Working My Way Back

Morag’s blog about Max Blinkhorn’s idea for film shows in the Town Hall made me reflect on my first meeting with Max.  It was in a cold meeting in Bellfield one dark night in January 2020, where I met, for the first time, the people who I now regard as friends, who formed the original Portobello Central Group, (the story of what ensued will be the subject of musings over a glass of something in due course).

Working my way back through history, I then reflected on how I came to be there.  It was an email from Max, one Sunday lunchtime, as I savoured my oloroso sherry before a light early January lunch.  I knew the name, of course, who could forget it, but why was he writing to invite me to the meeting and how did he get my email address?  I have several addresses for different purposes.  I accepted the invitation, still slightly unsure what I could offer, as a person largely unknown in the maelstrom of Portobello life.

The mental excavation continued.  I had been invited, (well, perhaps put myself forward) to represent Northfield & Willowbrae Community Council at a meeting convened by the City of Edinburgh Council in the City Chambers to consider the future of the closed Town Hall – as many Town Hall users came from Duddingston, closer to the building than some parts of Portobello itself.  I had sat next to a lively lady, who asked fervently for the Town Hall to be re-opened.

Then it clicked.  I had previously sat next to the lively lady, now known to be our Jennifer Elliot, at a meeting in Bellfield on 28 August 2019 convened to consider the closure of the Town Hall in July.  I had spoken vigorously, on behalf of my community council, for a new approach to the Town Hall, a building with potential and new opportunities.

As the meeting ended, we were invited to leave our email addresses if we wished to be kept informed of Town Hall progress.  I was writing my address on the sheet, when a woman came up behind me and harangued me loudly about a planning issue dealt with many months previously.  She wanted to know why I had not done something.  The thought went through my head “ I don’t need this, they don’t need me to sort out the  Town Hall, I’ll just go.”  But I’d written half my address, so for some reason I completed it and was then chased out of the building by my haranguer still yelling about my incompetence.

So that’s how I joined a group which today is feeling good about the progress now in hand to re-open a safe Town Hall in the first part of 2022. 

It’s taken 2 years – and lots of people doing stuff, working us back into the Town Hall.

Geoff’s Blog

Moving and Grooving

Dog tired

Today brings to an end my foray into filming dance exams. Although I still have to upload them to the examination board. I can feel the mountain  living on my shoulders slither away and I know I will sleep well tonight.

One disappointment for me today was not being able to attend the meeting with the City of Edinburgh Council senior professional officers, to discuss  the what, where, when and how to spend the £350k allocated to the Town Hall from the Place Based Investment Programme.  However Geoff, Jen and Damian attended via teams and it would appear to have been a very positive  discussion.

The primary aim is to get the building open and able to be used by the public as soon as possible.  Our survey and architects report have identified the key issues that closed the building in the first place. Making safe and watertight parts of the roof and also ceiling.  The CEC are keen to get this project moving, so do not be surprised  to see scaffolding at some point and a flurry of activity.

I will not attempt  to talk about  the details , as I wasn’t there myself, so I will pass the blog on to Geoff to fill you in on what decisions  were made.

For me I fear that slumber awaits. I wish you all a good weekend.


Portobello Central Presents:

Today I was immersed in filming ballet exams to send to The Royal Academy of Dance examiners.  Covid has delayed so much for many young people.  It’s been great to have this opportunity to be examined by film.

It reminded me that film is a very important  medium to bring people together, to pass on information  and most importantly to entertain.  Cinemas continue to be one of the main ways to go on a date.  Followed by a nice meal or a bag of chips on the way home.  Or a simple way for the family to do something nice  together at the weekend.

Max Blinkhorn, that intrepid sailor who enjoys messing about in boats and making short video blogs of his adventures, was one of the original group who got together to gave birth to “Portobello Central”.  He had to drop out of the process temporarily when one of his boating projects started to take over his time.  But he will be back when we open.  

His idea was to have a giant screen that dropped down on the stage and to have regular film nights.  A quick survey around parents and teens in my school suggested this would be most successful.  Teenagers thought it would be cool to take pillows and watch films sprawled on the floor munching popcorn.  Parents preferred using a chair.  Ideas for types of film were varied.  Parents of small children would be happy with any cartoons or Disney films that kept the children happy.  Some adults wished to see more ‘arty’ type films.  But all agreed it would be very popular.

So I think Max needs to get planning.  The community  has spoken. Come back Max.

So, as my eyes start to close,  I must sleep. I have another long day filming tomorrow.  Or I should say that ‘him indoors’ does the filming and I do the edit and uploading.

On my next blog I might have an update on what gets discussed  at the meeting  today with the City of Edinburgh Council.  I can’t attend myself this time so I will rely on Damian and Geoff to fill us in.

As always

Keep safe


Have you heard the news?

Did you have the kebabs?

Yesterdays blog was a little spicy in content.  It certainly brought out Geoff’s subtle humour and tickled some people’s  fancy.

