“Play Me, I’m Yours!” turns Geneva into a “Happy City”

play me I'm yours

IT’S THAT time of year again, when pianos take over the streets of Geneva and everyone gets a chance to let loose their inner Liberace.

Starting today, Monday, 8 June, and ending (to coincide with the last evening of the upcoming Fête de la Musique) on 21 June, Play Me, I’m Yours! brings 60 street pianos to 24 municipalities in Greater Geneva: installed in public parks, streets and squares, the pianos are there for any member of the public to play and enjoy.

A project originally conceived by English artist Luke Jerram, the project is one of numerous innovative events to come to this city thanks to Geneva-born cultural artivist Dan Acher through his Happy City Lab.

Now in its fifth year, Dan believes that bringing pianos and people together encourages a creative encounter that results in something “beautiful, with people sharing experiences and transforming the city with music.”

dan acher
Dan Acher speaks about happy cities. ©Julia Paranhos for Creative Mornings Geneva.

A mission to create “happy cities”

It all fits in perfectly with his mission to create “happy cities” and starting with his own hometown he’s initiating a slew of participative events that offer joyful experiences and challenge people to live in the moment and step away from their daily routines.

A visit to the Happy Lab homepage introduces us to his long list of projects and among them are well-known favorites CinéTransat, the free open-air film festival on the shores of Lake Geneva, as well as the grassroots initiative called Neighborhood Exchange Boxes.

These events are transforming for better the way local citizens of all cultures and nationalities see themselves, each other, their local neighbourhoods, and the community at large.

Ciné Transat
Ciné Transat brings people together for themed movie nights. Photo, ©Happy City Lab.

Sharing beautiful experiences

“If I have a beautiful experience, I want as many people as possible to experience it as well,” Dan told a packed gathering at CreativeMornings Geneva in 2014.

A cultural artivist (someone who combines art with activism), he views Geneva as the perfect canvas for fulfilling his vision of a city that is “joyful and colourful, with a sense of belonging and happiness, where people get to know and help each other.”

His participative experiences are an act of rebellion against cities that he says are: “dull and grey, where people walk in the streets with headphones on, not connecting with each other.” They also counter the accepted wisdom that people have to: “live every day with insecurity, stress and unhappiness.”

Boite d'Echanges
A project that encourages involvement to the local community. Photo, ©Happy City Lab.

Creating happiness globally

In order to make his projects a reality, Dan receives partial funding from the Geneva government on a project-by-project basis. “Because of my track record people know they can trust me,” he says.

While his experience moving in political circles and knowing who to talk to helps him get heard he says that: “simplicity, humanity and positivity sell the projects. If it brings out something good then they’re open to me.”

Dan would like to go global with his projects and is eager to obtain backing from individuals or enterprises that can help him do that. However, creating happy cities needn’t be about orchestrating big events on a global scale, he says.

“Just do your part, even if you can just bring out a smile in someone. If one person is happy, it spreads. I’m an artivist and that’s my work, but we can all do this!”

To listen to Dan speak about “shaking up the city experience” click here to see his recent talk at TEDx Lausanne. 

Top photo of Play Me, I’m Yours!, ©Happy City Lab.

9 responses to ““Play Me, I’m Yours!” turns Geneva into a “Happy City””

  1. These are lovely ideas to bring people together. They are clearly universal as we do these same things in Vancouver, British Columbia!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank your for your nice article Elena!

    We’re going full speed now with many projects on the way. Try and come to experience “The Lost Piano” tonight and tomorrow at 21h15, I’m sure you’ll find it mersmerizing : https://www.facebook.com/events/452772638217216/

    And During the Fête de la Musique (19-20-21st of June), I’ll put up a massive new installation called “Street Light Orchestra” in Parc Beaulieu. Looking forward to that.




    • It’s a pleasure, Dan! Thanks for the update about “The Lost Piano” and the “Street Light Orchestra” — I’m sure they’ll both be terrific events. All the best to you, too.


  3. It all seems like so much fun…. would love to sit outdoors and listen to people play the piano. And that exchange box for neighbours is a great idea!


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