The Forest, also referred to as Forest Café, is an independent social centre and arts centre, located on Lauriston Place, central Edinburgh, Scotland. It is notable for being run by volunteers as a charitable self-sustaining not-for-profit. Forest cafe was previously housed in the Edinburgh Congressional Church, a building owned by the Edinburgh University Settlement until August 2011, and housed the café, an arts gallery, performance space, rehearsal/music studio, and darkroom.
Free events were held regularly, including workshops, music, film, poetry, theatre and readings.
The Edinburgh University Settlement - the charity that owned the Bristo Place building - went bankrupt in October 2010, and it was announced that the premises were to be sold. The Forest launched a campaign to raise £500,000 to try to buy the building, or buy or rent another property elsewhere in Edinburgh.
The old Forest building was squatted on the 30 November 2011 by a group of protesters not linked to the Forest. The activists stated that they wished to re-open the building to the public. Subsequently the protesters were evicted and all accessible doors and windows of the building boarded up to prevent further squatting and vandalism.
In August 2012 the Forest reopened in Lauriston Place, Tollcross, where it continues its activity as a volunteer run vegetarian cafe with regular free events and workshops, assuming a pivotal role in the revival of the independent community development in central Edinburgh.
The building at 3 Bristo Place was constructed during 1899–1900 to a design by Sydney Mitchell and Wilson for the Evangelical Union on the site of a former Baptist Chapel. The category-B listed building has 659 square metres (7,090 sq ft) of floor space and was previously owned by the National Museums of Scotland, who sold the building for £600,000 during 2003. The plaque over the door reflects its subsequent use as a Seventh-day Adventist Church, who had purchased the building in 1942 and used it until 2000.
- Social organisation
The Forest organisation itself started in August 2000 with a venue in West Port, off the Grassmarket in Edinburgh's Old Town. Relocation to the Bristo Place premises started in September 2003 and the Forest Café opened there in October 2003. After leaving in August 2011, the Forest Café reopened again in Tollcross in August 2012.
In 2004, the Forest Café became one of only four internet cafés in the United Kingdom to have won a highly recommended citation in the Yahoo! Mail Internet Café Awards. The café serves vegetarian cuisine, locally produced organic food, vegan food and Fairtrade drinks. Free Wi-Fi and public computer terminals are provided.
The upper floors of the Bristo Place building are the former church, the centre piece of which is an Gray & Davison-built pipe organ. This is powered by compressed air and has 16-foot (4.9 m) high pipes. It was originally installed at the Chapel Royal, Dublin Castle in the late 19th century and transferred to its present location in 1900. The organ fell into disrepair until mid-June 2007 when the Debian annual conference—DebConf7—was held in Edinburgh. During the week-long event, sufficient repairs were made by Tore Sinding Bekkedal and others to enable the organ to function again at which point it was played by Keith Packard.
In 2008–2009, Project Waldflöte (English: "Forest Flute") was initiated, a musical experiment to control sections of the mechanical musical keyboard via an electronic MIDI interface from a computer. Waldflöte is the designation of one of the organ stops available and was chosen because of the connection of the word "forest". The argumentation of the keyboards was undertaken by Dorkbot Alba without any long-term modification of the original organ.
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