Bianchi’s ultimate alloy bike? The strange tale of the FG Lite

Bianchi’s ultimate alloy bike? The strange tale of the FG Lite

As any Tour De France bore will be able to tell you that the last non-carbon bike to propel its rider to the yellow jersey was Marco Pantani’s Bianchi Mega Pro XL in 1998.

What they probably don’t know is which alloy bike was the last one to be used in the race. I don’t know for certain but I have a hunch that my new steed, the Bianchi FG Lite might be a contender.

It was certainly used for hill climbing by Stefano Garzelli, Danilo Di Luca and Luca Paolin as part of the Liquigas team as late as 2006 – by which time carbon was pretty much the defacto material for Pro racers. Liquigas, however, swapped bike sponsors a year later, so I assume the FG Lite didn’t grace the Tour in 2007.

Bianchi’s alloy addiction

I wonder too if Bianchi were reluctant to jettison alloy for its racing teams and pushed the material a little longer than its rivals. After all the success of Pantani had led to a boom in sales of its EV series of bikes and Jan Ullrich helped too when his Bianchi EV3 pushed Lance Armstrong all the way in 2003. (As an aside on the EV bikes they are not offered for sale a great deal these days and are comparatively expensive. Maybe they were a little too light and delicate for longer-term use? It did seem that some had head tube cracking issues which Bianchi addressed in its later alloy bikes.)

It wasn’t really until the arrival of the 928 in 2005 that the company appeared to be taking carbon bikes seriously. Compare Bianchi with its great rival Colnago, who issued its iconic C40 carbon bike as early as 1993, and had created carbon bikes before then. Even today Bianchi is associated strongly with aluminium. It has the enviable position of offering the de facto starter Italian race bike in the guise of the Via Nirone 7.

Back then to the FG Lite. There is a theory which I fully subscribe to that the FG Lite is a very special bike indeed. After all it had the input of Danilo Di Luca and was shaped by several Pro riders. My version, which dates from 2007, pairs carbon forks and rear stays with a 7000 series Hyperalloy aluminium, alloyed with Zinc and Magnesium frame that I am guessing has barely been improved on since. It is finished in classic Bianchi Celeste, though it was available in other designs and colours including white, sporting the Liquigas livery and blue and back stripes. Early versions had alloy rear stays, while from 2007 onwards carbon rear stays was an option.

The FG Lite’s ride quality

While newer alloy bikes may have good quality frames, few have been built with a racing mind in the same way that the FG Lite was.

For starters it is super lightweight for an alloy. My version tips the scales at 7.5KG. It is also stacked out with high-end components from the Campag Record groupset through to the Eurus wheels.

As befitting a bike which is named after a racing icon (FG is a nod to Felice Gimondi), it performs like a racing bike too. I also own a carbon Infinito CV, yet when it comes to responsiveness the FG Lite seems to work way faster. The geometry too has seemingly more in common with high-end carbon racing bikes like the Oltre. It feels like a bike that is constantly pushing the rider to greater and greater speeds.

And then there’s the climbing, The FG Lite was originally created for ascents (this is where the input from the pro team was so important), and in my limited experience of it so far I have found it pushes the rider forward in lower gears in a way that only the best recent carbon bikes do.

The problem for wannabee FG Lite winners is that they are quite hard to come by. By the end of the 2000s if you wanted a speed machine you were probably going to opt for carbon not alloy. I have no idea on sales figures, but I guess that like its fellow alloy racer the Bianchi Freccia, it wasn’t much of a hit. Its short-ish stint on the pro circuit probably didn’t help either. Today prices can range from a few hundred quid to thousands depending on the seller. Those in the know push the price higher.

If you do find one in your size though, I really can’t recommend it enough. I think you might be able to make a claim that this is the ultimate winter road bike from Bianchi. It has many characteristics of its racier carbon siblings, but might just be a bit sturdier. It really is a joy to ride.

I would love to hear from other FG Lite owners. And if you spot a mistake, feel free to let me know

My Bianchi SLX Giro 89 – aesthetics or authenticity? Tough call…

I might live in inner-city London, but the place is also a village, and feels ever more so when it comes to the local bike-loving community.

