Way off-key: Public piano, safe in Toronto, takes downtown London beating

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A player-piano art installation that went almost untouched in downtown Toronto for more than a month has been repeatedly vandalized in its first week in London’s core.

The piece – called 88 Keys of Light – is the creation of West Lorne-native Kristyn Watterworth, and Edward Platero, of London, and can be played like a normal piano, or people can push buttons to hear other tunes such as Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.

Originally built for a festival in Toronto, it lasted 45 days on Toronto’s busy Queen Street with what Platero calls “minimal interference” in March and April. There were “very few problems,” Platero said.

It has not been the same story in the Forest City.

Within a few days of being set up at Covent Garden Market’s Talbot Street entrance, one of the piano’s foot pedals was smashed, the Plexiglas cover over the keys was ripped away, and the concrete feet of the piano bench were smashed off.

“I’m just disappointed, destruction for the sake of destruction. There’s no point in it,” Platero said. “I have a hard time just wrapping my head around that concept. I don’t know why somebody would do that.”

The merchants association Downtown London, which could not be reached for comment, had plans to tour 88 Keys around the city to different spots, making it one of those recognizable bits of Forest City culture.

Platero has put a permanent cover on the keys. “So, it’s no longer playable as a musical instrument,” he said, but Londoners can still hear songs from its selection of tunes. Multiple surveillance cameras are trained on it now and Platero has made the signage more prominent to ward off possible future vandals.

“We definitely don’t want to discourage people from going to see it,” he said.