Gradually we are exploring the site now that the builders and others are done. The legal documents are approaching final versions, people are applying to work with us, enquiries to book roll in – it is an odd feeling. It has all been possible because people continue to tell us they want it to happen – and to happen as a community-run business.

The keys are on their way and to ease our nerves, we’ve been hacking the horror forest that was the east garden, we’ve splashed red pelargoniums on the front and gradually made it less like a fortress and more like a fun palace. People now sit with their dogs on the bench donated by Rotary in 2001 – the gates are open.

Provost Brand has gone down the steps into the care of the City Art Gallery and, very shortly, an army of Mr and Mrs Mopps will stride into the interior, unseen by most since July 2019.

You will be able to help; you will have to; you are the community!


I had so many ways to start this blog

  • Humbled by the generosity.
  • Blown away
  • Astonished

But went with the question.

How many ways to say ‘thank you’?

The answer is, not sure, but the Portobello Central trustees would like to find at least one for each of the 561 people who have supported our Crowdfunder which closed in the early hours of Sunday morning.  Donations have ranged from £1 to £1,000 and we value every single one of them.  It’s great to see so many people putting their support into opening the Town Hall, a total of £25,607 has been donated and this has attracted more than £4,000 in Gift Aid. 

This blog is the loudest and most public expression of our thanks of the deep generosity that we appreciate so much and have been humbled by over the past six weeks.

When we decided to go down this path it was with much careful thought.  We knew that we were asking an awful lot of people particularly just after Christmas and with the background of the increasing cost of living.   That makes our thankyou even more heartfelt (if that could even be possible).

The Crowdfunder has put us in a privileged position of reading all the supportive messages which we’ve been blown away by.   Here are just a few from the Crowdfunder that were shared publicly:

‘My son and I had so many great times at the Town hall, after school clubs, shows and classes. It’s a special place that everyone should benefit from.’

‘What a wonderful job you are doing with our beautiful Town Hall. Looking forward to seeing it in its full glory’.

‘So pleased to see the town hall being restored and nearing re-opening! What a fabulous achievement by local people for local people’.

The support for the project is vital, in time the Town Hall will need further developments for which we’ll need the support of other funders.  We’ll need to demonstrate just how vital the building is to everyone in Portobello.

Finally, standing outside the town hall to raise awareness and get donations, the conversations that we’ve had from everyone who’s stopped to chat, the memories that people hold dear and the excitement when we’ve said the Town Hall is re-opening in the summer have been astonishing. 

So, what’s next? 

You have provided the Trustees of Portobello Central with a foundation for the next phase of the work we started, with you all, 3 years ago.  From here on you should see more action on the ground and, very soon, doors open

Today we take a breath knowing that the lease is with our solicitors and they are negotiating the best deal possible for us.

Tomorrow we refresh our to-do list, look at all the offers of help we’ve had and start ticking the tasks off that list now that we’re getting ready to open the doors

But first one more massive THANK YOU

Sally Dyson



I live in a street of 14 terraced houses, built around 1900.  They were built to be heated by seven fireplaces each  – almost 100 chimneys – no wonder they went black early in their lives.  In the 36 years I’ve been here they have cleaned up considerably, fires have gone, with them the acid rain (made acid by smoke products) which has now cleaned and eroded the stone.  Not that we need so much heating now, cold winters have gone – I was a boy in 1963 when the snow lay for 3 months and my bedroom window had ice on the inside all day.  In 1967, the Gas Man came to convert our cooker from coal gas to North Sea Gas.  I asked him how much gas there was to suck out of the sea bed “Don’t worry sonny, there’s at least 25 years supply that we know of”.  So we don’t need so much heat, and there is still centuries of fossil fuel (coal).

Today, we are sitting in a mess of our own creation – the 20th century changed the atmosphere to keep heat in – and already it is changing life.  Gardening is different, wildlife has changed.  A Scottish Government minister in the late 1990s warned of “Warmer, Wetter, Wilder”  – no one took much notice but here we are: torrential rain in hot summers, food crops drying out, energy bills through our uninsulated roofs.

So someone should do something!  But what?  How to run our lives using less/no fossil fuel?  In the Town Hall we have two huge gas boilers, for heat and for hot water.  Both are at end of life and will need replacing within a few years.  The building is vast and difficult to insulate, and it is a “B” listed piece of architecture. Portobello Central faces a large example of what each of us at home need to address.  Portobello Central is working with the 20 minute neighbourhood idea – providing the necessities and niceties of life without the car. 

In my street, the right answer would be for all 15 households to work together on a mini-district heating system, with a ground source heat pump supplying us all.  We know each other quite well – it should be easy to organise this but even I am daunted by that.

All of this is to be examined at the Heat Fair in Bellfield on Guy Fawkes Night (5 November) 2-5.30pm followed by the Hot Ceilidh 6.30-10pm.