For when a person wants to sell a Bianchi bike the local shops usually send them in my direction,

Mostly they turn up with a battered old Sprint 28C or a ten year old Via Nirone, but occasionally things can get really interesting.

So for several months last year I was informed that a German woman was about to leave the area and was looking to sell me a bike that she knew I would want to buy. After much to-ing and fro-ing she finally got my number and invited me over to inspect her Bianchi.

What I saw intrigued me. Here was a Celeste Bianchi that had a structurally sound, but rather tatty frame and sported a hodge-podge of components including a non-original Tange fork, Yet that frame was certainly light, and it didn’t feel low-end. She told me that the bike was her main ride when she was a cycle courier and that it regularly carried over hundreds of miles per week.

She informed me that the bike had already chosen me for its new owner… I made my excuses and headed home to mull things over.

As ever I sought the advice of Bianchi authority David Dickinson-Lawson who took one look at the pics, noted the frame, the decals and the chrome peeping through under the paint and said he thought it was quite possibly a 1989 Giro or Mondiale in Columbus SLX. In other words, with the exception of the rightly revered Specialissima X4, the top-end racing bike of the era.

The model numbers confirmed that it was from 1989 and the mystery, if there ever was one, was solved. I headed to the women’s house the following day gladly giving her the asking price for the bike.

Enter the X4

And then the new purchase kind of got forgotten. That was because I had my head turned by an X4 frame which appeared on eBay at a price that proved irresistible. So while I spent the festive season breaking in my new BCOS SLX X4, the bike I’d bought remained tucked away in the garage.

Eventually after nagging from a friend I got it out, dusted it down and decided to send it for a respray. But what colour? I had a Celeste SLX bike in the X4, did I really need another one? There were some Giros from that era in black, but I did wonder if this would knock money off its resale value if I decided to sell it.

I was reminded of a Giro in pearl white which had been on sale on eBay for months with no takers, but looked amazing. So white it was. And as for the decals I chose the classic mid 80s one rather than the quirky ones from the end of that decade.

By now I was so off piste I knew that the bike would be firstly unrecognisable to its previous owner and secondly a very long distance from how it had started its life. Aesthetics were trumping authenticity for me in this instance.

When the frame came back from Colourtech in Dartford with its new coat it looked stunning. I then decided to get on the case and paired it up with using some period-friendly-ish components that I had taken from a Colnago from the same time. So an eight-speed Dura-Ace groupset along with Suntour levers and Ambrosio wheels. 

My local vintage shop, the Hackney Peddler, which had done a superb job on the X4 were tasked to put everything together. This included sourcing a few more components as well as swapping the knackered Tange forks for an NOS chrome one.

The finished bike looked incredible and I soon banished any thoughts of selling it. But what would it ride like?

Now I know there are probably sound scientific and maybe even alchemical reasons why the X4 should be a significantly superior ride to the Giro, but to me the difference between them is not huge. Both bikes have a solidity to them, yet seem ultra-responsive when you put your foot down. They seem to push you forward in low gears and feel powerful and sturdy as you move to the smaller cog. They are both wonderful to ride – so different from the light, but rather twitchy TSX Bianchis I own which hail from a couple of years later.

Authenticity?

In recent weeks the Giro has been my most used bike doing everything from ferrying me to the bakers round the corner to notching up thirty miles round the quieter roads of east London.

As any purist will have already noted there isn’t really anything authentic about the bike apart from the frame. It is in the wrong colour, with wrong decals, and the wrong fork. The components are not even Italian (though I think some Bianchis from that ear were paired with Shimano groupsets)

For me though authenticity for authenticity’s sake can be a pointless exercise, especially if the bike is to be ridden and not just looked at.

I know others will beg to differ, and they are entitled to their opinions as I am to mine (and yes I wouldn’t say no to a fully period-correct Argentin) but I reckon I have one amazing Frankenbike here.

It is interesting too how few SLX Bianchis are sold today? Where did they all go? The only times I have seen them sold, they have relatively cheap. They certainly offer excellent value. X4 ride quality without the panto? Possibly!

Maybe the woman was right, the bike, or at least the frame, did choose its new owner.

Did the 60s Mods propel Margaret Thatcher to power?

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One of the most intriguing books about popular culture in a while went on sale last month. Richard Weight‘s Mod: A Very British Style is not a rose-tinted, nostalgic romp through the history of a movement that has had profound impact on British culture, but a serious academic (yet still very readable) study of what Mod is and was and how the 60s Mods have influenced British society.

