TRADERS from Barrow Market have complained that the recently installed pianos are negatively affecting their businesses.

The pianos, installed by Barrow BID and Barra Culture's #BarrowMusic initiative on September 30, have been described as good in principle, but distracting and off-putting in practice.

Amanda Cubin, of One Stop Gift Shop, said: "People aren't coming to the market because of them.

"I can't concentrate on what I'm doing. It's just driving me insane."

As we were speaking, the young incumbent of the piano stopped playing.

She laughed: "Stop talking. I'm going to savour the moment of silence.

Lynne McKenna, of Lynne's Menswear, said: "When I'm reckoning up, it's so distracting.

"It's just loud and you get kids banging on it all day."

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It isn't just annoying for the stall holders, however. They believe that it is seriously affecting their businesses.

The owner of Mammy's Café said: "I've had customers walk out and say 'I just can't stand the noise.'

"It doesn't get customers in, it chases them away."

Traders also raised health concerns over the pianos. They say they are primarily played by children and teenagers and not cleaned between uses.

Hand sanitiser has been provided on top of the pianos for anyone wanting to use it.

They fear that this presents a Covid risk, particularly when children and teenagers are the least vaccinated and this group accounts for the greatest number of new cases in Cumbria.

In the ginnel just outside the market, a piano was placed very close to jewellery and piercing shop So Silver.

After carrying out a risk assessment, the owner of the shop decided that the extreme noise from the piano was dangerous to her staff and customers.

She said: "We encourage a calm, clean, sterile environment for our clients.

"I love music - me and my husband dance together all the time - but the risk assessment for my business has to be my priority.

"My staff are performing clinical procedures just metres away from the racket outside. Why wasn't I consulted?"

Barrow BID agreed with her and nailed the piano shut ahead of half-term.

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Since then, someone re-opened it and it has had to be nailed shut yet again. The nails currently appear to have been pried halfway out.

Pete Clark, of Pete's Fruit and Veg, sits right across from one of the pianos and liked the idea when they were first installed.

He said: "I thought it was a really good idea. However, no-one knows how to play them so you just get children banging them and making all sorts of noise.

"It's a bit silly now."

Colin Garnett, manager of Barrow BID, said: "The feedback that we’ve had is that it’s brought people into the area.

"If you look at other towns and cities that have done it, it’s about attracting people to the area to come and see them.

"Every project we do is to enhance the experience for people coming into the town centre.

"We’ve got problems with youths in the town centre and this is about looking about how we can inspire them to express themselves artistically."

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