Carole hits all right notes with park concerts

Music fans gather at the bandstand at Stanley Park
Music fans gather at the bandstand at Stanley Park
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The bandstand overlooking the lake in Stanley Park has become a Sunday afternoon mecca for the resort’s music fans.

Each week, from May to end of September audiences have been rocking to some of the Fylde Coast’s top bands.

Carole Thaw

Carole Thaw

The free gigs, featuring an eclectic mix of music, are hosted by the Friends and organised by one of their members, Carole Thaw.

It’s been a bumper summer, with huge audiences exceeding 2,000, for the 1920s bandstand which had fallen silent until the formation of the Friends group 15 years ago.

They wanted to bring it back to life and two years later, Carole took on the role of booking bands and musicians for free gigs every Sunday throughout summer, and some Bank Holiday Mondays too.

It’s a job she’s been doing ever since. “I start booking bands in the new year, it’s easier now as I have them coming to me,” she said.

Ska Face performing at the Stanley Park bandstand

Ska Face performing at the Stanley Park bandstand

The musicians waive their fees for the Friends, but the costs and hire of sound engineers has to be covered. Carole books them too, and collections take place at every gig in the hope of covering their fees.

Carole has devoted every summer Sunday afternoon to being in the bandstand for the entire 13 years. Her only break was when she had a hip replacement last year which kept her away for a few weeks.

She is helped by a team of dedicated volunteers,

“I am so grateful to them,” said Carole, “We could really do with more so that we can have a proper rota.”

They keep any eye on the crowd, do coin collections, run the sales stand selling inflatable musical instruments, bubble wands etc, and clear up any litter at the end of each event.

Top bands, Ska Face, Touch the Pearl, Rupert Fabulous and Bob On to name a few, have brought out thousands but every week, weather permitting, there’s been a great crowd of people of all ages.

Carole tries to book a range of musical acts - rock, pop, reggae, soul, hip hop, brass, Northern Soul, plus the odd choir.

“We’ve even had opera, and the furthest anyone had has come is from Mexico.

“They were called Zenith Nadir and electronic rock Latin trio who play in the UK, Spain and Mexico. The violinist’s mum lived in Yorkshire and she’d heard about the bandstand and they asked to come and play. They were very different,” said Carole.

Young rock musicians from Blackpool Sixth Form have been featured this summer, and the swing band from the exclusive Stowe School in Buckinghamshire makes a guest appearance every year.

The link with Stowe came about when the 1790s lead Medici lions, which stood sentry over the park’s Italian gardens, were returned to Stowe which had been their home until 1922 when they were sold, gifted to Blackpool Corporation, and placed in the park

Increasingly vulnerable to theft, in 2013 the council and Friends struck a deal to return the lions to Stowe on lease with Stowe paying for exact replicas, and plinths, to be put in their place,

Since then the friendship with Stowe School has been maintained and the band’s visits introduced.

Keeping an eye of Sunday crowds is down to the Friends volunteers.

“We had a streaker once,” said Carole. “He ran all the way across the bandstand, jumped in the lake and swam to the ice cream kiosk on the other side.

“While I was asking his friends to get him back into his clothes he came back and did it all again! I told them he’d need a good shower after that.”

Retired civil servant, Carole, who lives across the road from the park, loves music and enjoys her summer Sundays but isn’t at a loose end when autumn comes and she can indulge in her love of walking.