It scope – which goes way beyond most books about Mods -has already attracted criticism from hardcore Mods who may or may not have a point that the author talks too much about the influence of German art school Bauhaus at the expense of say, how Makin Time and The Prisoners took Mod in a new direction in the 80s.

It doesn’t help Weight‘s case that there is the odd detail too that isn’t quite right. Nevertheless even if he has Blur coming from Chelmsford rather than Colchester, he still makes some fascinating observations

For me the pivotal part is Weight‘s dissection of how the 60s Mods – not the original late 50s/early  60s ones who were a different tribe altogether – changed the way Britons live, think and most of all shop.

But the one connection he only loosely makes is how the mid-60s Mods influenced British politics. Which is a shame because there is a lot of evidence to suggest when those youngsters hit adult life they became the foot soldiers of the politics we now know as Thatcherism.

The parallels really are quiet scary.

When Mod was at its mainstream peak – between 1963-66 – it was a movement that had the following traits.

1 Hierarchical – the scene was dominated by Faces – think Sting in Quadrophenia – who had the best gear, the classiest scooters etc. Mods who couldn’t match the sartorial eloquence of their superiors were known by the A List as Tickets.

2 Individualistic – although there were, for want of a better word, uniforms, for most Mods the devil was in the detail. Your suit had to tick the right boxes in say number of buttons, but choosing the right material and colour to make it your own was just as important  As Paul Smith, a tailor who was an original Mod, would become known for – Mod clothes were all about classics with a twist.

3 Conservative – Mods weren’t trying to change society in a outwardly political way. In fact according to Weight and others many Mods respected and admired their elders and parents and wanted to not just emulate them but better them.

4 Aspirational and acquisitive – Much of Weight‘s book focuses on the Mods obsession with shopping, not just for clothes but for other items too. He attributes much of the success of Habitat in the 70s and Ikea more recently to the way that style and design were passed on from the Mods to subsequent generations.

5 Southern and class-based – Mod was also more of southern England tribe than a northern one and most of its adherents came from, what in old money would be referred to as the more aspirational sector of the working class. In other words these were youngsters whose parents had manual jobs, but thanks to improving post-war educational standards they were able to take on skilled work or white collar jobs in offices.

Ultimately these were youngsters who had seen the deprivation that their parents had endured through the war years and before and wanted better.

Thatcher’s supporters

Take a look then at the demographic which propelled the Conservatives to power in 1979 and kept them there for the best part of two decades. They were young-ish, based in the south and were drawn from upper working class and lower middle class groups. They were clearly aspirational and wanted their own homes (to buy their own council houses?) yet not seeking big changes in British society. Sound familiar?

If you look too at the end of the Callaghan government – Andy Beckett’s When the Lights Went Out: Britain in the Seventies is a great re-telling of the story – Sunny Jim was largely betrayed by Union leaders whose workers were constantly pushing for more money to maintain standards of living that they had accrued in the earlier part of the decade. Just take a look at the groups who went on strike during the winter of discontent – public sector employees, nurses, train drivers – these are all arguably comprised of individuals who fit the class profile of the 60s Mods.

The irony is that while the old school union leaders unwittingly ushered in their worst nightmare – a government that would destroy much of their power base – their younger members got a government that was far more in keeping with the values that Mod had endowed in them in the 60s. It was a government that they voted for time and time again because its shared the same visions and enacted legislation like the buying of council houses – that fitted their aspirations. Bear in mind too that the unemployment that characterised much of the 80s was more prevalent in the north than the south.

One 70s Mod who said he would vote Tory in 1979 was Paul Weller. He now says it was a publicity stunt but it must have made sense at the time. And there’s a good chunk of the mid-60s Mod aristocracy who are either Conservatives – including Kenny Jones, Bill Wyman, Phil Collins and Bryan Ferry – or are largely ambivalent about politics.

Ultimately though the changes that Margaret Thatcher made to Britain were because a society had emerged which made her world view more acceptable. And I wonder if that society had been shaped by a youth culture that defined Britain a decade earlier.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picnics by the motorway, anti-royalist rants, naked ramblers and other reasons to love England

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There is an argument that the English are in fact the least nationalistic people on earth. While our Celtic cousins celebrate their saints days with raucous displays of invariably alcohol and food fuelled patriotism, April 23rd St George’s day generally passes by with merely a shrug of the shoulders.

