Artists' container village finds long-term home

ARTS charity Edinburgh Palette has secured a new long-term home after agreeing a five-year lease on land in Portobello to build a container village of creative studios.

Thursday, 19th July 2018, 7:00 am
The charity has secured a five-year lease on the Portobello site.
The charity has secured a five-year lease on the Portobello site.

Up to 80 shipping containers are expected to be installed at a 1.5 acre council-owned site at Stanley Street, next to Portobello Golf Course.

Palette, who must quit their existing base at St Margaret’s House in Meadowbank by summer next year, already had a six-month lease on the land and have been clearing and landscaping the site.

Andrew Chainey, Palette’s development manager, said securing the Stanley Street plot on a longer-term basis was “huge” for the project.

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He said: “The plan is to create affordable studio space, which is the ethos of what we do, but also to create a community hub and a destination point for people in Portobello and further afield.

“It has become clear these container sites – and you can find them in other countries throughout Europe and the rest of the world – do seem to be a drawing point for people, not just for creatives, but people from the local community and also those visiting the city.”

And Mr Chainey said it would not just be studios. St Margaret’s House is home to some established community services and health and wellbeing organisations, including a women’s crisis support centre, a Polish counselling service, disability education groups and support for carers.

Mr Chainey said: “It will be more than just a stockpile of containers. We want it to be a welcoming project so, young or old, anyone walking past feels they can step in and it’s a nice environment to be in.” And although the lease deal is for five years, he said they would be working towards a longer-term planning application.

“We want to stay there and establish ourselves in that locality,” he said.

Palette also have a short-term lease on an office building in Ferry Road and they are still looking for another building to help accommodate those who will be displaced from St Margaret’s House, as well as new tenants.

Mr Chainey said the Ferry Road premises, previously occupied by State Street bank, was high-spec office space. Some of the St Margaret’s House tenants could move there.

But he said: “It is not going to be suitable for messy artists, sculptors and potters. It will be more suited to start-up social enterprises and small charities. We’re talking to quite a few charities at the moment who are looking for additional or alternative premises.”

St Margaret’s House has around 230 studios compared with the maximum 80 that can fit on the Stanley Street site.

Mr Chainey said: “The ideal would be one building of 30-40,000 sqft. There are buildings we are looking at currently, but the challeng is we’re competing in the commercial world.

“St Margaret’s House is such a large building. We must be one of the largest creative projects in Scotland, if not the UK.

“And it’s not just the current residents we have to think about, we get phone calls every week looking for affordable studio space.”

John McLellan – Page 21