History is one of my great passions. I’ve lived in the Forest since 1985 and made it my mission to immerse myself in the local heritage. I’m an active member of the Forest of Dean Local History Society (LHS) and through that I became aware of Foresters’ Forest. The LHS is closely linked with the programme and when Foresters’ Forest needed a ‘Story of the Forest’ written for the website, we were happy to help. I’ve kept in touch with them ever since.
I stumbled across Scarr Bandstand many years ago and was very struck by this monolithic, overgrown structure, but put it to the back of my mind until in 2015, when I heard that Forestry Commission were encouraging the public to use the site (which was beginning to become unsafe) or it would need to be demolished. Well, being the type of person I am, this got me fired up! I hated to think of this public amenity being lost for good.
What followed has been a labour of love by a small voluntary team, who have been determined to turn this unloved and unused structure into a successful venue. It hasn’t all been fun. There have been a lot of meetings and a lot of hard graft to clear and mend the bandstand. But a few years later and we have had two successful seasons of music and performance, and this project becoming one of the Foresters’ Forest projects has been an incredible help.
And there has been so much to enjoy through my volunteering for this project. I’m proud of the fact that our work has provided a platform for local brass bands to perform, supporting this important part of the Forest’s heritage. Being able to bring in touring theatre productions to the area has also been exciting.
Taking part has appealed greatly to my interest in history. I’ve been able to research into the past of the site and enjoyed searching out old photos. But I’ve got so much more out of it than that! I enjoy being part of a close team who are working together towards a common aim and I now count many of those who I’ve laboured with as close friends. There is also a great satisfaction in taking a moment to just watch people enjoying themselves at one of our events.
It has been a lot of hard work but gives me a tremendous sense of achievement. Times such as walking back from car-parking duty to hear AW Parker Drybrook Band blasting out the James Bond theme tune are among my favourite moments, which see the place come to life – just stupendous!
There is much more for us to do. We want to find funding to replace the temporary roof with a permanent one. We also need to work more on signage, storage, paths, sponsorship… and the ultimate end goal: sustainability. I’m going to enjoy every minute of it and see a long future for this special piece of history that has been saved for future generations.