If you have walked along the restaurant stretch of Victoria Street during daytime lately, you would have noticed the arrival of a lone piano on the sidewalk in the space between two great Hamiltonian institutions: Metropolis Caffe and Browsers Bookshop. She’s bright orange with a blue trim, and she wears a cardboard sign that invites passersby to play her.
The piano on the sidewalk is the generous contribution of the proprietor of one of the city’s best-loved independent outdoor gear stores -Trek n Travel -and our third contender for ‘Friendliest Man in Hamilton’ (and himself a great Hamiltonian institution), Colin Hancock.
Colin has operated his business on Victoria Street for seventeen years, and in that time, he has become very much a fixture on the same sidewalk space he now shares with the orange piano. Colin’s funky Combi -possibly the most distinctive vehicle in the Tron -sits parked nearby, and in recent times, he has come to be joined by a retro deliveries bicycle.
It is not unusual to walk past the area and find Colin seated on one of two camping chairs at a table outside his shop, a map of New Zealand affixed to the tabletop, a cup of coffee and a newspaper by his side and a friendly greeting for all who pass by. It is little wonder that the Huffington Post called him ‘the Happiest Man in Hamilton’.
Colin says that the piano is his way of doing something positive for the city and bringing life, art and creativity to the area. Despite being in the heart of the city’s hospitality district, the space -across from the iconic Riff Raff statue at Embassy Park – had come to be neglected by all but the city’s rough sleepers in recent times. The arrival of the piano, however, is rapidly changing this. From the old to the young, the homeless to the multi-homed, the amateur to the virtuoso -fingers passing by cannot help but stop and play a little tune on the piano.
And Colin’s favourite part? ‘Everyone who plays walks away with a smile’.
We cannot help but admire Colin’s warmth and generosity and no-fuss approach to giving back to his city. He bought the piano in London many, many years ago. Today, the piano connects Hamilton city to many other great cities of the world such as New York, Barcelona, Paris and Sydney all of whom boast street pianos.
Colin’s piano project does not end here. He has plans to turn the piano into a funky work of art with the help of local graffiti artists, and make it a permanent fixture on Victoria Street. In a city that has an ever-expanding public art scene, Colin’s piano is both inspired and inspirational. It is both an object of art in itself, and turns members of the public into artists -even if only for a few moments.
This story was put together with the help of some lovely little birdies whispering tidbits to us. We loved all the stories our Twitter followers sent in, so we had to publish some of them!