Brighton has one of the most iconic seafronts in the country, boasting a wealth of extraordinary architecture that has found fame around the world over the centuries through picture postcards (and more recently through Instagram posts!). From the Palace Pier and the remains of the West Pier to the incredible Regency architecture of the Brunswick Estate and, of course, The Royal Pavilion, Brighton is overflowing with architectural gems. All of these stunning structures are a product of Brighton’s emergence as the country’s premier seaside destination in the late 1800s, a reputation that we think it still holds today! One of the smallest, but also the most beautiful, of these Victorian architectural delights is the Brighton Beach Bandstand.
Known locally as ‘The Birdcage’, The Brighton Beach Bandstand was designed by one of Brighton Borough’s Surveyors, Phillip Lockwood, and it was constructed in 1884. The Bandstand was originally one of eight bandstands to be built in the Brighton and Hove area in the late Victorian era, although it is the only one still standing. Bandstands were extremely popular around the time that the Brighton Beach one was built, serving as locations for public performances of music, theatre and other entertainment. The Bandstand owes its longevity to a major restoration project that was completed in 2009 and returned the building to its former glory. The restoration was commissioned by Brighton & Hove City Council and led by a:b:i:r architects, and the project came in at a cost of just under one million pounds. The restoration of Brighton’s bandstand has allowed it to return to its roots by hosting music every Sunday afternoon throughout the summer from April to September. The Bandstand plays host to other events too, with dancing and yoga regularly taking place on the top level and a cafe occupying the lower floor – you can even get married on it!
If you’re visiting Brighton, then a trip down to the seafront would not be complete without stopping off at the Bandstand. Heading down just before sunset is a great time to visit, not least for those golden-hour selfies! Given its prime seafront location, going down at this time of day gives you an awesome vantage point out to sea and you can watch the sun go down over the waves. If you’re in the city during the winter, the Bandstand is also a great spot from which to catch sight of the incredible natural phenomena of the Starling murmurations as hundreds of thousands of these birds head back to their roosts in the two piers at sunset.
Things To Do on Brighton Beach Bandstand:
Dancing at the Bandstand
One of the activities most often seen at the Brighton Beach Bandstand is dancing. In the summer there are regular free swing dancing events organised by Swing Patrol. Once the music events on a Sunday afternoon finish around four o’clock, you’ll often see a large group take to the upper level of the Bandstand for a couple of hours of swing dancing (find out more here). And that’s not all when it comes to dancing on the Bandstand. There’s also ‘La Glorieta de Brighton’, a social tango dancing event that takes place every Tuesday evening from May until September, organised by Milonga Azul. You can keep up to date with Milonga Azul on their Facebook page here. They’ve already confirmed that they’ll be back for more evening tango at the Bandstand in 2024!
Music at the Bandstand
As the name would suggest, the original intention behind building bandstands across the country during the Victorian period was as a venue for public music performances. One of the main aims of the restoration of the Brighton Beach Bandstand was to return the structure to its original purpose. When the Bandstand restoration was completed in 2009 it was reopened with a special concert headlined by the Patcham Silver Band, and it now plays host to musical performances every Sunday afternoon throughout the summer. Brighton & Hove City Council manages the events programming of the Bandstand, and it encourages any bands that are interested in playing there to get in touch, which you can do here.
Weddings, civil partnerships and other ceremonies
For a truly unique and iconic venue for your special day, you can book the Brighton Beach Bandstand for weddings and civil partnerships, as well as other ceremonies. For more information about booking the Bandstand for such an event, click here.
The Birdcage Bandstand Café Bistro
At sea level on the lower floor of the Bandstand is where you’ll find the Bandstand Cafe. You can get a coffee or a spot of lunch at this classic location and sit inside or out whilst you enjoy the stunning views out to sea and soak up the Brighton seaside atmosphere. The cafe can also provide catering and help to organise events at the Bandstand (as well as providing somewhere to shelter if the weather takes a turn for the worse!).
Without a doubt, one of Brighton’s most beautiful buildings, the Brighton Beach Bandstand is a true seaside gem that has adorned Brighton’s seafront for nearly one hundred and forty years. Thanks to an extensive (and expensive!) restoration project that was completed in 2009, the Bandstand has been restored to the same condition that you would have found it in during its Victorian heyday. It’s worth paying the Bandstand a visit just to savour its classic seaside architectural charm, and it’s also a brilliant spot for a photo to remember your visit to our wonderful city. But the Bandstand is not just a relic of a bygone era, it plays host to a wide variety of cultural events, including tango and swing dancing, musical performances, and even weddings! Keep an eye out in the summer for events taking place on Sunday afternoons in particular, and you can always enjoy a drink or a bite to eat at the cafe on the lower floor of the Bandstand.