Call me a downer, but I have not heard a single convincing argument for the preservation of the bricks and mortar of the Bannerman Park Bandstand.
Those in favour of keeping the thing intact have relied, chiefly, on their memories of childhood play around it, while the really ambitious ones have insisted that the bandstand is a viable performance venue with real historic significance.
But has anyone actually explained that historic significance?
Not one of the proponents has described how the bandstand was key to an historic event, period or life, nor have they demonstrated the historic qualities of it as a built structure.
In fact, if the cornerstone reading “1940” wasn’t there, I doubt anyone could tell if the thing was built in 1940, or 1960, or 1980 or 10 years ago.
It’s not heritage — it’s just old. There’s a difference.
Hardly a treasure
As for the notion that the bandstand is an “acoustic treasure” (letter to the editor “Losing the bandstand,” Sept. 7), I can only borrow the words of John McEnroe: “You cannot be serious.”
You’re saying that a structure that is routinely ignored by the park’s annual music festival is good for performance? I doubt that it was that useful even for brass bands, let alone the kind of
guitar-and-amplifier fare typical of the Folk Festival.
The weakness of these arguments is, I suspect, one reason why bandstand crusaders (now including the mayor) have been forced to offer up childhood nostalgia as proof of the thing’s worth.
After all, childhood memories are unassailable, and “everyone has one,” right?
I’m willing to bet that, amongst those of us who weren’t blessed enough to grow up downtown, quite a few folks are pretty much indifferent to the bandstand’s charms.
Not that that’s difficult: the structure itself is hardly the most inviting, elevated off the ground and ringed around with a parapet wall that shields the interior from view.
Indeed, I’ve always thought that, far from engaging the park around it, the bandstand actively turns its back on the park.
It’s a great space for copping a feel or rolling a joint without anyone seeing, but that’s about it.
A failure as a park centrepiece
And yet, this wholly unremarkable structure is being touted as “the heart of the park.”
Might I propose that it’s not the structure itself that is the heart of the park, but the role it is trying — and in my opinion, failing, to fill: that of a community gathering point.
Far from being erased, this role will be preserved and enhanced by putting a new structure, more accessible from grade and more open to views, in the existing bandstand’s place.
Clinging to the bricks and mortar of the thing is pure fetishism at best.
I suspect that, deep down, St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe knows this, but his career instincts are telling him that there’s no political mileage to be got from tearing any old thing down.
If only he’d been around when they were replacing the old Bannerman Park playground!
Why, there was this awesome orange slide there that I have awfully fond memories of … etc., etc.
B.A. Norman writes from St. John’s.