Thursday, 8 September 2016


It's great living where I do, right by the sea on the outskirts of Scotland's capital city. Strangely not everyone realises that Edinburgh has a seaside beach. On every hot, sunny summers day the mile-long beach is packed with visitors. But it's not just candy floss, slot machines and coffee shops that are available to entertain the hordes.

There's usually a special event of some description going on every month, and even though the Edinburgh International Festival & Fringe has now passed, Portobello continues to entertain. A couple of weeks ago it was the outdoor venue for The Big Busk, where musicians for all over descended on the promenade to entertain all day long. This past weekend was another gloriously warm and sunny one, and again Portobello played host.

It is well known there is a large creative contingent living in the area, including a great many artists. Almost 50 of these artists ran an open door event over the whole weekend called The Art Walk, where their works were either displayed in their homes, in coffee shops or out in the open along the promenade. I love this sort of event, but especially the outdoor element. As I wandered along, event map in hand, I sought out the different pieces. Some, it has to be said, demanded quite an open mind and imagination, but at the end of the day, even if you shrugged your shoulders and thought, "I could have done that", the fact remains that, maybe so, yes, but you had to have thought of it first.

My favourite was a series drawings on transparencies inside a white frame, presumably mimicking a porthole, nailed to a sea groyne. The best view was to position yourself so the sun was behind each frame. Each one had a scene associated with Portobello, either now or from history, and the one below shows a dredger at work some 35 years ago when the brought sand back onto the beach from offshore. At each different installation along the prom the artists have a description of what it represents, but I think it is in the eye of the beholder to judge for themselves.

An installation that has appeared a number of times is one called the Tidal Octopus. Made of steel and very colourful, it is attached three-quarters of the way up the marker pole at the end of one of the groyns. As the tide comes in the octopus disappears below the water, only to emerge again when the tide recedes.

At one point there was a sea monster made from recycled bits and pieces and further on coloured nylon ropes wrapped around posts depicting the "roads of the sea". But this was definitely one of those works where I couldn't quite agree with the artist in what it was representing, but it was pleasing nonetheless.

At the far end of the prom where two concrete bays look out to sea, a chalk design had been created called The 12 bakers. Based on the race in 1661 from Portobello to the top of Arthur's Seat by 12 bakers wives. Not sure how this represented that race, but back then the prize for the winner was "a hundredweight of cheese along with whisky and rum, which must have been well worth winning in those days.

Having wandered for an hour or so, and refreshed myself with a good coffee, I brought out my bicycle and cycled up to the local Rosefield Park. On this weekend every year the community holds The Village Show, a celebration of all things local, including foods and entertainment. There are games for the kids, prizes to be won and residents can hire a small table to sell off their own home baking, plants from their garden or artworks. Thanks to the sunny warm weather, Portobello was out in force, but I was still surprised to see such a huge gathering. Despite the large numbers it was great to walk around and realise that, if not by name, by sight at least, I knew just about everyone there, partly due to my time as a local business owner 'til 2006.

In a good mood, and as a tip-of-the-hat to the 12 Bakers Race, I rounded off my day with a cycle around that local hill that sits smack in the centre of the city, and the finish line of their race, Arthur's Seat. On my way home I paid one final visit to The Village Show, just to marvel once again at the community of Portobello out in force.

No comments: