Last summer talented sixth former Rowena Griffiths won a competition to start a social enterprise, Pianos for High Street, which is now successfully bringing music to local public areas for everyone to enjoy.
Rowena is an avid musician and was performing at a festival in Swansea when she noticed a competition to win a small start-up grant for an idea which would bring a change to the high street.
Rowena’s idea to upcycle old pianos and put them in local areas won over festival goers and she received the most public votes despite being one of the youngest in the competition.
“I was gobsmacked because it was a very spur of the moment thing, I pitched my idea to a load of strangers and when I looked at the crowd they seemed to enjoy what I said and really connected to it, which was really nice.
“They called out my name and I couldn’t believe it. They made me get up on stage and I was on cloud nine. I was so happy,” Rowena said.
So she started Pianos for High Street, and the first piano is now in Swansea Railway Station for people to play. It is part of From the Station to the Sea which is an Arts Council of Wales funded programme.
The People’s Pottery Piano was launched in March and featured performances by Christopher Scamp (the Piano Man), graffiti artist Unity and bilingual rapper, singer/songwriter Rufus Mufasa.
She collaborated with local artists Mark Stephenson and Nazma Ali of HigherStreet International, Tom Morris, Rufus Mufasa and Unity. The artist collective have covered the piano in a beautiful mosaic, made from recycled blue willow pottery, donated by people across Swansea.
Stewart Keay, station manager for Swansea said: “This is a fantastic community led project which will provide a real connection between the people of Swansea and the station that serves the city. We are proud to be the gateway to the city and we hope that the kind donation of the piano to the concourse will be a real delight for users at the station.”
Rowena said: “I’ve seen different pianos all over the world where I’ve been travelling with my mum and noticed how they bring life to an area and I thought that was so beautiful so I wanted to do something similar where I lived.”
Rowena is at Grade 8 on piano and started playing at 5 years old. She currently spends her Sundays back home in Wales giving piano lessons.
She hopes that the social enterprise can expand and bring music to other areas. She has already received messages from artists and said that more and more people are asking for pianos in different areas.
Despite her success, Rowena did not share her story with many people at the beginning. She said: “My housemistress has been really encouraging. I tend to keep everything under wraps and for a few months I didn’t tell anyone about it but one day I did go to her, because she is also my business teacher, and she has been amazing. Everyone has been so supportive and understanding.”
She hopes to do volunteering or business exchange after leaving Clifton College so she can improve her skills in a different country and learn a new language before getting a degree.
Read this article on WalesOnline for more information about the piano at Swansea Railway station: https://bit.ly/2vLE5pg
Photos by Caroline Berry.