An in-depth retrofit workshop called ‘Retrofit Roadshow’ for people who really want to understand what is possible and necessary to do with their homes. This has been developed by EALA Impacts, EVOC and Dark Matter Labs in a 90 minute session from 2 – 3.30.

Booking here:

A Drop-in Fair event in the large hall at Bellfield from 2 – 4pm. There will be stalls from Scottish Power, Home Energy Scotland, Scotia Gas Networks, Sisotech, Novoville, Vattenfall, the Retrofixers/Tool Library, Transition Edinburgh/Our Future Edinburgh and a make your own draft excluder workshop and kids activities and treasure hunt. 

A Stand to Deliver!

Extract from a Barbara Hilliam illustration

On Tuesday we took delivery of 400  copies of “Porty Food Map, The Traders’ Stories”.  On Saturday, April 23rd they’ll be ready for collection between 10am and 3pm, just along from  the Town Hall at Keep Porty Tidy office (inside if it’s raining)!  You won’t be able to miss us, there will be celebratory bunting and a table sagging under the weight of books ready for collection. 

If, a little like me, you “meant” to get around to buying one but it never quite got to the top of your to do list – fear not.  There will be copies to buy on the day at £15 each – and, yes, you’ll be able to pay by card!  If you can make it along at about 10:30 you’ll hear from Jo and Jen who’ve been the driving force behind this brilliant venture.  So, come along, collect, or buy your copy and find out more about the plans for Porty Town Hall.

So far, we anticipate that in excess of £2,000 will be raised from sales of the book.  All the profits will go towards re-opening and refreshing Portobello Town Hall.  However, the book is about more than fundraising.  It’s about celebrating the wonderful food shops and eateries in and around Portobello High Street.  A homage and thank you to the traders who kept us going through lockdown with nurturing chat, a welcoming smile and nourishing food.  We are lucky to have a vibrant high street and Portobello Central cannot wait for the Town Hall to be part of that again.

Sally Dyson, Trustee

Heart Beats

The Contract is let, the work begins.  The community wish to have the Town Hall revived has succeeded and vital repairs to the top of the building are to begin early in June – aiming to be complete by the end of October.  The contractor is Cornhill Building Services, based in Leith, and the cost is at least the £350,000 already announced.

Booking Books

Portobello Central trustees have been in the building recently – we all have fond memories  and you know what absence does to the heart.  Now, we see there is a lot to do to make that wedding to go with a zing, those young dancers fly across a stage and the many, many voices who want to sing to have their chance.  There is a moment, standing centre stage, looking across the hall, when you really can see what it has been and what it must be for the future.  We found the records of events going back to at least 2010, hundreds of sheets hinting at fun, weddings, kick boxing, politics and more.  Our job, as a community, now is to believe that this major asset in our centre is coming back to life.

The reality for Portobello Central is the electrical log book, the maintenance records, the insurance, licences, understanding what all these switches do, the water stop taps and that’s without thinking toilets, gutters and drains.  We are not yet sure exactly what the repairs will cover but we’ve been told to expect a lot of scaffolding and a strong security fence around the whole site.  We are reasonably sure that the appearance of the building will not change as all the works are in the structure.  That shabby chic look will continue for a while yet.

We are grateful to the Council which has supported our ambition from the earliest of days.  We will be looking for help: some professional help and a lot of volunteer effort. We will have to raise money for this; we know that funders are impressed by community support.  You can make your support clear by becoming a Member, it’s free and not burdensome.

Make it Yours

With the contract to repair awarded, we can leave the building in safe hands for a couple of months and return to our community roots. 

The Portobello Central charity has a Board of Trustees which answers to Members – a bit like a Board of Directors in a company reporting to shareholders.  We have a small group of Members which has filled the formal role but now we need to increase the number of Members so we can prove that our plans and actions meet the community’s wishes.

We’ve met the first requirements: the Council wishes the building to be managed by the community and we have agreed to take that on.  In partnership with the Council substantial funding has been secured for basic repairs.

Now we need you to become a Member.  It’s easy,  it’s free and it makes you feel good, (you do as much or little as you like).  Being part of this vital project is the best bit. 

Just apply here – the only criterion is that you have to be 16 or older.

The story behind “Porty Food Map, The Traders’ Stories”

During lockdown Jo set up Instagram account LighthouseKeeper’sLunch where each week she designed an all singing, all dancing Saturday dinner menu, complete with canapes and a wine pairing.  So amazing were her meals and photographs that booking requests started to come in for her restaurant – aka, her kitchen table!  Instead of opening said restaurant the idea of collecting the stories and recipes from local food traders and turning them into a recipe book / local snapshot of the amazing produce available on and around the thriving Porty High Street was born. 

Porty Food Map, The Traders’ Story is a passion project from Porty local, self-proclaimed foodie and MasterChef entrant, Jo Turbitt.  Luckily for Portobello Central, Jo is also passionate about Portobello and our community and has generously offered the book as a fundraiser for the Town Hall. 

