88 Keys of Light takes a beating at London market

An upright piano that could be played by budding musicians or entertain with a simple push of a button has been repeatedly damaged at the Covent Garden Market.

Piano at the Covent Garden Market didn't last 10 days before being rendered unplayable

Piano at Covent Garden Market didn't last 10 days before being damaged so badly the keyboard had to be covered with Plexiglas. (Submitted Exar Studios)

An upright piano that could be played by budding musicians or would play a tune with a simple push of a button has been damaged so badly in just a few days in London, the keyboard has had to be covered. 

"It is frustrating for sure," said Edward Platero, co-founder of Exar Studios in London and the man behind the piano and art installation, called 88 Keys of Light. 

Exar Studios created the extraordinary piano for a Luminosity Festival in Toronto. In better days, the piano allowed musicians to sit down and tickle the ivories, or for those who couldn't play, push a button and a song would be belted out along with a light show. 

The piano spent 45 days on a downtown Toronto street corner where people could stop and entertain themselves or be entertained. Then it was moved to London. 

The piano on a Toronto street corner before it was damaged. (Submitted by Exar Studios)

"I wanted to bring it to London because it's, you know, where I live and I thought it'd be a nice place to tap into the city," said Platero.

It was popular. In Toronto, the piano was played more than 800 times in just one day. During its short time in London, the number of people who tried it out surpassed that number.

"It's a beautiful piece and we've had a lot of people come by and just absolutely love it," said Amy Shackleton, the events and communications manager at the Covent Garden Market. "I had my kids by this past weekend and they played with the piano for quite a while."

One thing after another

Vandals have had other plans ever since the piano was placed at the market's Talbot Street entrance. 

"We had it arrive on Friday, July 2nd and since then it's been one thing after the other," said Shackleton.

"The keys have been broken. They've picked up the stool that people sit on and smashed it into the keys. They (Exar Studios) come and they fix it for us. But then, day after day, something happens."

The last attack left the keyboard unplayable, something that never happened during the 6 weeks the piano lived on a street corner in downtown Toronto.

The 88 Keys of Light survived 45 days in downtown Toronto with minimal damage. (Submitted Exar Studios)

"No, we had very minimal damage," said Platero. "Not even close to this amount of damage. It (the piano) was very respected it was on a street corner that didn't have any surveillance or anything."

Surveillance cameras have been installed to monitor the piano and Platero has had the keyboard covered with Plexiglas, which means the piano can no longer be played as an instrument. But the buttons still work.

"We've loved having it here at the market," said Shackleton. "People walk by it and they're interested in it."

Platero said he's surprised and frustrated that this has happened in London. 

"This is just destruction for the sake of breaking something and I don't understand why people do that."