In sunny Portobello at Edinburgh’s seaside on a busy August day perhaps issues of the environment are far from people’s minds. Art Walk Porty, an annual contemporary arts festival I set up in 2015, now a thriving arts organisation, is set to change that.

Over two years now the festival has focused attention on issues of local ecology and how working with artists can help foster a sense of discussion and dialogue about the climate crisis.

Situated right by the sea, we may think considering shortage of water, a backdrop to this year’s Vessel programme (September 1-10) an incompatible joining. In my role as Art Walk Projects curator and director, I often point out this isn’t just about the locality right in front of our eyes, it is about setting up Portobello as a portal to other locations and to consider our connectivity globally; that we are all part of the one ecosystem. The fact that one in 10 people globally don’t have access to clean drinking water, is a disturbing thought.

Developing this programme at a time when we see parts of Europe experiencing immense heat, and wildfires, and also knowing that many areas in Scotland remain on alert from water scarcity (Scottish Environment Protection Agency latest water scarcity report highlights that areas of Fife and East Lothian continue to experience low river flows and dry ground conditions) – all this evokes how much it seems a pretty necessary and important conversation to have.

The 2023 Vessel programme includes work from 10 artists whom the project has been working with over the last few months to develop projects that will be showcased during the festival. It’s a rich multifaceted programme that draws upon many outdoor locations, in and around Portobello Beach, including the site of Portobello’s Kilns, as well as a Festival Hub exhibition at 189 Portobello High Street.

There is a diverse mix of events, exhibitions and installations on display during this year’s festival. There is a public artist-led tour around Seafield Water Treatment plant; a collaborative work around climate-induced migration inside one of Portobello’s Kilns; a coracle boat representative of a lifeboat, made from local recycled textiles, to be launched into Portobello Sea with local swimmers and singers taking part; and an artist who has walked 500 miles to arrive in Portobello to start the festival, to consider issues of coastal tourism. Films are all screened outdoors on Portobello Prom one evening, along with fish n chips and silent disco-style headphones.

The festival also includes works in local shops, with many artists exhibiting work inspired by this year’s theme, and about 30 local artists open up their homes and studios to the public; a rare chance to see inside their working studios.

Art Walk Porty Festival runs from September 1-10. The full programme is now live at All events are free but require booking.

Rosy Naylor is Art Walk Projects Curator & Director