Bandstand beds at the heart of growing in Clapham

In the heart of Clapham Common lies an ever growing community of people passionate about growing vegetables, making food and keeping community spirit and growing your own foods alive. David Dandridge who took over the position of Chair in 2014 and who has been at the helm of pushing this important project in Clapham along with a huge team of volunteers have made it what it is today.

Bandstand Beds started in 2013 with just the beds by the café at the Bandstand, and a growing area for fruit bushes in front of the toilet block near the children’s playground. Although our outdoor growing space was limited, our gardening activity on the Common began to attract attention and keen new members started to get involved. Seeing this increased interest in our project, Lambeth Council offered us some derelict land on the Common (known locally as ‘the dump’) to turn it into a community garden.

The polytunnel increased visibility attracted a positive reaction and interest in becoming part of their community project. Bandstand Beds membership numbers swelled, and with regular gardening sessions, workshops and annual events such as Common People on the Bandstand and Autumn feast, BBA became a flourishing community asset. Recognising the success of this community garden Lambeth Council offered another section of derelict land to take on that would double the size of the growing space.

By now, in addition to being a wonderful outdoor space for people of all ages to meet, garden and socialise, they would often prepare and share fresh food made with their produce. To do this properly, they needed somewhere to prepare and cook food on site. So in February 2017 a new shipping container arrived kindly donated by This is Clapham – and Bandstand Beds started building a field kitchen.

Over the years Bandstand Beds volunteers have been involved in many other projects elsewhere on the Common. These have included working with The Spinney in 2018 to create CCMAC’s Colour Your Common project, organising a planting session on the Common for National Tree Week in 2021, and creating some hügelkultur beds in the area beside the new children’s playground.

As gardeners and food growers, Bandstand Beds are increasingly conscious of the importance of raising environmental awareness and working in harmony with nature to support wildlife wherever they can. Back in 2019 one of their young gardeners, Tom, created a small pond in the garden, which now supports a thriving frog population. The pond also plays an important part in the Wild Times sessions which take place in the garden on Monday afternoons, run in partnership with Froglife. Other wildlife organisations they have formed strong links with include Buglife and Butterfly Conservation, and both organisations have run workshops at the garden.

Each year at the Bandstand Beds seems to be busier than the previous one, and 2023 was no exception. Christopher Wellbelove, Deputy Lieutenant for Lambeth, asked if we might be able to help Clapham’s homeless charity, the Ace of Clubs, transform their overgrown garden into a working growing space. Keen to lend a helping hand, a band of BBA volunteers headed along to Ace to carry out a massive clear up, and build some new raised beds and later supplied the Ace of Clubs with plants for the new garden. And later in the year, joined the annual feast with a fantastic produce stall in September. Bandstand Beds raised £1,200 at the feast for Ace of clubs to further improve their garden. The feast is the pinnacle of the year’s growing season at the garden. There’s always delicious food made with all homegrown produce, lots of fun-filled activities and a fundraising raffle with prizes generously donated by local businesses.

One of their aims in 2023 was to provide more activities for children and with this in mind they also set up a series of Saturday morning gardening Get Growing sessions for young people, aged 7+. Also, on a sunny afternoon in June around 50 pupils from Heathbrook Primary School were heard crossing the Common, making their way to the garden for a workshop with Butterfly Conservation. Once divided into groups, the children learnt about the importance of butterflies, sieved compost and planted pollinator-friendly wildflower plug plants in troughs to take back to school.

 With the extra children’s activities last year, Bandstand Beds held approximately 120 workshops and gardening sessions, resulting in more than 2,000 participant experiences. Through our partnership with Froglife’s Wild Times, this includes engagement with 58 people living with dementia and 27 carers. An impressive amount of engagement considering BBA is completely volunteer led.

Want to know more about taking part, supporting or how to become a Bandstand Beds member? Click on this link.

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