At Home

my tent

August 2004

The Tl;dr version of this post is this link. But please do just read it.

Edinburgh is a fucking beautiful place. Despite my inner-midlander that wept at the sight of every incline, I felt remarkably at home there.

Feeling at home is something it’s been hard to cultivate since turning 18, really. I’ve lived in 14 different houses in the 8 years since I made my first home away from home. In a tent. In the Ardeche region of France. It became home when I tied several old crates together on their side and built a makeshift bookcase. That and the Marmite my mum sent in shoebox-wrapped packages.

My books used to mean home for me, but my relationship to my books has changed since they became part of my living (PhD), and now the familiar wallpaper of my desktop feels like home. The small idiosyncrasies I’ve set up as short cuts, the things I keep on each ‘space’, right hand top for emails, bottom right for calendar, top left for internet, bottom left the exotic realms of ‘miscellaneous’.

Home is always when me, my brother and our mum find ourselves together. Home is Christmas-time jokes about stockings that still appear (but this time before we get up, not after we go to bed, which tends to be via the local pub these xmas eves). Home is the slightly stilted conversation of more extended family trying not to bring up global warming or gender equality in our company.

Home has also been mashed potato and toad-in-the-hole. The smell of Jean Paul-Gautier on someone’s neck. Smokey hair. The very slightly different texture of a tattoo shaped like a star.

Home is Big Skies. Lincolnshire sausages. And horizons that go on forever.

Edinburgh is a fucking beautiful place. I felt remarkably at home there. Despite the hills.

And that, of course, has a lot to do with the people. The wonderful amazing constantly confounding people that make up my small corner of the theatre industry. But it also has a lot to do with a place. A single place that while I was there was like an oasis. The Forest Cafe.

The Forest Cafe is a “volunteer-run, collectively-owned, free arts and events space masquerading as a vegetarian café.” And MAN do they do good burritos. They host the Forest Fringe, which was the home of all but 3 of my most favourite shows that I saw this year. They also hosted Edgelands. And besides that hold poetry nights, screen films, have amazing space-art painted on the walls, have a hairdressers who serve vodka, free wifi, a darkroom, screenprinting, music gigs, hip hop and djs and dance and massage and knitting and language lessons and basically if you go up to them with a cool idea and they have the space they will let you have it. For free. Most of the people who work there do so for free (and burritos). The proceeds from the cafe go right back into running the building. And the second I got there people who announced that they knew me from the internet took my soggy bag from me and bought me a drink and showed me where I could eat for under a fiver a day as friends passed by and stopped to say ‘hi’, and every step I took as I left that night led me to another familiar smile, and a bracing hug.

I had never been to Edinburgh in my life before last week. It felt like home.

The Forest is home for hundreds of people who would not have one otherwise. Hundreds of artists and misfits and alternatives and locals and people just starting out with ideas that change people’s lives.

The Forest is under threat.

They were able to exist on a low rent arrangement with Edinburgh University Settlement who owned the building. Then EUS went into administration, and PricewaterhouseCoopers became administrators. PwC intended to sell the venue that the Forest inhabits, and found a buyer. As far as the Forest knew they would all have to vacate the premises by the end of this month. But then the buyer fell through. And the Forest offered to pay the rent on the building in the meantime. Only to be told that they were more trouble than they were worth.

PwC would rather have the building empty than full of the home that Forest have created.

This makes me fucking angry. Really fucking angry. There’s lots that makes me angry about the world and quite often it can feel like the ills it contains are insurmountable. But this time, there’s something I can do. But I need you, too. Because just as hundreds and thousands of hands made and keep the Forest home that it is, it needs just as many, plus a few more to save it. Forest intend to raise the money to buy the premises. That means finding £100,000

Here’s what you can do.

1) You can pledge money. If just half of my Twitter followers donated a tenner each THEY’D BE NEARLY QUARTER OF THE WAY THERE.

2) Sign this petition

3) come up with a way to help with your time, sell artworks and donate the money, come up with some amazing thing to be sponsored for, cajole rich loved ones.

4) tell @PwC what you think of their actions (politely)

5) tell all of the people. Spread the word.

And help preserve a small but important place: a home. A place made up of people and smells and chances and shelter from rainy skies and love and passion and the smell of food and the touch of people you recognise. Somewhere not built to turn a profit, but to nurture. Please, help.

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