‘A raft of wood and forgotten debris, floats serenely on the canal.
The ebb and flow softly lapping at the often used bath-tub boat.
The smoke from the stove fills the air as you approach, you are greeted
with a sense of calm as you enter the world of ‘Piano Raft’.
You may have spotted the ramshackle barge along the Leeds/Liverpool Canal at some point in the last five years and brushed it off as some crazy dare or a daft bet. You may have even, like me, seen it, thought up stories about the man (or woman) who lives there then gone about your day forgetting it ever existed.
However I would see this homemade barge every day and I was curious as to the who and the why, the what and the how.
Also when your friend tells you she’s just seen a man rowing down the canal in a bath tub and this man lives in said barge you absolutely think to yourself.
“I want to meet this looney”
I soon discovered that the stories I had made up in my head about the ramshackle raft could not have been further from the truth.
Let me introduce you to Ben Cummins.
I cautiously approached the floating home of Mr. Cummins, honestly not knowing what to expect. It’s not every day that you leave the house, declaring to your boyfriend that you’re off to meet a strange man who lives on the canal in a raft that he made.
But why was he living on the canal in this homemade raft I hear you ask.
Ben, an artist, who is originally from London, was one day hit by the inspiration to have a piano on a raft on water. This idea resonated within him and became so strong he had to formulate a plan and so ‘Piano Raft’ was born.
His decision was to deliver a piano, by waterways, from Liverpool to London. Why?
I soon realised there was no need to be cautious. Aside form the fact that Ben was slightly fragile after a Summer Solstice party the night before, which I was gutted I had missed, he is genuinely one of the nicest people I have ever met. Along with his newly found friends who hadn’t quite come to terms with the fact that it was morning and I think, were unaware of which planet they were on and probably wondering where this random woman had appeared from.
Joe and Liam had joined Ben at his make-shift camp the night before to celebrate the Summer Solstice and in doing so had created an incredible vibe around the whole area. It felt like a wonderful place to be, calm and peaceful.
My anxiety of being murdered by three strange men was soon forgotten as we sat around a camp fire and I was supplied with sweet, hot coffee and I was given a small insight in to the world of the Piano Raft Man.
Ben has been travelling on the Leeds/Liverpool canal for 5 years now and along his way he has met some incredible characters, seen some wonderful sights and potentially often wondered ‘what on earth am I doing’?
He has given himself 25 years to make this incredible journey, 25 years to deliver a piano from Liverpool to London. Along the way Ben intends to create a moving, ever changing art installation. His ideas are beautiful, some quite complex but overall he just wants to create something for everyone to be part of, something everyone can enjoy.
I was unsure what I was going to take from meeting Ben and his Piano Raft, it was inspirational and harmonious. I didn’t go there with any expectations, I was just curious.
Ben presents a zen like vibe and we could all learn a thing or two from this experience. How we should be more in tune with ourselves, how to listen when we become inspired. We might not all have the choice of leaving our life and setting off in to the sunset on a raft but we are capable of fulfilling our dreams, we need to stop being so afraid.
Thank you Piano Raft man for your time and your excellent inspiration, not only for writing about you but for my musings of the future.
Whilst sitting by the camp fire Joe asked what inspired me, it’s this that inspires me. Taking time out of life to just be, to sit and listen, talk, be silent. We might not be able to take a whole 25 years but there are definitely moments to be found in the other years.