Cliftonville’s Oval Bandstand now owned by community group GRASS

GRASS Cliftonville has taken community ownership of the Oval Bandstand and Lawns

Thanet District Council has confirmed The Oval Bandstand and Lawns in Cliftonville has officially entered community ownership.

The freehold was transferred to GRASS Cliftonville CIC from the local authority, so the site and associated buildings are now owned and managed by a not-for-profit social enterprise organisation. 

Stephen Darrer, secretary of GRASS Cliftonville, says local people have always felt a sense of ownership over the site. 

“Now, with the completion of our Community Asset Transfer, the central role of The Oval Bandstand and Lawns in our vibrant community has been strengthened,” he said.

“This important change will help GRASS to attract grant funding and allow us to upgrade facilities at the site so that it can play an even bigger part in community life. 

“The challenge of concluding this transfer was heightened by the ongoing pandemic. 

“It has taken tenacity, sleepless nights, strong partnerships and a collective vision to reach this milestone moment, which promises to release the huge potential this attraction has to help buttress the growing Cliftonville coastal economy.

“The Oval Bandstand is a not-for-profit social enterprise, which means it will be a self-sustaining community events space generating revenue from the café and events, as well as donations, and 100% of that money will go back into the running of the site. 

“We look forward to bringing immediate employment opportunities, training and most importantly a community hub at the heart of Cliftonville.”

He added that the CIC is looking forward to collaborating with heritage partners, interested groups and local residents.

Thanet council placed the site, on Ethelbert Crescent, up for disposal in January 2019 with the method of sale via Community Asset Transfer.

Several groups submitted bids but it was residents group Gordon Road Area Street Scheme (GRASS) that proved successful. 

The group serves the Oval’s surrounding streets and has already hosted free events at the site including the Cliftonville Games and outdoor cinema screenings

A spokesperson for Thanet District Council says the authority is delighted the transfer has been completed.

“The council is certain that GRASS and the local community will make full use of the asset to protect its future and develop the range of facilities and services provided on site.”

Simon Bell, chair of GRASS Cliftonville, added: “We welcome this exciting development and we look forward to working with local people as plans to upgrade this iconic site are taken forward.

“We would like to say thank you to all our local councillors, our partners at Thanet District Council, The National Lottery community fund, Coyler Fergusson, and to everyone who continues to support us. 

“The local community has shown an immense amount of support and generosity in their donations through our hugely successful Crowdfunder campaign, and this must be applauded publicly.”

Anyone wishing to get in touch to ask questions, suggest projects or donate money, the group’s website contains a contact email, details about the CIC and information on plans for site.