Whither Now For the Forest?

Submitted by edg on Thu, 18 Aug '11 8.01am

Freewheeling arts collective The Forest have put out a strongly worded press release expressing how "stunned" they are at the decision to remove them from their venue at the end of the run of the Fringe.

The volunteer-driven organisation, which has been around in one shape or another since 2000, has operated out of the former Edinburgh Congressional Church building on Bristo Square since  October 2003.

A volunteer-driven hub for all manner of events, from critically acclaimed theatre to yoga classes, it has been running a programme of free Fringe events on three floors.

However, since the announcement of the bankruptcy of the building's owner, Edinburgh University Settlement, in October last year, the Forest has been living on borrowed time.

According to its web site, the Forest has raised some £30,000 in a campaign to buy the building - a long way off the expected market price.

The administrators PricewaterhouseCoopers are keen to sell the property, rather than keep its current residents on, and have given the Forest its marching orders.

In the press release, Forest volunteer and Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library, Ryan Van Winkle, describes the building as "a beacon and a testament to what a group of people can accomplish when they work together."

Van Winkle raises the spectre of another much-loved, but seriously neglected venue, the Odeon Cinema on South Clerk Street

Van Winkle says: "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."

I expect PwC is more motivated to make a sale than Odeon owners Duddingston House Properties.

In the meantime, there's still a few days left to experience some of Forest's Free Fringe entertainment - and perhaps some wholesome veggie food too.  But what happens next remains to be seen.