Several of us met with our Council contacts from Facilities this morning at 9am. It was a measured, calm meeting.
Peter Watton gave us the update that following a Council reorganisation he is now Service Director for Sustainable Development but our project was still under his remit.
The Council are as keen as us to get an empty building open and used and Sally’s comment in the chat when she had to leave the call was ‘glad to hear all the positivity in the room’.
The Council have already undertaken repairs to stonework and have started work to unblock drains, both matters flagged by the architects. We spent a bit of time discussing coping stone work that could be allowing some water ingress and Peter was keen to get further details in order to sort it.
We discussed the architects’ drawings and the fact we need to settle on a design choice for the next phase of the Project Viability work in July. They were happy enough with the drawings.
We updated the Council team on the funding applications we have in – two of which are with the council, namely tomorrow’s Place Based Investment Programme (PBIP) and Regeneration Capital Grant Fund (RCGF). They were pleased to hear about the National Lottery award. Their view was that RCGF was our best bet.
We mentioned we expect the SCIO to be in place around Sept and aiming for an entry date of 1st Sept for us to do works was suggested. A standard Council lease and heads of terms will be sent to us.
It felt like we were all on the same page, indeed on the same side. I’m off to work with a skip in my step.
You’ll possibly remember Morag and I had the lovely Shawna from @exploringedinburgh over to visit back in early June (see blog from 3rd June). Well she’d got busy sharing stories of her visit on Instagram last night. I am an Instagram newbie but I know enough to know stories are visible only for 24 hours. Shawna had done a similar story for Bellfield a few days ago and I’d sought the skills of my 14 year old daughter to learn how to capture the stories. I called on my girl again to save Shawna’s @portobellocentral stories about Portobello Town Hall and am happy to report they have been captured in a ‘highlight’ on our Instagram page.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog tricks (if the dog has access to a digital native pup)? I’ll need to show Morag about these highlights. She’s all for embracing new technologies and has worked our Instagram since we very tentatively set it up.
I tell you, getting involved in community projects doesn’t half build skill sets!
Have a good day. Tomorrow we (virtually) sit with the Council officials at 9am.
We had our weekly group meeting last night and it was a good meeting.
Main update was we are booked to meet with the Council contacts on morning of Thursday 25th first thing. This the start of the official process. We’ll share the draft Project Viability Report and Architects Drawings with them before that meeting.
We also got a very exciting email in from a different but related Council contact late last night to say that Portobello Town Hall is one of the projects being put forward in the report for Place Based Investment Programme (PBIP) funds. Porty Town Hall is Project 10 in the report, page 16 if you fancy a read.
This report on allocating the Council’s share of funds from the Scottish Government “Place Based Investment Programme” is scheduled to be considered at Housing, Homelessness, and Fair Work Committee this Friday (25th) and the webcast of the Committee will be able to be watched at https://edinburgh.public-i.tv/core/portal/home .
It is hoped the Committee will agree allocations this Friday. The Town Hall is one of 14 very worthy projects. The funds available are oversubscribed so inevitably some projects will not receive funding.
Keep everything crossed for Portobello Central being part of this.
Were you up for the dawn at 4.25am? Maybe just catch the sunset at 10pm today instead.
Today I’m mentioning a couple of local events coming up that interest me and I think are worthy of a flag and which are the sort of things I hope will happen around and in our Town Hall.
The first is The Craigmillar & Niddrie Community Festival 2021 taking place Sat 14th and Sun 15th Aug which is to be a celebration that marks 100 years of Greater Craigmillar since it came within the boundary of the City of Edinburgh.
It will look at Craigmillar now and then; sharing the rich social and cultural history of the area, whilst also celebrating the diverse communities and cultures that make up Craigmillar today.
It is part of a revival of the famous Craigmillar Festival which has not been held since 2015, but which ran for over 40 years since the 1960s as an internationally renowned community arts festival every August.
