For the last nine months I’ve volunteered most Saturday’s at the Forest in Edinburgh. The Forest is a registered charity for a volunteer-run, collectively-owned, free arts/events space and vegetarian café. To some it is a den of beatniks and drop outs, to others it’s a place where they feel comfortable and to some it is just a good place to go for food & a drink. Personally, I think the Forest is all of things and more, but in a good way.
Since I’ve started volunteering there I’ve met and spent time with folk from around the world. I’ve also learned how to use what was a daunting espresso machine and how to make a vegan burrito. I have also scrubbed lots of dishes, all the while watching a cross section of people go by and enjoy the café’s atmosphere.
I was there today and nothing seemed out of the ordinary. One thing did strike me though. I’d noticed before that when Scotland’s rugby team was playing at home, there were very athletic men wearing the national track suits staying at the hotel across the road. Today the pieces came together when I saw the bus bearing the legend “Scotland’s National Rugby Team.” Today was a crunch match, against Italy to see who would finish last in the Six Nations’ Championship. I saw that one of the coaching staff was on the bus so popped across with this note.
Please play well and win today.
With love and best wishes from everybody at the Forest.
My shift continued and there was various talk about today’s rugby game, with good natured teasing amongst the different interested nationalities. I ended up at one point explaining to another volunteer who is from China what was going on, why it was important and what was at stake in terms of pride. I even tried to explain the etymology of the phrase wooden spoon but admitted that having the lowest pass for a maths degree doesn’t really merit something to stir soup with.
We kept up with the action in between serving customers thanks to texts. We were relieved to hear that the game finished with a Scottish victory. Having seen Scotland played at Murrayfield this season, I wasn’t sure if they would do it. I was pleased to see the team cast aside the doubts they confronted. Maybe, just maybe, that was all down to a note from the hippy café opposite the team’s hotel. Maybe.
I doubt it somehow!
The Forest is a vital resource for Edinburgh, offering a unique, free and freely-accessible multi-arts venue. The current location is for sale due to the bankruptcy of the landlords. Volunteers and supporters are seeking to raise money to buy the listed historic building at Bristo Place rather than see it sold to developers and transformed into another generic coffee shop or bar. To date, we have raised over £18,000 and are aiming to reach £50,000 by 01 June. That would ensure the charity has enough money to pay a year’s commercial rent at the current location or a similar building. This money will also put the Forest in a strong position to access money from other sources.
If you want to help support the Forest, you can set up a monthly standing order. This is the most effective way of supporting Forest. You provide a regular, guaranteed income, allowing us to keep doing what we’re doing and put the Forest in a stronger position when approaching other funders and the banks.
Please give what you can afford and help ensure the future for an Edinburgh institution.