We are even slightly embarrassed about our flag too, just ask Emily Thornberry.

But that only tells part of a story and doesn’t stop (some of) us loving a country which has given so much to the world over the years (and yes taken it away too).

So today I asked my Facebook pals to come up with a list of what is wonderful about England and being English. I have cut and pasted the list below.

It was simply too good not to share and is for anyone who calls England home.

So Happy St George’s Day – personally I don’t care about a Turkish dragon fancier, but I can always celebrate Orwell, Harrison and Formby!

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All the English things I love: the stones, the kinks, sandwiches, shit weather, kooky fashion, our silly class system, our beautiful gardens, Kate bush, roast dinners, exmoor, Isle of purbeck.

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The Beatles, Smiths and Pink Floyd, Suffolk beaches, Cambridgeshire meadows, art deco lidos, our obsession with cycling, the bittersweet nature of a winter in London, Orwell, Patrick Hamilton, Powell & Pressburger, Ealing comedies, understated country Anglican churches and pubs, lots and lots of pubs, oh and the fact that most English people were foreigners at one point too

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Greasy spoons, standing stones, bleak moorland, chalky downs, well dressing, cheese rolling, sitting on our coats, picnics in the car, cheering in the pub when someone breaks a glass, dance music in warehouses, beat music in cellars, mushy peas, Aloo Gobi, loving our eccentrics, the naked rambler, the seaside pier, a bag of chips, a pint of bitter, and (despite Nigel Farage) being a country with a proud history (largely hidden) of being progressive and tolerant.

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Kate Bush definitely. Northumberland Coast is a largely unknown treasure. Rugby. Shakespeare. Nick Drake. Sand dunes, salty air etc. Panto. English Ale. And definitely the fact that most English people were foreigners at one point too

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Lost gloves on walls. Trainers thrown over phone lines. Badly painted numbers on wheelie bins. Zebra crossings. Curry & chips. All items of value have been removed. Picallili. National obsession with potholes. Net curtains. The co-op. Pick n mix. Black pudding. Pantomime. “Fair to middlin’.” “Not three bad.”

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Gripper Stepson, Roland Browning, Zammo on smack

Vaughan Williams

Putting the kettle on when things get stressful

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National parks, wooly pom pom hats, sand in your sandwiches, stewed tea in a force 5 looking at the beach, chips in paper, gingham plastic table cloths, kiddies roundabouts, parish councils, playing eye spy….

Tea

Lush green hills, valleys and parks, seriously long history, crumbling castles and city walls, being able to walk to your ‘local’, always time for tea, the changing of seasons, a myriad of regional accents, the BBC, free art galleries and museums, stunning cathedrals, Cath Kidston, proper cider, proper mayonnaise

1- pretty villages
2- cities such as Cambridge which are beautiful and historic
3- a thriving capital – London
4- freedom of speech and belief
5- a rich history
6- cricket
7- cream teas
8- tea!
9-fish and chips, shepherds pie, Sunday roasts
10- classic literature
11- rich music heritage
12- Cadbury’s chocolate
13- beautiful places like Cornwall and Lake District
14- national health system
15- educational system from primary to iconic places as Cambridge and \oxford (and i will slip in the boat race there!)

Thanks to Matt Hill, Vic Ruffy, Geoff Crawford and lots of others

Can you help make a very brave girl’s dream come true

astridmontage

Pls help, especially if you have connections with EMI, the O2 or Katy Perry’s PR.

My youngest daughter Astrid has recently finished her treatment for ALL Leukaemia. Throughout the two and half year period when she was taking chemo everyday, endless operations and hospital stays, one thing that kept her going was the music of her hero Katy Perry. We’ve got surprise tickets to see KP on Wednesday @ the O2 and it would be Astrids’ absolute dream come true to meet her. If there is anything you can do to help make this happen I (and the entire Norris clan) would be unbelievably grateful. Here are some pics of how she was then and how she is now and a video she recently shot about her hospital ward @ Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity Thanks so much for any help at all.

