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Portsmouth port swaps quays for keys as public piano goes on display

Students from Flying Bull Academy listen to renowned pianist, and play with drums in the terminal at Portsmouth International Port

A public piano is available for all port visitors to enjoy as we take part in the city’s cultural festivities, Ports Fest from 29 June – 2 July, which has already seen a renowned pianist, school children and port staff showing off their musical skills.

Part of a project titled ‘Piano for the People’, it has been decorated by students from the local Flying Bull Academy. The year 6 class visited the port on Thursday 29 June where they were given a special music class by the director of music at Portsmouth Grammar School and put their newly found skills to use to collaborate with renowned pianist Fabio Tedde, known as the ‘Pianist Without Borders’.

Lucy Stapenhill, teacher and art lead for The Flying Bull Academy said:  “We were excited to take part in Ports Fest again this year and were thrilled to be paired with Portsmouth International Port as we have worked together in the past. The children worked incredibly hard at every stage of this project from creating their designs, sanding the piano and helping us paint on the selected scene. We wanted the piano to incorporate our connection with the port and this year’s theme of ‘ignition’ – whilst still being personal to our school. The children rose to that challenge. Our year 6’s also each signed a brick on the front as a reminder of their spirit and hard work once they have transitioned to secondary school after summer.” 

The piano will be at Portsmouth International Port until Monday 3 July, when it will then be donated by Coach House pianos back to the Flying Bull Academy. Passengers and staff have already taken to the keys to show off their talents, and ferry passengers were given a special performance by the Solent Choir.

Gareth Hemmings, Portsmouth Grammar School’s director of music said: “It has been a real pleasure to work with year 6 at Flying Bull Academy on this music project. I visited their school last week with 50 djembe drums and we worked on rhythm skills, listening skills and how to improvise and respond to each other. It was fantastic to see the piano in the port with the beautiful decorations the pupils had designed and painted and to be joined by Fabio, who shared some of his music with the pupils. Creating fresh, new music with a large group of people is always a challenge and it was so exciting to hear Fabio respond to the rhythms, sounds and textures that the Flying Bull pupils created.”

During the session, the students discussed the meaning of the space and the variety of passengers and cultures that pass through the international port. Fabio Tedde then took to the piano to play a piece which had been inspired by their work, and focused on igniting a passion for music and breaking down borders – in a location where borders are crossed everyday.

Fabio Tedde, Pianist Without Borders, said: “I truly enjoyed playing for the children and I was so happy to see them interacting with each other, and hear how many questions they had to ask me about my journey as a musician. That really means a lot to me.

Sometimes there is no need to understand others cultures to communicate with them, all we need to do is to love and respect them and use simple meaningful ways to communicate and respect their believes.”

Portsmouth International Port spokesperson said: “It’s been lovely to see and hear the joy this public piano has brought to the port. As a city owned port we look for creative opportunities to work with the community and the Piano without Borders project has been a wonderful addition to the terminal. We’ve seen passengers and staff enjoying the chance to play, even our port director who hasn’t played for years was inspired to have a go.”

Ports Fest is the longest running arts and cultural festival in the city and is supported and sponsored by Portsmouth Grammar School. Pianos for the People is part of Portsmouth Keys, with two Coach House pianos also located at the Historic Dockyard and Cascades shopping centre.

Staff play the Ports Fest piano at Portsmouth International Port
Staff play the Ports Fest piano at Portsmouth International Port