Æ News – Forest Cafe building sale imminent

Feb 22 2011 | By More

Estate agents, Graham & Sibbald say sale is due to be completed over the next month – but building secure until August

By Thom Dibdin

The sale of the building currently occupied by the Forest Cafe in Bristo Place is due to go ahead in March, according to the building’s estate agents, although they have not revealed who the purchaser might be, leaving the centre’s future in the balance once again.

The news, announced by the Forest Cafe on Tuesday, increases the urgency of the relaunch of the Safe the Forest Campaign, which is due to take place on Saturday 5 March, 4.30pm-6.30pm at the Forest Cafe, 3 Bristo Place.

The building was put up for sale last October following the bankruptcy of its former owners, the Edinburgh University Settlement, and the Forest Cafe have been raising money to buy the building themselves, ever since. The cafe revealed last week in a blog on the Guardian Edinburgh Local website that they had taken legal advice on their lease which confirmed that it would be secure until August.

Fundraising co-ordinator Harry Giles reported that: “we know that we’re safe in this building until the end of August. We’ve had legal advice on our lease, and we know that it’s secure until then, whether or not someone buys the building before then.”

He continued in a positive vein: “A number of different things could happen after that point: we could negotiate a new lease with the administrators of EUS’s bankruptcy, someone could have bought the building and either offer us tenancy or give us notice (which would give us a few months at least), or we might have raised enough to buy it ourselves. A lot depends on how well this campaign goes over the next few months, and that depends on you.”

The Forest was established in August 2000 as a free and independent arts, events and education venue. As well as its café and events spaces, it currently operates a publishing house, a record label and an arts gallery, as well as studios and workshops for artists, and it houses a hair and massage salon, a library, and a shop for local artists. It is best known around the world for being the home of the Forest Fringe, seen by many commentators as the true Fringe of the Fringe.

According to a press release put out by the Forest Cafe the building’s estate agents, Graham & Sibbald, have informed the Forest that a buyer for the building has been found and that the sale is due to be completed over the next month.

“The buyers haven’t been in touch with us themselves, so we don’t know who they are or what their intentions for the Forest are – but if they’re expecting us to pack up and leave quietly, they’re mistaken,” said Sean Hammond, a long-time Forest volunteer. “Potential buyers should remember that last time we had a big scare, when Eidyn Architects wanted to turn the building into private flats, objection letters from around the world forced them to withdraw.

“There’s been a huge outpouring of public support for the campaign, including widespread media coverage, letters from MPs, and regular fundraising events run for us by local arts organisations. We’ve raised a massive £14,000 in just three months, and we know that there’s a strong will in the local community for us to continue doing our work in this beautiful building.”

The Forest is calling on its supporters and community to rally behind the campaign and make it clear to the anonymous buyers that they want to stay in their current home. Supporters can sign an e-petition in support of the campaign at http://www.gopetition.com/petition/43255.html, and are able to donate to the charity through their website at http://www.theforest.org.uk.

“We’re confident that we can win this,” said Shannon Stephens, one of Forest’s trustees. “The Forest means a great deal to many people in Edinburgh and worldwide. Literally thousands of volunteers have contributed to Forest in hundreds of different ways; many successful, musicians, performers and artists had their start here; and our work has a vital and unique place in the Edinburgh community that needs to be protected.”


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