And here is a bit of her story

If you can help email me ashleyatshinymediadotcom

Do brands deliberately mess up on social media? Even Mastercard?

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Just a thought after seeing Mastercard’s woeful attempt to get journalists going to the Brit awards to tweet in a certain way.

Either it is because they have marketers who are utterly clueless about the way the media and journalists work. This does seem to be happening a lot and some of my more cynical journalist friends believe that it is because there is a generation of marketers who understand how social media works from an operational perspective, but have come from an ad agency background and don’t understand the sensibilities of journalists. In this instance though the culprits were House PR, a well established PR company. UPDATE – apparently another agency handles the press accreditation not House!

Or maybe it is this?

Did you know that Mastercard was sponsoring the BRITS – nope me neither. You do now though. And you can bet that the hash tag #pricelesssurpises is going to be used a lot more now that it would have been had Mastercard not been so cheeky.

As a fellow journalist tweeted – How else would anyone care enough to tweet about the Brits these days?

There are examples of brands who have suffered massively because of this type of of social screw up, but not many. In the short term it might make Mastercard look silly, but when everyone from Mashable to Metro starts writing about it the brand gets a lot of free publicity…

Why do Mars get football so wrong?

Mars-Bar-UK-Wrapper-Small

Ok, so we can all breath again. Roy Hodgson’s team did the business last night and courtesy of a Rooney header and late bit of Stevie G magic I can fantasise that come summer 2014 I’ll be watching England in the World Cup final at some lovely new stadium in Rio.

There was however one thing that took my attention away from what was actually a very absorbing (for England) game and that was the rubbish advertising that Mars displayed on the boards around the pitch.

Talk about cringe-worthy! It gave the impression that it was displaying messages from real punters, presumably harvested from Twitter (I think there was hash tag there) cheering England on. Now they might have been real – but the names like Dave C!? were so generic it seemed unlikely.

Even worse was the content of the messages. They were mainly of the trite Good Luck England variety. In fact one was so bad it became etched on my memory – it said ‘Qualification is our goal.’

Quite honestly which self-respecting football fan would tweet a Mars hash tag such nonsense. It smacks of something rustled up by a Mars marketing executive who really has absolutely no understanding of football and its culture.

I thought the days of ‘dad on the dancefloor’ social media approaches from brands were at an end given that we all understand that brands need to be sincere, genuine and authentic these days. It appears not.

BT’s content marketing strategy – why it needs a bit of relevancy

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What’s the first rule of content marketing? Well you could argue that it is ‘keep it interesting’, or ‘don’t undermine your brand’, I do however think that there might be a case also for ‘keeping it relevant’ as being the place where brands need to start.

There ‘s a very interesting post on Mediatel today from Dominic Mills, the one time Campaign editor and now freelance journalist/media strategy guru, that highlights why relevancy is crucial. In it he takes a pop at BT for filling its BT.com website with largely irrelevant content.

Mills says that he went to the site as he moved house and needed to make amendments to his BT account, But he couldn’t easily find what he was looking for as the site was chock full of largely irrelevant content from the Press Association.

He says

What I discovered when I logged in – which they insisted on telling me about before I could get to my BT e-mail – is that this involves full-on lifestyle coverage across areas like news, entertainment, technology, fashion and beauty, TV, film, video games, family and home (and on and on and on).

Yes, dear reader, there are approximately 50 of these channels including, believe it or not, motoring and home and garden.

So the big question is: WHY? And that leads to all sorts of other questions you think BT should have asked itself first, such as: why do people go to BT.com? What do they want to achieve as a result of going there? And what makes BT a legitimate or credible provider of this sort of content?

Well I do wonder if BT has fallen into the trap of not really thinking through quite what its users really want to read about. It reminds me of the time a decade and a half ago when BT amongst others, hired hundreds of journalists in a bid to help them become media portals which would rival News International etc. It become obvious very quickly that the net benefit of creating huge amounts of news copy was largely not useful to BT’s core business and the company, and indeed many of its ISP rivals, canned their services and shifted away from content.

Now with every Internet consultant worth their salt repeating the mantra that content is king and that it is editorial which keeps consumers amused and engaged BT, among others is heading in the same direction.

