‘Portobello means everything to me’ - Shauna MacDonald

Shauna Macdonald, actor, on Portobello beach
Shauna Macdonald, actor, on Portobello beach
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AT 17, film star Shauna Macdonald could not wait to escape the confines of Portobello’s tight-knit community.

Twenty years on, the actress best known to millions for roles in TV spy drama Spooks and the movies The Descent and Filth, looks back on that youthful rebellion and laughs.

Shauna Macdonald in White Chamber

Shauna Macdonald in White Chamber

Now a mother of three, Shauna is very much at the heart of the community she grew up in, currently organising Bellfield’s Back, a day-long event celebrating the return of Bellfield Old Parish Church to the community, as a result of the first successful Urban Community Right to Buy Project.

Over a breakfast tea in the Beach Cafe on Portobello’s famous Promenade, she reflects, “Portobello means everything to me. I grew up here, went to Porty High, and had a really lovely childhood here.

“I’m not entirely sure what makes the community spirit of Portobello so special, maybe its the sea air, but when you have a Prom, it’s like having a village green.”

She explains, “When you’re in a bad mood do not go on The Prom because you can’t not say ‘Hi’ to people.

Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) bursting out of the ground in Descent.

Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) bursting out of the ground in Descent.

“There’s just something about The Prom that instantly connects people and all the families know each other here. That’s great, but when you’re growing up you just don’t want that.

“At 17 I hated it but as an adult, it gives you a huge sense of support.”

From an young age, all Shauna wanted to do was act.

Shy and with a lisp, she discovered her confidence and love of acting alongside James McAvoy, who she would later star alongside in the film version of Irvine Welsh’s Filth.

She recalls, “I went to an amazing youth theatre at The Brunton in Musselburgh that was connected to Pace Youth Theatre in Paisley, where I met McAvoy.

“Suddenly I was with these wonderfully creative kids, all engaged and committed to performing whereas I was desperately shy and hid behind my big sister... but there was just something I loved about drama.”

Leaving Portobello at 18, Shauna won a place at Glasgow’s prestigious Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama and was soon popping up on TV and cinema screens.

“I had an amazing three years at drama school; got an agent, did the films The Rocket Post and Late Night Shopping, Taggart and Victory, at the Lyceum,” she remembers

From there, London and Spooks beckoned. It was also while living there that she met the man she would marry.

“I met a boy called Cal MacAninch and we decided we wanted to have a family together,” she smiles.

“Not being uber rich we knew London wasn’t the best idea, we couldn’t afford a house with a garden in a nice catchment area.

“Then my mum text me to say ‘so-and-so’s house is for sale’. Everything sort of fell into place.

“Shortly after that I got pregnant and there was no turning back.”

Over the next 10 years, Shauna and Cal had three daughters, Jesi (10), Red (8) and Ever (5), she also found herself becoming an integral part of Portobello life and is now a board member of Action Porty, the organisation creating the Bellfield community hub.

She says, “Although I continued to work, my priorities changed, I’ve tried my hardest to be a mum and keep the acting going too.

“So I’ve got my Portobello community life and then when I go to work I’m Shauna Macdonald the actor.”

Right now that community life is focussed on Bellfield’s Back (see below) and the venue Action Porty saved from becoming flats.

“Bellfield will hopefully be many things,” she says.

“We have the three spaces; the massive ceremonial hall, the community hall, which has a stage and holds 320, a meeting space that holds another 70/80 people and then you also have the grounds.

“So the potential of the building is huge. We’ve had many consultations with the community over the last two years and although we won’t be able to please everybody - I doubt we are going to have a climbing wall for example - we have to make sure it is a versatile space and not too gentrified.”

One of the first organisations to take up residence will be a youth theatre, taking Shauna right back to her roots.

“I run Tribe Porty Youth Theatre,” she says, revealing, “we have more than 150 kids spread out over three venues just now.

“We are going to be one of the anchor tenants in Bellfield so that we now have a home and that will free up hall space elsewhere for other groups to use.”

While looking forward to Saturday’s big launch, Bellfield’s Back will be the culmination of a very busy week for Shauna.

Just two days earlier her latest movie White Chamber, a genre thriller will receive its premier as part of the Edinburgh International Film Festival.

“It all slots in nicely because White Chamber and Calibre, my husband’s new film, both premiere on Thursday and Friday.

“Then Saturday it is the shindig... I don’t plan to leave my bed on the Sunday,” she laughs.

For more information on Tribe Porty Youth Theatre visit www.tribepyt.com

Bellfield’s Back... And You Can Join The Celebration

BELLFIELD’S BACK, an event organised by Shauna Macdonald and Action Porty, will be staged next Saturday to celebrate the re-opening of what was once Portobello’s Old Parish Church.

On 23 June the community will be welcomed back into the Georgian splendour of Bellfield starting with an afternoon of free family-friendly activities followed by a ticketed evening of cabaret.

The fund-raising evening will include music, theatre and comedy, after which the audience will process into the main ceremonial hall for a spine-tingling performance by Portobello Community Choir and the Russian Choir of Edinburgh, during which the original church organ will also be played.

Shauna says, “The launch is an exciting day and night of celebrating everything that is great about our community space.

“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.”

The free afternoon activities, between 2pm and 5pm will include performances , stalls, face painting and crafts.

The evening cabaret, from 7pm, will feature performances by Dance Ihayami, Marcus Britton and Friends, Gallo Rojo, Jed and Jo from The Whisky River Boat Band, storyteller Ann Louise, Barbara Jones sings Gershwin, William Douglas from The Miracle Glass Company, House Band, stand-up Keir McAllister, Portobello Community Choir and The Russian Choir of Edinburgh.

Bellfield’s Back, Bellfield, Bellfield Street, Saturday 23 June, 7pm, £12 (£6), 0131-281 2942 or https://www.bellfield.scot/

Tickets are also available in person from The Skylark or Cove on Portobello High Street.