New drive to put Portobello on the arts map

Participation worker Susan Grant and Big Things on the Beach chairman Damian Killeen. Picture: Greg Macvean

Participation worker Susan Grant and Big Things on the Beach chairman Damian Killeen. Picture: Greg Macvean

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An AMBITIOUS new drive aimed at establishing Portobello as a major cultural hub is set to be launched.

Kicking off with a series of public discussions and performances titled Imagine Portobello on May 30, campaigners have vowed to put the seaside suburb on the arts and events map.

Proposals include transforming disused buildings into arts venues, attracting creative investment into the area and even encouraging annual Fringe events to set up home beside the beach.

Local arts groups said it was time for the council to start taking Portobello seriously as a creative hub and extending the Fringe beyond the city centre.

This month’s event will see journalist and broadcaster Lesley Riddoch and Andrew Dixon of advisory group Culture Creativity Place deliver talks.

Creative Scotland chief executive Janet Archer and Councillor Richard Lewis, the city’s culture leader, will also be on hand to respond to issues raised, as well as setting out the roles of their organisations and what they can offer to grassroots cultural initiatives.

Damian Killeen OBE, chair of Big Things on the Beach – the public arts trust in Portobello which is promoting the event – insisted the coastal suburb was a “distinctive” community deserving of its own cultural life.

He said: “What we are wanting to happen out of this is that both the city council and national bodies such as Creative Scotland begin to take a greater active interest in the potential of Portobello as a site of cultural development – and, as a result of that, economic development.

“This is about breaking through the glass ceiling that says that while these things can happen in Portobello, they’re not particularly valued by the city as a whole.

“We want the kind of investment and commitment that goes into, for example, the festivals to be extended to include places like Portobello.

“Portobello could provide excellent creative facilities for producers and performers as well as being a spectacular site for audiences to enjoy a wide range of performance and presentation throughout the year.”

Councillor Lewis said: “Where once it was a summer swimming destination and enjoyed for its amusements, Portobello’s offering has changed dramatically in the last few decades and it is continuing to regenerate it’s cultural status.

“The Fringe has held shows on the promenade in recent years and events such as the Big Beach Busk are bringing events back into the frame.”

alistair.grant@edinburghnews.com