Photies and Stories

Portobello and our community spirit get highlighted in this Edinburgh Live article as part of the #mylandscotland campaign. I feel like I’ve seen that woman in the photo somewhere before….?

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. 

Waverley Court – where most Council officers are not, currently.

Jennifer’s Blog #23

The Council works towards “asset transfer”

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.

The Town Hall from the PBIP paper

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 .

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.

Jennifer’s Blog #22

Happy Solstice!

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.

Sound familiar?

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:

#craigmillar100 hashtag on Instagram • Photos and Videos

The second event I’d like to share is a call out for participants for a performance by local artist Deirdre MacLeod as part of the wonderful Porty Art Walk in September.

Art Walk Porty – CALL OUT: Do you live in, or near, Portobello? … | Facebook

In describing the event to me, Deirdre wrote:

“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.”

I am powerless to resist. See you there?

Jennifer’s blog number 21

Making Work

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. 

Serious to Seaside Pavilion

The Laundry – now Lothian Dance Academy

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. 

Inverey House

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”.

Poor lassies? 

Jennifer’s blog 19th June

And then, suddenly, it all got real…

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.

Jennifer’s Blog 17 June 2021

Listing and Listening

Brief blog today. I’m heading to Glasgow to take my mum to an appointment so out most of the day and stuck in the car (yuk) for lots of it. At least I can listen to the radio. 

Main thing to report is that the meeting with SLF yesterday was positive and we will be submitting one of their Stage 1 applications by July 16th. On that we can expect to hear back by 11th August. 

We’ll be following the guidance in this document as we complete the application.

Have tweaked the Regeneration application based on feedback from our Council contact.  That is submitted by Council to Scottish Government tomorrow. 

I can report I have printed the architects Viability Appraisal Report and will have read it by tomorrow’s meeting. 

That is all for now folks. 

Jennifer’s Blog. 

Busy, Bubbly, Buzzy

The roof space

A buzzy, busy team meeting on Zoom yesterday evening. By the end everyone was there and we were joined by a potential new member for the second half. We all had a wee celebration over the Awards for All grant then it was down to checking with Will and Damian where they are with the job spec and advert. Written by the end of the month is the plan. 

Other exciting news was that Geoff had received the architects’ report and drawings an hour or so before the meeting. He’d only glanced at them but was pleased with some of the ideas and innovations he’d picked up so far. That will be my homework – to read that before Thursday’s meeting. Oh, we’ve decided to revert to Zoom as getting the numbers we have indoors seemed just too difficult/unclear/not allowed under the current Level 2 guidelines as far as we could work out. Maybe next time. 

Today’s excitement is meeting with our new contact at Scottish Land Fund this morning. Meanwhile I picked up yesterday that a new SLF committee has been appointed. Makes for interesting reading. 

Last night when browsing Facebook I noticed North Edinburgh Arts and Whale with others are advertising for a project co-ordinator   as part of their successful Culture Collective funding award from Creative Scotland . Porty Central were part of a bid led by Action Porty for that same fund but were not successful. Doesn’t mean I’ve given up on that as part of a vision for Portobello. Fancy the post? 

Must pay Morag for her expenses in getting the thank you cards printed. For now that means finding the cheque book and getting double signatures but Geoff is working on getting double approval payment processes on our Triodos bank account. I’ll need to login to our online banking and look out for the arrival in our account of the Awards for All cash.

I hope tomorrow will be a positive summary of the SLF meeting. Till then, au revoir. 

Jennifer’s blog

Ramping up the Access

St Andrew’s House : Front Entrance. Opened in 1939 and made accessible 50 years later

It used to be the name of a long-gone credit card – giving you Access to untold pleasures from spending your own money.  Today it is part of our equalities agenda.

Last night, I saw some early drawings from our architects of what could be done, might be done, should be done and must be done to bring the Town Hall up to date. I’m not sure of the sequence of their thinking but by starting from securing modern standards of accessibility they end up radically improving the Hall for all.

For example, one idea is to remove the grotty, awkward, second class wheel chair ramp at the east side and instead make the front entrance much grander.  I had thought this would be difficult in a listed building but the Government did it a long time ago on the “A” listed St Andrews House on Regent Road.

Our Town Hall would get a pair of elegant, gently sloping ramps along the front façade, leading to an extended platform and steps at the front door.  At a stroke, we get a grand entrance for all, a ceremonial site, worthy of our ambitions for New Life for the Heart of Portobello.  The pavement outside would have to be adjusted a bit but we are getting used to that.

Meanwhile, thinking through access to spaces inside means having a lift (or even two).  This is why we employ architects to see through to a better way of organising space.

Keep calm, none of this may happen as it all costs money but we if we don’t aim for quality and equality we end up with the wrong outcome.  I’m pushing for the best.