The Milfontes Pianos
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Letter to Friends around the World # 81

 

In an isolated region where the population lives off seasonal work and where cultural and leisure activities are few and far between, FABRIQUE DES ARTS DIVERTA is bringing people together. Through a belief in each person's talents,  they build a social dynamic which goes far beyond a mere pastime. This is where the pianos come in.  

DIVERTA started with just one borrowed piano. As a second one was needed, the teacher, Karin, remembered that in her native Sweden, many people wanted to get rid of their piano so they could buy a better one. DIVERTA contacted a Swedish piano transport firm and managed to acquire eleven pianos at a much lower price than in Portugal. As a bonus four of them were free. The biggest cost was the transportation but after knocking at many doors they managed to finance it. Now more and more people are taking up music in Milfontes!

The basic idea of DIVERTA is to create ways where everyone can give and receive. Its headquarters is a Centre where everybody can put into practice the ideas they wish to share. As well as a choir and musical activities, there are workshops for sketching and painting, English, Portuguese as a foreign language (for immigrants), furniture restoration, counselling sessions, relaxation for children, poetry cafés and many others.

DIVERTA has found that by really getting to know people, and having fun together, you can discover their needs and talents. The ideas for projects come from both participants and organisers.

One of our main projects is the Vegetable Garden Fair, where people come to exchange or sell the produce of their vegetable garden, as well as jam, biscuits and even beer (all homemade). Here too, intercultural dialogue brings many pleasant surprises, as people from countries near and far share new flavours and experiences. It is also a good way to overcome isolation.

Right now it is the musical education and piano classes which have become very popular in the towns and villages of this region, where isolation prevents development and social integration.

As someone recounted, “When the piano arrived in the village, villagers spontaneously organised a weekly musical get-together, 'an evening around the piano.' Everyone joins in to the best of their ability, those who are learning the piano play, people sing, others play traditional stringed instruments. It's a party every time! This piano has greatly contributed to social cohesion and cultural integration.”

Rui A., Portugal