Right-to-buy community hub set to open in Portobello church

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ACTOR Shauna Macdonald is to star at a launch event to mark the re-opening of Bellfield, the redundant church in Portobello which became Scotland’s first urban community buy-out.

Local activists formed Action Porty to mount their bid for the former Portobello Old Parish Church in Bellfield Street amid concerns it could be sold for flats.

Shauna Macdonald and Action Porty stage launch event to celebrate the re-opening of Bellfield, a community space for Portobello in Edinburgh.

Shauna Macdonald and Action Porty stage launch event to celebrate the re-opening of Bellfield, a community space for Portobello in Edinburgh.

Strong local support for the buy-out helped secure Scottish Government approval to take over the building under new right-to-buy legislation and turn it into a hub for community activities from Scouts and Guides to concerts and celebrations.

Organisers said crucial safety renovations had been 
carried out and Bellfield was now ready to welcome the community back in.

Ms Macdonald, a member of the Action Porty board, will top the bill at the launch event “Bellfield’s Back” on June 23.

The 37-year-old actor is best known for her role in BBC TV’s Spooks, cult horror film The Descent, and Filth and also plays the lead in White Chamber which will receive its UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival at the end of this month.

She said: “The launch is an exciting day and night of celebrating everything that is great about our community space.”

There will be an afternoon of free family-friendly activities including piping, brass bands, storytelling, folk singing, and the chance to sample some of the classes which Bellfield will host, followed by a ticketed evening cabaret, featuring music, theatre and comedy, to raise further money for improvements to the building.

At the end of the evening the audience will process into the ceremonial hall for a performance by Portobello Community Choir and the Russian Choir of Edinburgh.

Ms Macdonald said: “A wide mix of professional and community acts will be performing including Dance Ihayami, Spanish/Scottish music collective Gallo Rojo, comic Keir McAllister and Edinburgh’s Russian Choir.

“The varied performers will thrill and entertain young and old throughout the day and into the night. Bellfield is back with a bang and we are happy to showcase this wonderful community-owned space by putting on a colourful, fun, spirited launch to remember.”

Action Porty chair Justin Kenrick said: “After an 18-month whirlwind campaign to secure community support, government backing and the finances to bring Bellfield back into community use, we received the keys on September 6. Now only nine months later we are able to re-open the halls for the community.

“It has been – and continues to be – a demanding journey. Hardworking volunteers, fantastic support from the community, and Scottish Government legislation, are what has made it possible.

“This is the first community transfer secured under the extended Urban Community Right to Buy legislation, and was purchased with help from the Scottish Land Fund and the Resilient Scotland Fund.

“As churches close, we strongly encourage other people to get together to save the vital spaces that make community possible.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com