Free pianos helping enliven Prague’s public spaces

This week half a dozen pianos have appeared at squares, train stations and other locations in Prague. Some passers-by have been taking the opportunity to tinkle the ivories themselves, while their random, impromptu performances have been bringing smiles to the faces of many more. And the organisers of the latest attempt to liven up Prague’s public spaces are already planning to expand the project.

Ondřej Kobza, photo: CTKOndřej Kobza, photo: CTK On Thursday morning a steady stream of people stopped to bang out a few notes on a piano standing in the middle of Prague’s Náměstí míru, while many others had their photos taken posing at the “Joanna”.

After coming across the instrument while taking a stroll in the sunshine, teenager Tomáš Grus performed a decent rendition of a well-known song by Coldplay.

“I think it’s a great idea. I’d like to see more people playing and I’m curious where this will end up.”

What do you think the piano being here does to the public space here on Náměstí míru?

“It makes it more interesting. Really, I’d like to see the piano here for the whole year. I don’t know why it can’t be a permanent addition. It’s a nice idea – I like it.”

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK The man behind the free pianos, which replicates similar projects seen in other cities around the world, is Ondřej Kobza, owner of the thriving Vršovice bar Café V lese and other venues.

“People walk by, somebody’s always playing. They stop and clap. They enjoy it – and maybe that’ll inspire them to enjoy the public space, the street more. I myself have brought a newspaper and breakfast – I’m going to invite friends to join me on Facebook… People live more on the streets in other countries, more actively and more creatively.”

At present there are pianos at five locations in the Czech capital, including at a riverside walkway and Charles University’s Arts Faculty. Ondřej Kobza – who raised initial funding via a crowdsourcing website – says he hopes next summer to install up to 30 around the metropolis.

Photo: CTKPhoto: CTK “This is just the beginning. I’ve had people contacting me, offering to give me a piano for free. So I’m going to keep putting them around the city and hopefully inspire other people – for instance, some café could install their own piano, and so on. It’s a simple, easy instrument of communication. Every second person can play a song…It adds unexpectedness to people’s journey to work.”

Perhaps the sky really is the limit for the project. Within a fortnight there should also be a free piano at Prague’s Václav Havel Airport.