A bit of History …
Herne Hill Piano was installed in 2012 – here is a pic as it was then before all the extra graffiti colours. Here is Anthony a Herne Hill Piano legend. He played Mozart and taught himself to play classical music after first hearing it on video games.
He was a highlight for folk out for the night in the square. Often on Youtube – here is a popular sample – we hope he will come on October 1st!
Way back in 2012, a street piano was placed near the station at Herne Hill, south London. Four happy years later and its work is done (don’t worry there’s another one on its way) – and there’s no doubt it survived this long is thanks to the hard work and dedication of some of our local community heroes.
Number one is Roy Martin our local piano tuner (pictured above). Most of the time he’s working for people like Stevie Wonder and Damon Albarn, but he’s also taken Herne Hill street piano under his wing, repairing and turning it on his way home for four years. A piano that is played this often needs a lot of extra tuning, and Roy has kept it going.
On a day-to-day basis we have Elaine the florist (AKA the Flower Lady, pictured below) and Alan from Pullens to thank. Opening it in the mornings and closing it at night helps to keep everyone happy – residents trying to sleep as well as boogie woogie pianists.
And Herne Hill Forum who brought the piano here day one and have managed the Herne Hill Piano Project so well that with the generosity of the amazing Herne Hill Community have raised over £5000 through a crowdfunder – for a new piano. This much-loved landmark will live on now thanks to them.
But we’ll leave the last word to Roy. Take it away R0y!
“Our well- loved piano has done a fantastic job. I became aware over a year ago that the piano had some problems and was perhaps working too hard for its age and needing a rest. I found a younger, fitter piano.
“As a piano technician the really good work is invisible ‘under the bonnet.’ And we have chosen a very good company to do the work so we will now have a piano as good as new for a much lower price. I am hoping we can have more events and attract more amazing people who may be tempted to do some performances for us. I hope you will welcome the new one – it may be a bit shy at first but its still ‘The People’s Piano.’”
Sadly, after 27 years, Pullens has closed its doors. Thank you for everything Alan and Debi!
Join us for an event to celebrate Herne Hill’s first street piano – and welcome its stunning replacement – on October 1. Details to follow soon.
Four years ago, in 2012, Herne Hill in south London gained its first street piano.
The piano had already served its time as part of the 2012 Play Me, I’m Yours event, where multiple pianos were sprinkled across the city as part of the City of London Festival. It was most likely destined for the scrap heap, but fate intervened and it came to live in Herne Hill. (Others from the festival were saved by Morganico, a local artist, and went to live in his friends‘ homes.)
The piano’s new home was outside the station, in the underpass. As Giles Gibson and Michael Stuart from the Herne Hill Forum said at the time, “We didn’t know if it would work. We weren’t sure if it would even last a week.”
The rest is history.
In fact, we’re pretty sure that the Herne Hill Piano is worthy of a World Record as the longest serving street piano in the world! No other piano has lived on the street for four years – in the known universe! (We’ve checked on Facebook and Twitter so it must be true.)
It was also this piano that inspired our first short film, The Peoples’ Piano, and is a major star in the second, Instrument of Change: Street Piano, a feature-length documentary that we’re working on now (you can watch the trailer here).
A massive ‘Thank You Herne Hill Piano!’ from all the street piano film team.
Join us for an event to celebrate Herne Hill’s first street piano – and welcome its replacement – on October 1. Details to follow soon.
Alan Kenny with Tom Binns. Tom is the piano whisperer – he is single handedly and mostly voluntarily filling Glasgow city with pianos. “He always makes sure each one has a stool – a chair won’t do!” said Alan and he should know he has played them all. The pianos are indoors available for public use and in venues from concert halls to social care centers and art galleries. An inspiration to cities across the world!
Upstairs in Glasgows main concert hall – one day could there be one in the Barbican, the South Bank or even Carnegie Hall?
Here the food is free and the piano is free. In an old peoples centre that is used by refugees for delicious lunches made with home grown produce – good vibes. Live music in lunch centers is the way they do it in Glasgow.
Flourish is a social care centre – the users painted the piano – “it was a great atmosphere ” said Tom. “We were all surprised by who could play the piano when it arrived – we would never have guessed the hidden talent” the manager said.
The psychiatric hospital has one too. “It makes the place feel homely and blend in with rest of city – something enjoyable and fun on the hospital premises makes a massive difference,” said member of staff. One resident comes down daily to play and the visitors and staff enjoy – relaxation in the air.
All public pianos need a tuner who ‘gets’ public pianos and Alasdair Russell is Glasgows man. Regularly tuning them with care and generosity the pianos are in great shape. Here he is tuning the piano at a local stables on outskirts of city.
And the swimming pool that was nearly closed down until the community took it over, after they turned it into an arts centre they installed a baby grand and they now have funding to completely refurbish – amazing what happens when you have a piano in your midst!
Going uptown – to the beautiful Leiper art gallery – a free piano for public use – amazing – congratulations Ewan – for breaking the mould – elegance and expression can go together! He says “art generates conversation and music generates conversation – makes sense to have them together.”
What does Jools think about street pianos? Sneak preview of the interview for our upcoming film…
He loves pianos and was very interested in street pianos, yay! And the loo was like it was on a train! Trains and pianos – just right up our street. He played after interview – in the room that all these great musicians have played in -…click to have a listen – Jools in reflective mode – beautiful.