Porty Central trustee Jen Elliot got wind of the project and the two super enthusiastic women hatched the plan to bring the book to reality.  Their passion and drive encouraged other talented locals to offer photography, illustrations and gathering those recipes and stories together.  So, a real community endeavour celebrating the local food community, encouraging people to buy more wonderful produce locally, chat to the traders and showcase what we have on our doorstep to the wider world.

The relationships that Jo developed over the lockdowns really came to the fore when ‘the ask’ had to be made.  When you get your copy (£12 pre-order) and collect it at the launch event in March you’ll see from the photos the real pride shine through from all the traders involved.  Pride that really holds together all aspects of Porty’s community.  When we can see other high streets devastated by shopping online, the pride and buzz in Porty’s High Street is so evident.

All the traders have been really generous letting us into their stores and lives.  Some of the recipes are favourites, some passed down through the family, others conjure up a joyous time and feeling.  With one exception* , all have a lovely wine paired with them as in Jo’s original weekly plan. 

We asked Jo and Jen what the book meant to them and why they wanted to bring it to life.  I’ve distilled about twenty minutes of high-speed banter into this top five:

Try new recipes / new produce / shops they didn’t know existed

Get to know the local traders and unknown stories, to not ask for a raffle prize and instead, give something back

Have a snapshot in time of the revitalisation of the high street – a sad goodbye to Skylark, but we’re sure we’ll welcome other new faces soon

Encouraging others to shop locally on the high street and prom

Raise funds for Porty Town Hall to help bring that back to be the beating heart of the community

I can’t express in words the passion for the project from Jo and Jen and all involved here. If you haven’t already then please have a listen to the Porty Podcast and you’ll be bowled over.  When you’ve done that – don’t forget to buy your copy, watch out for more about the launch event where you’ll hear and be infected by Jo’s passion, cook a recipe and love our local food traders.

*There’s an added bonus that even our canine companions are catered for – but no wine.

Sally Dyson Trustee

Porty Food Map, The  Traders’ Story

Get your copy now and support Porty Town Hall and your local High Street.

Launched this morning on Porty Podcast by Jo and Jen we are delighted by the generosity of Jo Turbitt who has offered Porty Food Map, The Traders’ Story a recipe book and celebration of local food shops, to Portobello Central as a fundraiser for the Town Hall.

The book, showcases the stories and precious recipes of more than fifteen local traders, is available on pre-order for £12.00.

Jo Turbitt in action

A map of the high street and prom the traders have let us into some of their secrets and stories.  There’s something for everyone in there, vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians, carnivores, pescatarians and dogs.  Each recipe, other than those for dogs, has a wine pairing from The Fine Wine Shop.

We’re going to hold a launch event in March to bring together everyone who has contributed whether that’s through offering a recipe and story, bringing the book together through photography, illustration or transcribing or through chivvying, nudging and keeping the original idea on track and bringing it to fruition.  The pre-order books will be there for everyone to collect and for us all to celebrate food and the community at the heart of Portobello. We’d love to see as many people as possible at that event. 

Get your order here in early, one for you and one as a gift. 

If you’d like to know the story behind the book The story behind Porty Food Map, The Traders’ Stories will inspire and remind you of the power of community.


The earth moved

If you were out and about on Saturday morning you might have seen or been involved in the buzz around Porty Town Hall.  The Hall, heading for community management, is waiting for some essential repairs before the doors can be re-opened.  That doesn’t mean that nothing’s happening.  Ideas are forming, projects are being developed, connections are being refreshed and there’s some sprucing up going on.

More on all of that soon, but what was Saturday’s buzz about?  Over the last few weeks you might have noticed the beautiful red heart adorning the front gates, or the tidy up in partnership with Keep Porty Tidy.  Soon you’ll see the spring bulbs start to bloom in the planters which are now placed in front of the windows.  Brought out from behind the railings, the planters have been refreshed and filled with hundreds of daffodils, tulips and crocuses.  When the warmer days arrive they’ll add a splash of colour.  We aim to keep that changing through the seasons and add more planters as the repair work ends.

This planting gave us the opportunity to chat to people as they passed by and invite others including Hazel from Porty Community Fridge Porty Community Energy and others to talk about projects discussed at Heart Talk Porty and see where the Town Hall could play its part alongside other venues.

Hazel and her team had a wee table offering free food that’s collected from shops and supermarkets.  Porty Community Energy are looking at the potential to locate their e-cargo bike trial in Town Hall Grounds.  We’re thinking about what more we can do in and around the Town Hall to support loads of brilliant community activity.

Table Manners

You might have also seen a fair bit of photography on the High Street and the Prom.  What’s that all about?  Why so much interest in the food shops?  That’s our next exciting project and will be launched soon.  If you listen to the Porty Podcast on 29 January all will be revealed.  We’re very excited.

Meantime, if you have ideas or would like to get involved please drop us a line to

Sally Dyson, Trustee, Portobello Central SCIO

All photographs by Jon Davey Photography