Tickle the Ivories is Liverpool’s annual street piano festival that transforms the Liverpool ONE estate every summer into a bustling promenade for live music.
Open Culture approached Liverpool ONE with the idea of an outdoor piano project in 2011. Our proposal was to place 5pianos across the Liverpool ONE commercial, leisure and residential estate during the summer to enliven their streets with live piano music made by performers and shoppers alike. Tickle the Ivories, Liverpool’s annual street piano festival was born, and has taken place every year since.
Now with 6 pianos out daily between early July to mid-September musicians, bands, performers and choirs perform on the pianos to busk, fundraise, promote their music or just to entertain passers-by. Members of the public are also encouraged to hop on a free piano and have a go themselves.
“Tickle the Ivories is the best community project I've seen….just because it was so demonstratively successful, giving such instantaneous pleasure to so very many people, both shoppers and participants. I've seen a huge number of community groups and individuals showing who they are, what they can do, and really entertaining and inspiring passersby. It feels truly Liverpool (ever a performing musical place) because it is democratic, fun, unforced, participative - and reveals some amazing talent, of all ages…The passing audience seem to really enjoy it… what a great project.”
— Andrea Nixon, Executive Director, Tate Liverpool
Working closely withLiverpool ONE, we purchased 5 pianos on their behalf and made important adaptions to them and the seats to make them more durable for daily street life. Years on, we now have a stock of tailored pianos to ensure there is always 6 tuned, functioning pianos on-street during the festival.
Open Culture organised a special launch event for the inaugural festival, which took the form of an exhilarating Samba drumming parade; leading shoppers on a winding musical journey stopping at each piano in turn for an exhilarating musical playoff between the Beatlife drummers and pianist Raff Goldacre.
We manage the one-hour bookings on behalf of Liverpool ONE, which are then listed and promoted on their website and social media channels. Every day is different for Tickle the Ivories, with performance styles ranging from jazz to blues, to classical and experimental to hip-hop and gospel. The huge array of performers includes solo classical pianists, up and coming singer-songwriters, 70-strong choirs, break dancing groups, school orchestras, improvised comedy and theatre groups.
“I love every single second of Tickle the Ivories. Today I saw a 7-year-old girl, an emo kidand a South Korean tourist playing beautifully outside John Lewis in my lunch break. Perfect!!”
— Claire Hamilton, BBC Radio Merseyside
The first summer of Tickle theIvories took place over 10 weeks, creating 66 days of live outdoor piano music. We booked 570 hours of performances with over 900 performers from 180+ acts. The performers raised over £62,000 with an average of £31.50 earned per hourly booking.
We have followed this successful format every year since, some years extending festival dates to create connections with other festivals or conferences taking place in the city, creating more profile and engagement opportunities for the performers.
Every year we see incredible talent on a daily basis, with the level of experience varying from amateurs to music students to professionals, demonstrating that the festival is a valuable platform for performers at all stages of their ability and careers.
“Once again, a really great job by Open Culture…. The instructions, maps and communications from the team have been clear and comprehensive. It's a brilliant initiative for the city, and everybody loves the festival. Well done!”
– Gavin Hodson, Pianist
We have built a strong cohort of regular performers who return year on year with some travelling from across theUK to perform. Famous faces like Diana Krall, Sharon Corr and 2012 MOBO Unsung Award winner, Esco Williams have also taken to the keys, along with videos from up and coming young talent like Harrison Crane whose social media videos soon went viral racking up millions of views!
Liverpool ONE has on average a footfall of over half a million visitors every week, which offers huge audience potential for the performers. Credible audience estimates for Tickle theIvories stands at over 300,000 since 2011. The need and demand for the festival has always remained high, we have showcased over 5,500 artists, creating countless opportunities, contacts and surprising new collaborations.
The confidence he gained from the public enjoying his music was incredible to watch. Passersby stopped to ask him questions and applauded, video him and to sit and eat their lunch on the steps. He was inspired to perform and improve. He came away with an even deeper love of piano, music,Liverpool and performing. Thank you for an amazing initiative. Family were also extremely proud to watch him.”
– Sarah (Mum of Lucas, Tickle the Ivories Performer)
Open Culture work with a broad range of partners and clients to produce meaningful artistic platforms to spark participation and public engagement. Please get in touch if you'd like to discuss how we could work together.