The Fringe is over, all the posters and crowds have gone and
Edinburgh’s year-round, fringe venue is closing its doors.
The Forest is today beginning departure from Bristo Place, but is
determined to return—this time as owners rather than tenants of the
building. The volunteer-run open-access multi-arts venue and charity
has launched a WeFund campaign to raise sufficient funds to allow it
to buy their current location. The Forest will use the money raised
as a deposit towards the purchase of the former Edinburgh
Congressional Church. However, the charity won’t take the money from
supporters’ bank accounts until a mortgage is secured.
The Forest has enjoyed a very busy August, with the Forest Fringe
shows attracting rave reviews from critics at the Guardian, Scotsman
and other media, and with shows winning awards included the coveted
Total Theatre Innovation Award. The venue is a flagship Scottish
social enterprise and charity and was recently described as “the
saviour of the fringe.” Now the volunteers have decided to take a
step forward and take control of their own future.
Ken O’Neill, one of Forest’s volunteer team, said:
We are currently in negotiations with financial institutions about
securing a mortgage that would allow us to make a successful bid for
Bristo Place. To help achieve that we need our friends and
supporters to pledge financial support so that we can raise
sufficient funds for a commercial mortgage. People should see this
not as a charity donation but as an investment, helping to provide
Edinburgh’s city centre with a community and arts centre. Forest is
open to anyone to freely create, so if you help buy the Forest,
you’re buying yourself an arts centre.
In return for their support and investment, individuals will receive
presents depending on how much they pledge [see NOTES below]. We’re
also very keen to hear from anyone with an alternative investment
proposal for us.
The great thing about WeFund is that if we are unsuccessful in our
bid to buy Bristo Place, then our supporters are not out of pocket.
More and more art projects and events are raising funds through
crowd-sourcing, but I don’t think the UK has seen as big a project
as this before. This is another example of the Forest’s innovative
ideas. If we are successful, we continue to care for and trade in
our current home which is not very appealing for traditional
property developers due to its Listed Building status and layout.
Rachel McCrum, a long-term Forest volunteer, said “This is not a
charitable donation, but an investment in Edinburgh.” Referring to
the Forest’s open access policy, she added: “When we buy the building,
Ryan van Winkle, also a long-term Forest volunteer and Reader in
Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library, said:
We have been proud to be a bright anomaly in a city centre filled
with hotels, chain bars and similar looking cafes. The Forest shows
everyone that a different way of life and community is possible,
that our cities, like our lives, can be vibrant, unique and
diverse—that people can work together to make something grand. We
need to continue to be a beacon in a cookie-cutter, ever more
The Forest has sought to find a permanent home since former landlords
the Edinburgh University Settlement (EUS) was declared bankrupt last
year. Recent developments have created the opportunity for the venue
to purchase its home of the last eight years. People can pledge their
financial support for the Forest via WeFund.com
WeFund, which was founded last year in response to the current austere
funding of the arts, is the UK’s first crowd-funding platform that
focuses on creativity in all forms. They aim to make arts patronage
into a retail experience, with people visiting the site as a consumer,
before returning as a backer and possibly a creator as well. The
Forest’s campaign is the largest project WeFund has supported to date.
People can support the the Forest’s future regardless of buying the
building by donating via the charity’s JustGiving site
Award-winning and best-selling author Neil Gaiman said:
The Forest is a welcoming, wonderful, arts-friendly space. It’s
unique, and its loss would be a small tragedy for Edinburgh.
Daniel Kitson, comic and winner of the 2002 Perrier Comedy award,
The Forest is exhilaratingly independent and truly wonderful. I saw
a man climb to space in their lobby and did a show there at 10 AM
where they handed out free porridge. It is a tremendously special
place where peculiar and magical things happen and is run almost
entirely on love, passion, social responsibility and artistic
Jason Webley, an American experimental folk musician, said:
Places like the Forest are perhaps the secret hearts of cities
throughout this world. They provide refuge for different ways of
thinking and as such are the wombs where new generations of artists
are often born. The Forest in Edinburgh is a particularly magical
and important example of this, injecting a bit of actual “Fringe”
into that beautiful city for the past eleven years.
Sabrina Mafhouz, poet, comedian and Creative in Residence at The
Hospital Club, said:
The Forest is an essential part of the unique and wonderful
character of Edinburgh. It acts as an essential venue for all those
interested in the alternative and leads the way with exciting
Sxip Shirey, an American composer, performer, and story-teller, said:
The Forest evolved into something special for the Fringe. Even
though I was performing weekly at the Famous Speigeltent, I would
make my way to the Forest to see what was going on there and to
perform myself. The Forest holds the spirit of the Fringe intact.
It is a keystone to the original spirit of the event that has made
your city famous. I cannot tell you enough how important the Forest
is. It is venues like the Forest that keep art alive and evolving
from the bottom up. The Forest is your city’s keystone, the
evolution to it’s arts. Every great art scene has those places that
you an artist can develop in.
- People who donate via WeFund will receive the following Forest
A pledge of £5 or more receives a signed postcard from Forest
artist Magda Boreysza.
A pledge of £50 or more receives a Forest Goodie Bag.
A pledge of £250 or more gets a private performance by musician
Billy Liar (www.billyliarmusic.com).
A pledge of £1,000 or more receives free coffee for life from the
Forest, whenever the pledger visits the Forest.
A pledge of £1,000,000 or more receives a Forest volunteer who
will provide a year’s service.
- Forest will also pick people from a virtual hat to receive a random
gift provided by one of the wonderful artists and musicians associated
with the Forest.
The Forest is one of Edinburgh’s last remaining open-access
multi-arts venues, and has become a multi-award-winning Fringe venue
(The Forest Fringe). The volunteer-run charity operates an art
gallery, theatre, performance and rehearsal spaces, a darkroom, a
publishing house, a swap shop, a record label, a hairdresser and a
thriving vegetarian cafe. A detailed press pack about the Forest’s
work is available online
The Forest has successfully raised over £32,000 to secure its
future since October, when Edinburgh University Settlement (EUS), who
owned 3 Bristo Place, were declared bankrupt and forced into
administration. Previous publicity and information about the campaign
to help ensure the Forest’s future is also on the website
The Forest Fringe’s full programme is available on their website
For the latest updates from the Forest, or to get involved, visit
the organisation’s web site at http://www.theforest.org.uk/ or contact
The Forest, 3 Bristo Place, Edinburgh
Fundraising Officer/Media Contact