Not so exciting  today.  The first two weeks in July people go away and offices run on a skeleton crew.  However we are having talks later this week, together with our architects and council reps to talk about how to spend the £350,000, allocated to repair the roof and ceiling, to prevent further deterioration,  and to make safe.  The state of the roof is not nearly as bad as the rumours of two years ago.  Our hope is that this can get done fairly quickly, so we can open in April 2022.  Read my weekend blog to see if anything  interesting comes up.

Meanwhile the history of the Town Hall and Inverey House (that stood there before) has loosened an avalanche of interest and brought oodles of information from history buffs from all over Britain.  Even abroad!  Good Sir Harry has dredged up loads of discussion.  This is good for us. It spreads the word and gets more people involved.

One missing piece in our campaign; and this is partly because of Covid.   We have been very successful  at reaching people on social media, through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.  We also did a partial leaflet drop round houses that informed some of the people what was going on with the town hall.  I was disappointed to speak to several people in the street, on the prom and in shops, who were still wondering what was happening with the town hall.  Today I spoke to neighbours who are not on any social media. They had a vague idea that I was part of a campaign but they hadn’t heard that we had been successful, nor, that we had funding to get started.

My question  is: How do we reach these people?   Do we stand on the Town Hall steps with a megaphone on a Saturday?  Do we get into as many papers as we can?  Could we ask our followers to tell their neighbours and friends the good news and keep them updated?  Get their interest.  After all, this is something  for everyone in the community.

Can we ask you all to do this please?  Speak to wee old ladies, speak to your relatives,  speak to your kids and tell them “This is for you as well”.  We are so grateful to all our supporters. You are the vitamins that make us thrive.

Be safe

Morag 💋

Climb Aboard The Good Ship Porty Central

Its a very strange feeling this week.  With some of the group on holiday. The Good Ship “Portobello Central” appears to be flat calm and drifting.  This couldn’t  be further from the reality.  Under the surface those of us still at home are paddling furiously keeping all our sails at the ready. There are meetings to attend, letters to be prepared and sent and answers awaited.

While we are elated by the funds secured so far, we know we must raise a lot more to fund the refurbishment over next few years.  We not only want to repair things, we want to spruce up, freshen and improve facilities, modernise the toilets, and create better access.

One of the key necessities for the near future is looking at climate change and how we can run the Town Hall effectively  and efficiently using technology that is  now available.   Solar panels, ground source heat pumps, double glazing are all words being dropped into conversations. We have a duty of care to the planet and to future generations.

The Town Hall will take time to reach a stage when it will wash its own face.  We have always known this and will seek funding from wherever  we can get it.   We also have to think well ahead to when we open. We have a good, healthy list of people who wish to hire as soon as they can.   Most, like “Discovery Wrestling” are coming out of Covid darkness and desperate  for us to open.   They had events 3 or 4 times a year in the hall.   Stebo Froude, who runs “Northern Soul Dancing” weekends, is one of our strongest supporters.  And the list is getting longer, especially  now that the dream is reality. 

One of our more unusual potential users is: wait for it!  A company of burlesque  dancers.   A group of sassy woman led by the one & only “Sassy von Sparkle”.  She not only puts on shows and entertains but runs a highly successful burlesque school in locations all over the city.  No need to dress up,  as the classes are just a fun way to keep fit (but if you really want too, feather boas are encouraged)

Sassy von Morag  x

Nostalgia, Connections & Ghosts.

Apologies  for not getting a blog out yesterday, but today I will give you double.    The day was not without its discoveries.  

On Saturday  I posted a small tribute to Sir Harry Lauder. The interest it stirred up has been most enjoyable.  It seems a lot of us still remember  the old boy of Porty.  Even if he was only born here. Its  even questionable if he performed  at the town hall at all but, many people say he did.   Or perhaps at the Marine Gardens maybe!  Who feels like researching that?

This week a lovely man called Alf posted a  photo of the interior of the Town hall, not long after it opened in 1914.  Did we know it had fixed seating in the main hall?  Well yes we did guess, and our architects confirmed it likely, as the current floor has been laid on top to create a dance floor. But to see it as it was originally,  was uplifting. Makes it clearer that the purpose of the building  was for; meetings and entertainment;  and that having a dance floor was a later thought.  Alf also had a photo of the outside of the building showing that it originally  was behind railings and had a fair amount of space in front.  He then  produced a photo of the original  plans as well.  Alf is our new golden goose. Nothing much has been altered. The structure and spaces remain unchanged. Apart from seating removed from lower auditorium  and a proscenium arch added.  The original  stage had a bowed front which has been straightened.

