Scots Greys regularly creating a spectacle in the park with their black and white bearskin headdresses.

Acts such as The Ne’er Do Wells and the Jingles and Smiles Party also featured with shows frequently broadcast on the radio.

The bandstand in 2001. PIC: TSPL.

Ballroom dancers would later perform showcases on the stage.

The bandstand was to get a jolt of new energy during the 1970s as Glasgow’s rock and alternative music scene began to flourish.

Paisley prog-punk crew Chou Pahrot played several gigs, their supremely loud sound and bizarre shows headed by singer Mama Voot in a trademark wedding dress, becoming the stuff of local legend.

Punk picnics were to follow with a series of free music festivals held in the early 1970s.

By the 1980s, the bandstand became a platform for local bands like Wet, Wet, Wet, Hue and Cry and Simple Minds with thousands drawn to the park every weekend.

The bandstand reopened in May 2014. PIC: TSPL.

Free festivals were held right up to 1990, with an Anti-Poll Tax rally also held that year, but the condition of the amphitheatre was rapidly deteriorating. Closure was first suggested 1992 but the Friends of Kelvingrove Park campaigned to save it.

It was a campaign that was to last around 20 years.

In the meantime, the bandstand was abandoned and vandalised but still proved to have a creative draw. Teenage Fanclub “wandered in” and shot their low-budget video for Dumb, Dumb Dumb, there in 2000.

The band, along with Franz Ferdinand and Horse, later gave their support to the Friends group who doggedly pursued the restoration of the bandstand with the help of the Glasgow Buildings Preservation Trust.

Teenage Fanclub were among the first bands to play at the bandstand, now a listed building, when it relaunched - fully restored to its glory - in May 2014.

Today, it is the only original bandstand left in Glasgow and one of only three with an amphitheatres left in Scotland.

An open day held in the 1990s as the campaign to save the bandstand got underway. PIC: Friends of Kelvingrove Park.
Wet Wet Wet were one of the Glasgow bands to play in Kelvingrove during the early 1980s before they were signed. PIC: Contributed.
The bandstand in 2001. PIC: TSPL.
The bandstand reopened in May 2014. PIC: TSPL.