The Forest Cafe is an autonomous social space in Edinburgh. It acts as a venue for art installations and exhibitions throughout the year and runs a popular Forest Fringe during the Edinburgh Festival. You can sign the petition to Save the Forest here. The website for the Save The Forest Campaign is here. This is the press release in response to the decision to force The Forest Cafe from its current premises:

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) have said they would rather leave a building empty than receive rent to help pay off the creditors they are supposed to be representing. PwC are the administrators for Edinburgh University Settlement, who were declared bankrupt and forced into administration last October. The decision follows the collapse of the sale for several buildings previously owned by EUS. PWC have said they would not consider the Forest as tenants for the former Edinburgh Congressional Church in Bristo Place despite being the sitting tenant and the only party willing to rent the premises.

Ryan Van Winkle, long-term Forest volunteer and Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library, said:

“I was shocked to hear a PWC representative say they were unwilling to enter negotiations about the Forest remaining in Bristo Place, especially as we have been responsible tenants for almost eight years. I would have thought receiving rent from a sitting tenant would serve the creditors interests more than having no income from a vacant building and inheriting all the maintenance costs. Even more surprising was their insulting assessment that the Forest is “more hassle than they’re worth,” especially since we have always co-operated with PwC. We know the building needs constant maintenance and care to keep it from becoming a derelict shell akin to the old Odeon on South Clerk street.

“The Forest is currently enjoying a very busy August and the Forest Fringe shows are attracting rave reviews from the Guardian and the Scotsman. The Forest is a flag-ship Scottish social enterprise and charity within Edinburgh and was recently described as “the saviour of the fringe.’ The Forest Fringe was the twentieth winners of the Peter Brook Empty Space Award in 2009, with the Daily Telegraph praising “the boundary-pushing playground where, thanks to multiple volunteer efforts, it’s not the money that counts at all, but the stuff that happens between performers and their makeshift surroundings and between performers and curious visitors.”

Mr Van Winkle added:

“None of us want to leave Bristo Place as it is such a suitable and versatile building which we’ve been able to use to its fullest potential as an artistic hub for a huge number of local and international people. The building is really a beacon and a testament to what a group of people can accomplish when they work together. To think that it will become yet another of Edinburgh’s historic buildings that is vacant and unused is both frustrating and upsetting. Throughout this month we have had visitors from around the world compliment the Forest on what it offers people:free theatre, literature, music, visual arts and healthy food. We serve a passionate local community and we do not want to close the space a second before we have to.

“The fact that PwC is unwilling to negotiate a new lease with us seems in direct contradiction to everything they purport to stand for in their corporate social responsibility charter and is grossly insensitive to the needs of Edinburgh residents and visitors. Here we have the opportunity to continue to provide a one-of-a-kind open-access multi-arts venue for all and to increase our focus on raising funds to buy the premises. It is depressing that a giant and rich multi-national company is unwilling to engage with a much-loved and lauded charity – though I guess we shouldn’t be too surprised. All part of the dismal tide, I guess, but we we believe people should also have a say in what their cities and communities look like.”

The Edinburgh City Local Plan says that “Facilities such as … local shops, community halls and meeting rooms are necessary to foster community life. Equally, the Council will seek to retain facilities of proven value, if threatened by redevelopment proposals without prospect of replacement.” The Forest certainly meets those criteria and so hopes that the City of Edinburgh council and councillors from all parties will help with our campaign to stay in Bristo Place and to buy a suitable premises. With the former church now back on the market, there’s no better time to set up a Standing Order or donate through the JustGiving site to help support the Forest.

Forest will continue to negotiate with PwC regarding the Bristo Place and will seek to raise funds to buy the building now it is back on the market.