Big Things on the Beach

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Big Things on the Beach

Imagine Porty pier concept

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Our Imagine portobello day was well attended with lots of interesting conversations and ideas as well as lively participative and watchable music at points in the day. Stimulating talks from Lesley Riddoch, broadcaster and journalist with a clear hold on all that is Nordic, and Andrew Dixon who led Hull to achieve Cultural City award this year. Many useful ideas and views from participants about culture in Portobello, and we will produce a report on the event which will be posted here and open for futher comment. We hope to have some sort of follow up in the Autumn (after summer demands and to give time to consider the report).

The following article was published in the Scotsman  and focusses on dynamic ideas about what would help to put Portobello on the visitor map as well as offer local rsidents further facilities.

Karl Stern, BTOTB Trustee


Culture must stretch beyond the city centre

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Damian Killeen: Culture must stretch beyond city centre

Some years ago, a visitor to a major video installation in Portobello’s Victorian swimming baths by the internationally-renowned, Edinburgh-born artist Michael Pinsky complained: “This is the kind of thing we should be able to see in the city centre. We shouldn’t have to come out here to see work of this quality.”

This is typical of comments Portobello’s cultural groups have heard over the years from other Edinburgh residents as well as from the city’s cultural institutions and council managers; the idea of culture outside the city centre is too often associated with low expectations in terms of quality or innovation.Now, however, recent major reports, such as Thundering Hooves 2.0 and Desire Lines, expressing the concerns of the city’s cultural community about Edinburgh’s all-year-round cultural policies and practices, suggest that, with rising costs, alternative offers and increasing strains on the city’s infrastructure, the tide of Edinburgh’s pre-eminence in the cultural world might be changing direction. As befits a seaside community, Portobello, along with others, would like to see the tide shifting more in our way.

Culture in Edinburgh is a matter of feast and famine. The all-you-can-eat buffet is laid out in August and disappears in September. Most of the year we have a good offer of pre-packaged, touring productions and shows but, with notable exceptions, few places where art is actually made. Local artists, performers and cultural producers struggle to find the livelihoods they need to enable them to develop their careers. This is not the way to develop Edinburgh as year-round city of culture. The city managers do not recognise that they have to feed the goose if it is going to lay more golden eggs.

In Portobello, for example, contrary to a neighbourhood plan agreed by the wider community, a planning decision for the ScottishPower site is resulting in the loss of artists’ studios and a recording studio used by musicians from across the city. Planning officials declared the community’s views redundant and the chair of the planning committee said that if people wanted this kind of provision, someone could develop it elsewhere in the neighbourhood. No amount of cultural aspiration can survive this level of philistinism.

Portobello residents pay for cultural provision, including substantial subsidies to the festivals, through their taxes and they expect to see the benefits spread more widely through a joined-up process of cultural planning and development. This should include the creation and protection of spaces for making and experiencing culture year-round. We have ideas for cultural developments to benefit the whole city and we contribute our time and energy to maintaining our community’s cultural vitality. We deserve to be heard above the din of Edinburgh’s festive jamboree.

Damian Killeen OBE is chairman of Big Things on the Beach



Evening news article

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The following article appeared in todays Evening News.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 May 2015 17:46

Imagine 2015 - Final Programme

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Imagine Portobello is just a few days away. Our posters are up and about as are flyers with the progamme and we've been busy posting postcards through doors of those in Porty.

Click the image below for the full programme


Last Updated on Thursday, 21 May 2015 19:36

Imagine Portobello May 2015 - final programme

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Church Halls, Bellfield Street, Portobello.

Doors open 10.00 for 10.30 to 5.45.

All welcome. Free entry. Café open.



Big Welcome

Portobello Community Choir


Damian Killeen, Chair, Big things on the Beach



Whose culture is it anyway?


Lesley Riddoch, author and journalist.



Arts and Culture in Portobello

  • How would we describe our community?
  • How would we like it to be?
  • What are the opportunities and challenges?


Round table creative conversations introduced by Bill Jameson



Mapping our cultural assets? Introduction to lunchtime activity.

Graham Acheson, Big Things on the Beach, Architect and Associate, Smith Scott Mullan Associates



Lunch Break

Exhibition and information displays


Café open or bring a picnic



Welcome and introduction to the afternoon. Fun Fiddle (Junior)

Damian Killeen








Imagine Portobello

  • Activities
  • Aspirations
  • Challenges

Chair: Sophia Marriage, Minister, St. Mark’s Church.


Local arts and culture groups panel and discussion.



Cultural development, place making and the local economy

Andrew Dixon, Director of Creativity Place Ltd.



Tea and cakes

Main Hall




Portobello’s creative future? Opportunities, resources, organisation. What needs to happen?

Damian Killeen




3. 25

What are the City’s aspirations for Portobello?





What can we do together?

Chair: Andrew Eaton-Lewis, freelance cultural journalist.


Cllr. Maureen Child

Cllr. Richard Lewis, Chair, Culture and Leisure Committee, City of Edinburgh Council.

Jane Archer, Chief Executive, Creative Scotland


Closing comments and thanks

Damian Killeen


4.30 – 5.45

Grand Musical Finale in

Main auditorium, (former church)


Fun Fiddle (senior)

Rosie and Tommy Nimmo

Emily Elver

Eileen Penman

Guitar Ensemble Portobello Music School

Rachel Amey

Portobello Community Choir

MC. Max Scratchmann Portobello Poetry Circus.

Programme may be subject to change


Supported by City of Edinburgh Council &



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Big Things on the Beach is a public art trust in Portobello, a seaside suburb close to the city centre of Edinburgh, Scotland. It was formed by a group of residents in 2003 to explore the potential of the seafront as a site for engagement with public artworks by both emerging and established artists.

Since 2004 we have commissioned artists to create substantial temporary artworks, trained ourselves and others in the process of commissioning public artworks through international site visits and guest lectures and successfully raised funding to these ends.

Our current project - The Big Welcome - is supported by Creative Scotland, Portobello & Craigmillar Neighbourhood Partnership and Edinburgh City Libraries