It is to be led by local residents, with the support and involvement of local community groups, venues, and organisations. These groups have been planning the festival since January 2021, and there are plans for a range of performances, outdoor events, food stalls, workshops, wandering musicians, window decorations, exhibitions, tree planting, and more.
Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Numbers are going to be limited and ticketed for obvious reasons but I’m watching with interest to see how it works out. I want something similar running in Porty and Porty Central definitely see Craigmillar and Niddrie as part of our 20 minute neighbourhood. You can find out more here:
“Aside from the creative aspects of the project that you might enjoy, my sense from the chat we had on our walk round Gilberstoun is that you are interested in community-building projects. This project seeks to draw attention (gently and maybe poetically) to the way in which we use public spaces – who gets to use what space and how they feel, act and move in those spaces, how these spaces have changed and the possibilities for the future use of public spaces within communities. The improv. project seems, to me, to chime with the interests of projects like Portobello Central, which I think you might be involved in.”
Today I’ll be thinking about recruitment, the skills we’ll need from and possible timescales for a Development Worker.
I suspect this and the architects drawings will take up a lot of Monday night’s meeting tomorrow. The cash from National Lottery is in the bank account.
If we were to get the job description written by mid July we’d be doing well. That means the advert out end July – is that a wise time? Interviews taking place by end of Aug. Start end Sept? Maybe, given it will be a few days a month, there might be scope to start sooner, so say Sept start.
That might be realistic. We should have had decent meetings with the council by then and have a clearer idea of where we stand and what we have to do. We ought to have the SCIO in place by then. We’ll have settled on designs to be tested/costed by our architects and heritage consultant. We’ll have a few more funding application on, principally Scottish Land Fund and Architectural Heritage Fund.
So my first view is we want someone who can represent us in council meetings, skilled in contract negotiations, experienced with heritage building projects. Ideally they’ll have experience of securing funding for such projects too and of course be commercially aware as they might well bring in first clients. If they have experience in community consultation all the better.
If they start in Sept, then the payment for that month will be in Oct. Let’s assume we keep back £2K for costs like IT and expenses and employ them at £1000 per month (40 hours/month) for 8 months. They’d be with us Sept 2021 to April 2022. Hopefully by then we’d have secured more funding to keep them on and increase the hours or, if they wish to move on to the next project, to recruit the person to run and develop the building.
These are the things that play on my mind each day as we try to navigate a project to take Portobello Town Hall into community management. Just light, fluffy things.
Please note, this does not constitute an job advert and might well change significantly in thinking and direction before any job advert is created. Just sharing today’s reflections to keep the blog coming.
Having slept on it again the architects’ meeting was perhaps not as daunting. They’d read the blog and could sense the fear. They reassured me that the building is in good condition and will need minimal repairs, not insignificant repairs but not everything needs sorted for the building to open. Guess we need to find that base level and a path to new things. I knew that was the journey but had forgotten the first bit in the overwhelm of the second. They also said that feeling frightened showed we were thinking about it. The term they used that has floated to the front of my memory or consciousness of what we have is a ‘seaside pavilion’ – for performances and community assembly not a town hall carrying out civic functions. Let’s let that percolate and see what it becomes.
Interesting detail that came out the report: the original building, Inverey House dates from before 1840. In 1893 it was bought by John Christie and after inheriting money he set up three female orphanages, the first of which was Inverey House. By 1901 there were fifty girls, two assistants and a matron living in the house as well as a nurse being employed. They extended to build a new playroom and laundry/washhouse in 1903 which is now Lothian Dance Academy so you can imagine Miss Morag was excited by that news and the discovery of the original drawings for her building.
With regard to the industrial schools the report states:
‘Created in the nineteenth century, Industrial schools were related to reform/borstal schools but, rather than being sentenced to one after a crime had been committed, they tended to act more as a form of orphanage, with children either being removed from their families or taken from a situation of vagrancy or destitution and given the opportunity of vocation education. During the course of the 19th century, the definitions between reform and industrial schools became more blurred, especially as many were, like Inverey House, privately run charitable establishments. The general principle was one of teaching discipline and technical skills. For females this would consist of skills suitable to get work in domestic service or be suitable ‘for the matrimonial market’.