It isn’t that filling a site with content per se is a bad move – I am sure it has huge SEO benefits for a start, and while you are mulling over your BT Sports subscriptions you might want to read a few football stories. It is just the unimaginative way in which BT has undertaken this. Grabbing a few store from the Press Association along with a few viral  videos, hardly makes for a compelling editorial destination. That man on a bike on the M1 story has been everywhere today. If you have looked at a news site you will know all about it.

The content needs to be more relevant too. An intriguing tech channel might be more useful to consumers, and why not get a few high profile journalists and bloggers to deliver interesting opinion pieces which will help engage the company’s business customers.

BT also has some the potential to create some compelling content of its own, Surely a look behind the scenes look to see what its boffins are up to in its Suffolk research HQ is worth a hundred celeb stories which could be read elsewhere?

Where brands have succeeded in creating engaging content portals they have done it by delivering content that it relevant to their audience. It helps cement the relationship between the brand and the customer – which really is the main reason why brand undertakes content marketing in the first place.

Maybe BT  will evolve a content strategy that is both interesting and innovative as time goes by. Here’s hoping.

28 Piano Pieces By Children For Children – unique book raises money for cancer charity

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** Update – book now available here from the lovely people at Olive Loves Alfie

New piano pieces by children for children

A new book which features piano pieces composed by children for other children to play will be published at the end of November. 28 Piano Pieces By Children For Children includes compositions from young Londoners, with each of the composers also performing editing tasks such as note checking, adding finger numbers, illustrations, cover design and deciding on which order the pieces should go.

‘Children become particularly enthusiastic to sight-read and explore new music when they realise that the pieces have been written by their peer group,’ says the book’s co-ordinator, Lola Perrin, Composer/ Teacher in Residence at Markson Pianos. She adds, ‘The pieces in the book are varied and fun and beautifully illustrated by the composers. We hope other music teachers and their pupils will be inspired by this book to create their own books’.

The book also includes an interview Lola conducted with Peter Vizard who co-ordinates an annual piano festival for young pianists at the Conservatoire Frederic Chopin in Paris.
Profits from the book, which goes on sale on 30 November, will be given to the Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research charity.

The launch date was 30th November 2012. We had a successful private launch, hosted by Markson Pianos, at The Vortex, London. The book is now available to purchase from our exclusive worldwide distributor Olive Loves Alfie.

OLIVE LOVES ALFIE
84 Stoke Newington Church St, London N16 0AP | Tel: +44 (0) 20 7241 4212

http://www.olivelovesalfie.co.uk/28-piano-pieces-by-children-for-children.ir?cName=books
£10 + £3 p&p

* How you can support and promote the book:

The book has a Facebook page at
http://www.facebook.com/28PianoPiecesByChildrenForChildren Please like the page and share the content on it.
You can also listen to some of the pieces on the book’s Vimeo page here http://vimeo.com/user14484233/videos

* Some information about Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research:

Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research is the only UK charity solely dedicated to research into blood cancers, including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Our life-saving research is focused on finding causes, improving diagnosis and treatments, and running ground-breaking clinical trials for all blood cancer patients. Blood cancers including leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma affect people of all ages from babies to grandparents. We need to be sure that we reach all those touched by leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma and give them the best possible chance of survival.

More information http://leukaemialymphomaresearch.org.uk/

* More about Lola Perrin:

Lola Perrin is a composer, pianist, publisher and contributor to International Piano magazine. She has played live and been interviewed on various radio programmes including Radio 3 In tune, Jazz Line Up, Radio 4 Science Matters and local BBC radio stations. She has performed extensively in the UK in recent years at venues including the Design Museum, London’s Jazz Café, Latitude Festival, Henham Park, 2010 and the London Jazz Festival. In 2011 she played a seven date concert series hosted by Markson Pianos dedicated to her eight piano suites. Lola has published eight books of solo piano music. For more details please visit www.lolaperrinsheetmusic.com

Lola Perrin is also Artist in Residence at Naim Audio. For information about the Naim Audio Lola Perrin Piano Competition please visit http://lolaperrinsheetmusic.com/pages/piano-competition.html

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Kids piano book raises funds for cancer research facebook.com/28PianoPiecesB… Pls like and reweet thanks

CONTACTS:

Lola Perrin
lola.perrin@sky.com

Deborah Cass
deborahcass@googlemail.com