Focus On… The Pianodrome

An overview, interview & review

Of the coolest venue at the Fringe

Well, well, well, what the hell is all this about, eh? It seems Edinburgh has created its own mini festival on the very edges of the Tesco Fringe, perched high on the slopes of Calton Hill like a Norman castle overlooking the conquer’d. The name is the Pianodrome, & the aim is to bring Edinburgh’s finest musicians together under a single roof – supported by a brewery from just down the road – & just, well, jam!

My mate Tam had told me about both it & his gig there last Friday. So rustling up some of the Mumble team we all wenmt along & were completely wowed by the vibes – its so well laid out – bars inside & outside, tasty food, top beers & a shabby-chic vibe which is just pure Edinburgh – the quintessence of the city one could say.

We went to watch the Tinderbox Orchestra, with all their youthful bohemia & unusual collaborations, in what was once going to be the debating chamber of the Scottish parliament, but was usurped by the modernist monstrosity of Holyrood. As an arena its stunning – a colosseum of seat around an oval floor into which the orchestra ducked & dived & swooped & skirmished as they played the scruffy-scraggly, tight-as-fu£k Baudelair bop, The ‘Fleur de Mals, erupting from every squatting gargoyle.

The Tinderbox Orchestra have all the instruments, have all the style & work wonders for the for the local community. In fact, one of their last numbers was sung by an adult lassie who’d been working with their outreach programme since she was 10. Watching them is quite an adventure as you scitter-scatter eyeballs from play to player. They also made people cry, such is the brilliance of their music including one of the Mumble team who had to catch some fresh air for a while after seeing such a wonderful family vibe among musicians.

After Tinderbox I got chatting to Tim Vincent-Smith, a remarkable fellow who just happens to be the director for the Pianodrome.

Tim Vincent-Smith

Hello Tim – so how did you end up living in Edinburgh?
My first experience of Edinburgh was as a boy in a Fringe show with the National Youth Music Theatre. I was entranced. As an adult I moved here from London to be with my partner. That was fifteen years ago and I have never regretted it.

Can you tell us about the Pianodrome project?
The Pianodrome is a state of mind. In subtle and unsubtle ways we are inundated these days with messages that say do this, don’t do this mostly relating to consumer culture supported by capitalist government. Pianodrome hopes to open a space where people are encouraged to ask questions and to express themselves. Human’s are inherently communal and creative. It actually takes a lot of work and money to convince us otherwise. This is why when a space is opened a spontaneous outpouring of creativity occurs. That people find this surprising is only a testament to how all consuming the currently dominant ideology is.

How did you secure the building?
St. Mary’s Music school invited Pianodrome to be part of their bid to secure the lease of the Old Royal High for the coming National Centre for Music. It was their development manager Peter Thierfeldt who championed Pianodrome through this process. He stumbled across the first Pianodrome in the Royal Botanic Gardens in 2018 and has supported us ever since.

Experimental, acoustic improvisation trio S!nk (Daniel Dumnov with Pianodrome creators Matt Wright and Tim Vincent-Smith) perform their new piece ‘Trio for Unprepared Piano’ at the Hidden Door Festival in the Pianodrome at the Old Royal High, June 2022. – Photo credit: Chris Scott – S!nk: Return to the Source
August 19, 21 @ 3pm, 26, 27, 28 @ 7pm
Tickets @

What is the main ethos behind the Pianodrome?
“Use what you have to make what you need.” If you have a seemingly endless source of discarded pianos and you need a bespoke amphitheatre for experimental, acoustic, improvised music performances, make a Pianodrome.

How is going so far?

What plans have you got for after the Fringe?
We are hoping to have a Winter Resonancy at the ex Debenhams, now a collective of community organisations called The Wee Hub, in Ocean Terminal in Leith

The Mumble’s Amar, playing one of the many pianos positioned for the use of the public
Tam Treanor

While we were chatting, it was Time for Tam Treanor to strut his electro stuff in the bar. I’m a big fan of his work, he jams different versions of his songs out every time, no two sets are the same, & can yo-you between uberchill’d & megatechno at the drop of a seamless hat. After that came a reopening of the debating chamber, renamed the ‘Tinderbox Grand Hall’ – for a donation – to watch some acts play including this cool duo called the Ugly Royal which were just making some proper dancey tunes – a great & wonderful evening that finished about 1AM – I think.

Having a dance to Ugly Royal

Was that the best time I’ve had this Fringe? Dya know, I think it was!


REVIEW: Dowally and Daniel McGeever (14/8/22)

Daniel McGeever

Pianodrome. an ‘iconic symbol of community and cultural resilience in Scotlands Capital’ even if they say so themselves, have set up at the New Parliament Old School buildings up on Calton. Hill.  The forty something up cycled piano amphitheatre that is Pianodrome fits cosily into the old debating chamber. The mini colosseum lending an apt intensity to the quiet drama of Daniel McGeever’s pianoing and Dowally’s choice meanderama about the range of their musical mapo mundi.

Daniel McGeever  (Portobello Chief Rocker and all round good egg) gives it plenty, solo on the piano. Charting his journey from Paul Rodgers to Paul Weller via the barbers. Hold tight for new Delta Mainline LP ‘Unicorn Connections’. (Don’t laugh). In the man himself’s words ‘Reality fantasy and everything in between’.

Speaking of the in-between straight outta Nashville Welsh chanteuse Jasmine Power stepped up in the interval and belted out two tracks. With a voice that resounded round this excellent intimate venue and some nifty keyboard skills is it easy to she why she is making waves accross the pond. 

Dowally’s core duo (they are keen collaborators) comprises Sheffield’s Finest Daniel Abrahams on the geetar and Edinburgh based Weedgie exile Rachael Walker on the fiddle. And they are joined this evening by Normandy groover  Phillipe Boudot on drums. And some chap on the accordion who prefers to remain anonymous.

Despite only having rehearsed in the main via you tube they keep it proper  tight. With a set that veers from the Highlands and Islands to Mexico via Morricone and Normandy they barely put a foot wrong. Picking and rocking on a Gibson F hole, plinking and soaring on the violin with a drummer who gets it. vThe pulsating sounds created in this reverbulous space could be the soundtrack to a home movie featuring Miles Herbie and Sabbath getting plastered in an Orkadian bar. The musicians seemed to enjoy it as much as the crowd.

Great stuff

Listen carefully and you can hear the ghosts of the pianos past

Adam McCully

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