Often industrial schools were run as little more than centres for slave labour, often using the ‘immoral background’ of the older girls and women as reasons or excuses for abuse. At Inverey House, from the age of the girls, it appears more likely that the school acted as an orphanage type school, with the ages running from 8-14, and containing several sets of siblings. Although very little is recorded about life here, the will of John Christie (and its contestation) suggests that it was not the worst of its type. His family had contested the will in which he had left money for further expansion of his childrens’ homes: “Mr Christie ordered more expensive furniture for the home at Tenterdean than his own house- the furniture was of a kind not suited for an orphanage”.
Having slept on it, I’m conscious of the enormity of the task ahead and the potential to get it wrong. The Town Hall cannot open as was. Even basic changes to give proper access to the building are not easy to achieve. With no funding, we cannot progress. To secure funding we need a costed, definite design. To get a definite costed design we need community buy-in following a consultation exercise. How do you do that without funding?
We’re going to have to get serious on our list of essential jobs to be costed and the design we want to follow yet who are ‘we’?
Who are we?
‘We’ are the board of the SCIO that doesn’t yet exist but it can’t be just that handful of people. It will include interested partners and helpers but it will be the SCIO trustees who take the decisions.
‘We’ will include a (very) part time Development Manager, contracted perhaps by Portobello Central company or perhaps, more likely by Porty Central SCIO, who can hone our vision and drive it forward but we don’t have them yet.
‘We’ will include funders who need to know we have consulted our community.
‘We’ is definitely the community, so how to bring them on the architectural journey?
‘We’ has to be CEC who are likely to be the owners for a good while yet, as we slowly secure funding to allow any transfer. Not a simple process!
Meanwhile I’ve have an approach from Porty Community Energy to see if they might get access to the Electric Vehicle charger located in Portobello Town Hall for a trial electric car club vehicle. I’ve passed it to our contact at the Council in the hope it can progress. The existing charger was only used for council vehicles. It does seem to be mad that there is a working EV charge point in the heart of Portobello not being used but taking forward this on paper good idea will have all sorts of access and insurance issues. We’ve brokered the intro, so let’s see what comes of it.
Held the blog back till after the architect’s meeting today at 4pm and we’ve only just finished at 6.15pm. That will have messed with Geoff’s daily routine so I had checked with him earlier that he’d be okay posting after 6pm. He will be posting post gin o’clock.
Prior to the meeting I had read the draft Viability Appraisal by Munro Allison Architects & Rob Robinson Heritage Consulting, even read the draft Conservation Policies and will go back to them now I know what they are. These are important given funding comes from the Architectural Heritage Fund and that money comes from Historic Environment Scotland. I confess I hadn’t downloaded the drawings and still haven’t. A job for over the weekend. Suspect they merit being printed out and properly poured over.
We were presented with two high level options 1) New Life and 2) More Space and within those four variations of what we might do. We also got a Summary of Condition report detailing the works which were immediate, urgent, necessary and desirable. Not sure I could even summarise more than that yet. Lots of food for thought and possibilities and lots of conundrums that are not easy to solve. I need to go process what I’ve seen and heard.
It was only myself, Morag and Geoff who attended. We’ll need to get the others up to speed and then bring in the wider community. I’m wondering about uploading the documents to the website for you all to consider….maybe some kind of consultation.
We closed with the intention of getting back to Rob, our heritage consultant, with a defined option to be costed by August. With a good wind the SCIO will be through by then and that new body, which eventually will have elected Trustees, can settle the course for the building. Well, within the confines of available funding they can.
There is going to be a lot happening in August and September.
Still haven’t heard from the Council officials and we have chased.