Portobello promenade to host music & entertainment

Buskers Paul Brown and Fraser Butterfield on Portobello promenade. Picture: Jon Savage
Buskers Paul Brown and Fraser Butterfield on Portobello promenade. Picture: Jon Savage
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THERE’S nothing nicer than escaping to the seaside for a bit of peace and quiet.

But those looking for a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the Fringe may be in for a surprise if they take a trip to Portobello next weekend.

The promenade is set to be transformed into its very own performance area, with buskers and entertainers of all types lining the mile-long walkway.

The Edinburgh Big Beach Busk is returning for its sixth year, with hundreds of performers expected to showcase their talents to the public.

Singers, musicians, dancers, acrobats and magicians are all amongst the performers likely to form a massive busking conveyor belt on Saturday, August 29.

The event, which has grown arms and legs since it was first mooted in 2010, is designed to use the prom as a natural stage, giving performers the perfect platform to show the general public their various skills – many for the first time.

“We see a lot of people who never normally play publicly. They just play at home in their bedroom, but they come out for the busk which is great,” explains Paul Lambie, founder of the Edinburgh Big Beach Busk.

“There’s a couple of people who have been to every busk. There’s a fantastic kid who was break dancing at the first one and he has been to most, if not every one.

“His moves have got better over the years and his boom box gets better each time.”

The Big Beach Busk attracts crowds not only from Portobello and across Edinburgh, but from all over the country – and even further afield.

“We regularly have a bus load come from Fife from an open mic night,” says Paul. “And there’s a fantastic old folks’ home which brings the residents along in a minibus and they sit out on deck chairs with their blankets and watch the performers.

“We have a lot of people coming through from Glasgow and people even came from France to see it.”

Paul adds: “It’s quite a cross section of people who go along. A lot of people factor it into their festival trip.

“It is festival-style busy but when you’re by the seaside it’s a little bit more calming than the festival hustle and bustle.

“There’s something really incredible about walking along the beach and hearing a different band every ten paces.”

Paul had the idea for the Big Beach Busk several years ago as he was baffled by why there was only one regular busker along the prom. The idea has really captured the imaginations of both participants and spectators.

“We have had singer-songwriters both doing original material and covers, dancers, Japanese Tenko drummers, magicians, tightrope walkers, a megaphone choir and a really amazing ukulele player.

“There’s such a breadth of talent and music and performance. The thing about the busk is that we don’t know who is going to turn up.

“The first year we were aiming for 80 buskers every 20 metres to give us a mile of buskers.

“Last year I made 250 little button badges and handed them out to buskers as a way of counting the number of buskers and there were a lot who didn’t have badges so there were well over 250. And we had somewhere between 2000 and 3000 people there.”

The Portobello community is embracing the busk, with posters up in shops and pubs promoting the event. It even has a beer named after it.

“We are trying to encourage all the local businesses involved in it,” says Paul. “The Espy has music on all day and the Skylark is the same. And there’s a mini folk festival in the Dalriada.

“The wee green van that sells coffee on the prom is teaming up with Friday Street to do a little parlour.

“We are trying to make it a Porty carnival.”

Paul is asking everyone who comes along to bring change with them to hand out to the buskers along the way.

“I’d suggest that people bring a tenner in change and show their appreciation to the buskers. They are there to make everyone’s day so it would be nice if people handed out some money to their favourite buskers.”

Paul adds: “The idea with the busk is that if it all goes wrong and it pours down with rain, no-one loses out. We had bad weather one year but the people who turned up played on. It’s the Scottish seaside – you can’t rule out rain!”