And now here comes the nostalgia.  While following a link looking for more old photos, I accidentally came across a couple of photos taken in 1930 at the back of the hall.  Sadly not much to see as there was lots of foliage.  But it did show some ladies in  stylish hats & coats holding babies and behind them was Rosefield Health Clinic, my very own dance studio, looking remarkable unchanged apart from the windows.    It brought a tear to my eye. I have been searching for photos for 16 years.   Further searching found 6 or 7 more.   Even a fabulous 1930’s car parked outside, kids playing and some inside shots.  So if anyone knows some older people in their 90’s who lived in the  flats in Rosefield  Ave Lane , please do get in touch.  And I will be posting them very soon on my page.

You may wonder what the connection  is between  the Town hall and the dance studio.   Well, the town hall was built on the site of an old mansion called Inverey House.   In fact the kitchen and dressing rooms at the back are part of old Inverey House.  The dance studio was built as a laundry for the house in 1909.  At this time Inverey house was a school for girls. The plans for the laundry were discovered by our architects.  It all makes sense now of the strange sense of belonging when I am in the hall.   As if I was there in a past life.

And late at night when all the dancers & teachers  have gone home, and I have to cross the studio in the dark to find the light switch, my arms outstretched in the  pitch black. I always feel I am being watched with friendly eyes, and imagine the sound of babies. A building that was built for children and continues today with the sound of happy children. That’s nice, don’t  you think?

Stay safe & healthy,


High Days and Holidays

So we have moved into  Edinburgh  trades fortnight and many of the Portobello  Central team have gone quiet as they take a well earned break, although all are at the other end of a WhatsApp, should something important comes up.   Jen’s blogs must keep going so each day will be a surprise  as to who writes it.  

Main thing to report is that our SCIO application (to become a charity) has been answered asking for clarification on certain points.   Once points are duly clarified and sent back, we hope that we will become a SCIO sooner than we had originally  thought. So things are moving forward fast.

Could you be one of our trustees?

With SCIO looking positive then our next step will be to appoint more trustees.  We intend to have a real cross-section of the community from young people to retired people and people with time & experience  to commit.

As for myself.  I continue to monitor Portobello Central Instagram, make contacts and have two Prom chats lined up with potential users later in the week.   I am squeezing that in with filming two days of ballet exams to send to the RAD examiners.  Covid has changed so much that we do and the way that we do it.

Morag x

Charity Begins…

This is my last blog before my hols. I’ll be back on Monday 19th July and will continue my count to 100.

Some good news to close on for now, OSCR – the organisation which regulates Scottish charities,  has been in touch about our application to become a SCIO. SCIO stands for Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation and is essentially one organisational structure with the same status as charity and company limited by guarantee but the accounts only need logged with OSCR and not Companies House. It means Portobello Central will be a charity, meeting those social enterprise aims we set out in our proposal. 

There are a few clause numbering issues in our constitution which OSCR and SCVO have flagged but because we kept all the text standard, if we sort those (and Jon has his proof reader beady eye on the document) we should hear back soon that we’ve secured charitable status.

Everything is tracking as hoped. 

Soon we’ll wind up Portobello Central Ltd to be replaced by Portobello Central SCIO. At that stage we hope you’ll join us as members on the same model as Action Porty, Friends of Porty Prom, Porty Community Energy to name but a few of those I know about. To be a member you need to live in the boundary of the organisation which is the Council ward but associate membership is available to those who live outwith that boundary and who want to be kept informed of our business. It is only members in the boundary who can vote at our AGMs and to whom the trustees are answerable.  

Just for the record, Portobello Central’s charitable purposes are:

1) The advancement of citizenship or community development (including rural or urban regeneration

2) The advancement of the arts, heritage, culture or science.

3) The provision of recreational facilities or the organisation of recreational activities with the object of improving the conditions of life for the persons for whom the facilities or activities are primarily intended.

Exciting stuff to end on, eh? 

Bet you can’t wait for an AGM?!

See you with #33 on my return.

Jennifer’s blog #32. 


Late blog today as I run around trying to tie up loose ends before my holidays. I’m going to pause the blogs for the fortnight and start again on my 100 days on my return. However there should be semi-regular blogs from other Porty Central people in the mean time. I’ll do tomorrow as my last one before the pause. 

My only real Portobello Central business was a very pleasant walk this morning along the prom with a local artist contact. She was a new contact for me and a very engaging conversation was had as the sun beamed down. The usual Porty effect was in full force with both of us bumping to people we know as we walked. Conversation was made and I hope that ideas will start to flow. 

I am in awe of and inspired by the work being done in Dumfries by The Stove Network as an arts and community organisation (other inspiring organisations exist too). While I recognise we are a long way from what they do, they have something worth watching. 

I’m also watching what comes out of the Culture Collective @culturecolsco with interest. Porty Central were part of Action Porty’s Culture Collective funding application to Creative Scotland which while it got through the first gateway, failed at the second. Be happy to share that content with any interested parties. 

Certainly today we found ourselves discussing today why there are so many creatives in Portobello and yet so little community art work in Portobello (the wonderful @portyartwalk aside of course). Suspect funding has something to do with it but money is not the whole story. Something to work on. 

Over and out.

Jennifer’s blog #31