Horrible news! Dan Gorman, Stevie Patterson and myself are back in action as The Naughty Boys, the famous and very serious music and poetry trio, coming to the basement of the Forest Café this Friday night, 16 August, kicking off at the very naughty time of 11pm.
The Naughty Boys are: *DanGormanon keys and computer loop. * Stevie Patersonon keys and percussion noises. * Ryan Van Winkle — Spoken Words.
There are many reasons why Mark Vitelli and I came to Edinburgh in September 1999. There are two reasons I came back in 2000 — one was a job, the other knows her own name. But there is only one reason why I still live here today. That reason is, quite simply, The Forest. For those of you who don’t know — The Forest is a volunteer-run, collectively owned, free arts and events space masquerading as a vegetarian cafe which was founded in August 2000 and (as if you can’t do your sums) just celebrated its tenth birthday.
The Forest is many things to many people. An art gallery, a space to share skills and have free workshops, a resource, a place to eat good food, a rehearsal space and more. There has been a pretty comprehensive listing of what The Forest does on The Forest’s website and on the Guardian Blog and if you are interested you can download the press pack but I want to talk about why somebody who doesn’t know or care about The Forest might want to consider donating to help the cause. Here’s a short video to bring you up to speed:
For a decade The Forest has run a vegetarian kitchen. You could call this a business-model: Volunteers work for free in the kitchen, money made from the kitchen goes into supporting The Arts and keeping the place open. This means — paying rent, buying equipment, paint and more. The Forest also supports an independent press, a fringe-theatre, a record label, a community choir, free workshops, a radical library and much much more almost solely through volunteer power alone. We are not sponsored by the government, city council or the arts council and we don’t exist for profit. Mostly, the Forest exists in order to exist.
Now, if you’ve been reading the news you might think — “Well, these young idealists got scuppered by a bad economy and brutal arts cutbacks.” This is not the case. We’ve been running a successful alternative business for years. The problem is — our building is up for sale. This means either a costly, time-consuming and difficult relocation, closure OR — we BUY the building.
Why Buy a Building?
Well, it won’t be easy. But — it can be done. We only need 5,000 donations of £100 and if we don’t know 5,000 people willing to help out — I don’t know who does?
My feeling for why a city centre building is important for the Arts community is a semi-story: I was in Paris at Shakespeare and Co. talking to a guy who was living in the bookshop. Now, Shakespeare and Co are right across from the Notre Dame – an incredibly historic, tourist centre, a place where rent is astronomical. I remember standing there and this guy saying, “I love this place because – surrounded by all this – it is an Anomaly.” And I thought – yeah, it is.
And, the beautiful thing about Forest (to me) is the fact that it too is an anomaly. In an increasingly commercial, logo, corporate, bland, safe, disney-fied world The Forest is an anomaly and a beacon. A flag-ship social enterprise. A place that exists outside of commercial pressures which allows artists and organizers of all types to co-exist, perform, and produce without fear of failing, without fear of economic ruin. This is why young bands from all over the world play The Forest. This is why the Forest Fringe is one of the most unique parts of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The Forest allows people to try. Sometimes this happens on stage with a GameBoy (like the chip music festival) and sometimes this happens with hammers and saws as people work together to build kitchens and toilets and hang curtains and paint etc.
From the looks of the world being built around us – there is no earthly reason why Forest should be in a beautiful building in the heart of Edinburgh, doing what it is we do. Providing a space, doing nearly anything folk want and doing it outside the regular way of things. It is even more important now, because, if nothing else we show what giant things can be done when people get together.
Even if you have never been to The Forest — you have to understand the profound and lasting effects this one place has. It is a beacon to other community and artistic-minded people. The Forest has spawned no less than four similar projects (that I know of) — one as far away as South Korea. People who have been involved in The Forest go on to do great and good things — bands like Aberfeldy and Withered Hand and White Heath and St. Jude’s Infirmary and Foxgang and Billy Liar all have had early gigs there. Jed Milroy and Hailey Beavis play together because they met through The Forest. People who help organize events and workshops and festivals at The Forest go on to do similar things in their hometowns, or Berlin or London or elsewhere. Sometimes they make careers out of it. Sometimes they do it for free. Young people with no work experience or people who have not been able to find work in a long time — get skills and confidence and companionship working in the kitchen. In short — ideas are made. Connections. Community. And these things don’t just stay in our building or even our city. They fly to New York and Damascus. They go to Bosnia and Washington D.C. Sometimes they even make it over to Glasgow. Forest mingles and works with other festivals, organizations, and institutions and the people who do things in The Forest spread out and create networks and continue to share and exchange art and information. Ideas and art spread and there is a good chance if you are reading this — then The Forest has touched you too. Maybe not in our building — maybe in a field during Knockengorroch, maybe at a Golden Hour gig at the Edinburgh International Book Festival, maybe through your TenTracks subscription, your visits to The Bowery, Balkanarama, The Roxy or Octopus Diamond? Maybe through Reel Festivals maybe through one of the many ‘zines the Forest Free Press has fostered, maybe via the many touring fingers of Robert Sarazin Blake? I certainly would not be doing what I am doing at the Scottish Poetry Library without it. I would not have had the confidence — I would not have tried and failed and learned and tried again. If you like me, you like The Forest and as friends, I hope you’ll consider lending your financial support.
