The community of Herne Hill was initially divided over whether a street piano would work. Would it be used and bring people together? Or would it be vandalised and wrecked? Eventually, a community group got the go ahead and convinced those responsible for the train station to let them put the piano in the underpass.

Project owner Giles Gibson told us, “It was massively popular from day one and within minutes there were people playing and people standing to listen to the music. The piano has brought lots of attention, including numerous videos and documentaries. It’s absolutely transformed the area and brought the community together – to us it is definitely an asset worth saving. The piano is now very battered so we decided that we needed to raise funds to replace it and retire the current one.”

 

The big idea

Invite the local community to buy Herne Hill a brand new piano and let the old one retire.

 

What happened?

Giles had previously crowdfunded and so decided to opt for this method of fundraising as it allowed the community a chance to rally together and save something important.

He told us, “We really wanted the reassurance that people cared enough about the project. We wanted to know if people would actually buy into it; it was a bit of a litmus test to find out if people actually would want to replace the piano or just let it go.”

Giles explained how the community group experienced a lot of the usual fears associated with crowdfunding; namely, would anyone actually care and support them?

Giles explained why this meant they opted for flexible funding, “We used the flexi-funding method as well, mainly because with this sort of project every little helps. So even if we hadn’t hit target we would still have been able to do some of what we wanted, and still with benefit to the community.”

However, they needn’t have been concerned about not hitting target as the community, who agreed on a target of £5,000, incredibly hit this goal in just six days!

 

In the press

The clever and quirky nature of this project being written by a piano created a lot of local buzz! The initial project was covered by the local website Brixton Buzz and again after a documentary on the piano was released.

 

Top crowdfunding tips

We asked Giles for his top tips to anyone thinking about crowdfunding…

 

Do all of the legwork before starting. “Get all of your ducks in a row – do all the research you can and test the water with as many people as will listen. Talk to them about your project, tell them what you’re doing and ask for their support, you can then begin to get an idea of who will get behind you.”

 

Ask what rewards people want. “Find out what they would like in return for their money, and take their ideas on board. They are the people who are giving you their money, so it’s best to give them a reward that they would like.”

 

Pick a target that feels comfortable. “Don’t be afraid to be ambitious, but you also want to feel pretty confident that you will be successful – you can always set a stretch target and overfund.”

 

And one last word from the star of the show, the Herne Hill piano himself, “I am your local piano, just waiting to be played. Come tickle my ivories, while away the minutes waiting for a train, be my friend.”

 

• Want to know more about Herne Hill Piano? Visit their Crowdfunder project page here.