On a blistering hot summer’s day, the people of Portsmouth tend to head down to Southsea Common. With its wide open spaces next to the sea, it’s an easy place to spend an afternoon.
And on Sundays there’s the familiar sound of music playing as the small bandstand on the seafront comes alive with musical performances – and up to 5,000 sit down to watch every week.
For the past 15 years Live at Southsea Bandstand has taken place through the summer months with music styles ranging from rock ‘n’ roll to electro.
Danielle Milasinovic, 34, lives in Copnor and is the events officer at Portsmouth City Council in charge of putting on music at the bandstand.
She says: ‘We started planning the bands for it in January and looking at the programme. We also have a meeting with Geoff Priestley (Wedgewood Rooms manager) and Steve Pitt (promotions manager of The Cellars At Eastney) because they work with a lot of local musicians.
‘We decide on the different styles of music and when we will have everything on.
‘Then we look at trying to get different bands involved and we research some others.’
Last weekend there was original and contemporary music from local bands Murdoch, The Planes and Kassassin Street. Other music styles coming up include electro sing, jazz, country and western, folk and, for the first time this year, reggae.
Each week has a different theme for the audiences, and there are also activities such as a bouncy castle to keep the kids entertained – all for free.
Danielle says: ‘We always try and have world music like Latin so people get to discover a range of music. We are having a reggae performances for the first time this year an dthere’s electric swing, which is a new style of music that’s taking off at the minute.
‘Some people don’t have a chance to listen to live music, so it’s nice to show the music and the styles that are out there.’
The Live at Southsea Bandstand event is also a platform for local musicians to be seen by residents who might not normally venture out to see live music.
This year some of these include the Retrospective Soundtrack Players and The Three Belles, who formed together at the University of Portsmouth.
Others include The Mods, the Freestyle Funk Collective, The Pedigree Jazz Band and The Cash Collection.
Danielle continues: ‘It’s important to have local bands there, especially so they can develop an interest in what’s happening locally too. We want to encourage community engagement with live performances.
‘We also plan to have 80s Revolution, who is from Fareham, and Mojo Dollar are local too, with a 1960s style.’
The event started all those years ago to give people of the city (and visitors) somewhere to go for free, whether they be young children or the elderly.
‘Lots of children get involved with the dancing,’ explains Danielle, ‘and there’s a trampoline, face painting and a bouncy castle for them to enjoy. People can bring their own picnic too and have barbecues in the designated areas.
‘It’s a way of offering everyone somewhere they can spend an afternoon with their family for free. It’s important they have somewhere like that to go. I’ve seen small children on the dance floor with elderly couples.’
The setting of the bandstand also offers great views across the Solent and to the Isle of Wight.
Danielle says: ‘It’s in a great location because everyone can see, and we try to put on good quality music. A family could enjoy a day out there, but it doesn’t cost anything.’
There are also events at the bandstand on Saturdays now.
Danielle explains: ‘We’ve joined with a weekend programme where Dan Clarke is putting on performances, although it is completely separate to us. He organises it all and is a local music promoter so knows a lot of bands.
‘It’s expanding the use of the bandstand. All the local performers do it for the experience and the exposure.’
Last year, the summer of music ended with a finale concert on Castle Fields, and this year is no different.
On August 24 there will be a 1940s tea dance with The Three Belles and the Pete Western Swing Band, and in the evening there will be classical performances from The Bossard Quartet and The Victory Brass Band.
The next day will see tribute act The Band of Wonder supported by Hairforce5 and a fireworks display.
Danielle explains: ‘We’re trying to make it bigger and better now. There will be a much bigger capacity for people too, around 8,000. We’re calling it The Last Weekend of the Bandstand, and there’s a wider range of performances for people to watch.
‘We’ve added another day to it because the stage will be there any way, so why not?’
But, of course, the audience numbers throughout the summer and possibly the finale are dependent on the British weather.
‘The weather is the main factor in bringing people down,’ laughs Danielle, ‘because even if it’s spitting people don’t want to be outside. But it’s a great benefit for the community and it brings visitors into the city from outside of Portsmouth.
‘It’s exciting to show them what the city offers. It’s all about having a good day out.’
Go to portsmouth.gov.uk for more information.