I recently was watching this video about “Where Good Ideas Come From”. Good ideas need people and places. Places where artists and organizers and interested people and uninterested people can meet and share and play together. I don’t know about you but I want places like this to exist forever. I don’t want people to turn this building into flats or a Costa Coffee or a Sports Pub. There are millions of those. But there are very few genuine alternatives — The Forest is one of them. If The Forest can, through community donations from good-minded spirited people, keep a building then we can be a beacon to others. We can, together, say This is What We Can Do. We can change the world in small ways but those small ways have a lasting affect on people’s lives, their happiness and that is good for everyone.
Hailey Beavis – when Hailey sings, something inside you listens. Billy Liar – acoustic punk with a little blood on it. Withered Hand – the wit-full, wistfull, sweet son-of-a-bitch. Who has a brand new album of his own y’all should buy.
Well, T.S. Eliot might beg to differ but, to me, “August is the cruellest month.” At least if you live in Edinburgh and haven’t fled to find peace in the Highlands or Greek islands or anywhere but here. For those of you, like me, who are still kicking around and are willing to risk getting the evil Fringe Fever here are some good free poetic and literary happenings to keep you busy. I’m involved in most these things in some way so do come along, say hello, and tell me what shows not to see. Also — below are details on new books from Forest Publications and Read This Press + Calls for Submissions.
* Thursday 30 July — 6.30pm, Free —- Edinburgh Central Library —- James Kelman reading from and talking about his book Kieron Smith, boy which has bagged a swathe of prizes.
FREE but ticketed and booking is essential. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07784 31 9868 to secure a place. For more details see: www.bridgereadings.net
* Friday 7th August — 6pm, Free — Edinburgh Central Library —-Words and Music from Cool America with Don Paterson:American poetry chosen by poet Don Paterson and read by distinguished film actor Angus MacInnes backed by a full-on jazz band! Followed by the brilliant St. Jude’s Infirmary with their dark dreamy swirl of literate melodic beauty. And, I’m honoured to be reading a poem with the band so you must come. Also, free booze. Basically — Not to be missed!
Friday 14 August — 2pm, Free — Edinburgh Books — Jim Haynes: A Roving Life — Jim Haynes is a living legend. Flâneur, writer, publisher, former bookshop owner and host to thousands over the years he’s spent welcoming strangers to his Parisian atelier for Sunday dinner, his is a life more spectacular than most. We can’t wait to hear his tales, in conversation with Ryan Van Winkle.
Wednesday 26 August, 12 – 3pm, Free — St. Andrew’s Square: Poetry in St Andrew Square
A very special poetry event: Our Poetic Orators will wander the gardens offering up poems to picnickers and passers by. In the old oral tradition — our performers will entertain and inspire. Come to listen, come to enjoy. www.spl.org.uk
New Books From Forest Publications and Read This + Call for Submissions:
Three New Chapbooks from Forest Publications: Wow! Now available are chapbooks from Fiona Morrison, Dave Coates and Russell Jones. Only two pounds and available at The Forest Shop. Very limited print-runs so snap up your copies now and come in to browse our other books from Edinburgh writers such as David Gow, Jane Flett, Ericka Duffy and Sandra Alland. Collect them all!http://ryanvanwinkle.com/two-new-chapbooks-from-forest-publications/
Sharks Don’t Sleep is the title of the brand new chapbook from New Jersey-based spoken word poet Eric Hamilton, and it’s published by Read This Press. Described as “a book that crackles with life,” and “a grimy, romantic and fucking funny look at the world,” Sharks Don’t Sleep is a beautiful 32-page chapbook, hand-made with high quality cardstock covers and embellished with a black ribbon bookmark and original artwork. Find out more here: http://www.readthispress.com
All performances will have a Lost World Theme that will tie together One City / One Book campaign!
“You can’t escape the dinosaurs. You can only hope to contain them! (on a remote island; preferably with Samuel L. Jackson).”
Date + Time: Wed. February 18th, 8pm Cost: FREE Booze: BYOB, but pay your corkage
Readings: David Gow – Prose that makes you lean in and listen, keeping you close to the edge beyond your seat. Launching a new Chapbook from Forest Publications.
Kona Macphee – Bloodaxe poet who won the acclaimed Eric Gregory prize and who’s work is sometimes described as “bleak, but never bitter.”
Tails, by Kona Macphee
Music: Jed Milroy – Legendary local singer songwriter finally back from the Woods.
Jed Milroy at The Golden Hour, Cambridge
Robert Sarazin Blake – A folkie able to subdue the punk-est crowds armed with only a guitar and a mean set of pipes with insightful, raise-a-glass lyrics. On tour from the USA!
Special Performance: Paper Cinema and Kora – A real treat! A cast of hand-drawn marionettes are magically brought to life with a special “Lost World” theme.