Sunday, 28 August 2011

And so it was...

Well here we go. On July 28th I set myself the challenge of writing in my blog every day for the next month. It is now August 28th and, excepting a couple of slip-ups, by and large I met the challenge. It's nice to mostly keep a promise you made yourself. Even a small promise. It makes you wonder what else you can do.

Yesterday was the last day of our artistic programme for Edinburgh 2011. Today at 4pm there was a townhall-style meeting to help plan for Forest's future. Some really constructive ideas were thrown around - including an idea of mine that Harry Giles came up with a catchy name for - Forest Champions. Based off of the marathon model, a group of 50 people or more agree to do their best to raise £1000 for Forest by writing to 100 of their friends and families, explaining what Forest Café is, how unique it is and how important and unlikely it is in the Edinburgh arts ecology, and then asking them to give £10 each. If 50 people can harness this generosity and care from the people who love them most, care could buy the building.

Yesterday I had some bad news which I hadn't heard about yet because of the all consuming nature of working in Edinburgh during the festival. Jack Layton, Canada's major hope for a political leader on the left, died of cancer. I don't think of politicians as being able to die of a disease and this loss in particular shook me to my core. It may have been exhaustion, it may have been the wine, but when someone told me about it at Forest's closing party last night and I stared at them in disbelief, I started to cry.

Perhaps I know that we're stood at the centre of a shift or a struggle because suddenly simplistic binaries - "good guys" and "bad guys" seems like a real thing. Those who fight on the side of freedom of expression, kindness, generosity and equality, versus those who prioritise greed, money, fear, and exclusivity. Relatively recently I would have scoffed at how reductionist this thinking is, but now there's just no other way of discussing it. There are those who are caring and there are those who are selfish, and we all have the capacity to be both and are constantly being asked to choose between the two. It's a tremendous pressure. But to my mind Jack Layton was one of the good guys. Forest Café are the good guys. The building is huge and beautiful and overpriced and unsellable. It is in the centre of the city. Price Waterhouse Cooper have decided it should be empty for the unforeseeable future rather than occupied by a rent-paying community arts space. Those who see this emptiness as a fact of life rather than a perversion of a deeply flawed and unsustainable system are stuck in so deep with the bad guys that they can't see the Forest for the timber.

It's been a long and transformative month. I've had barely any time off and felt privileged when I've managed to sleep over 6 hours. I've worked in the knowledge that I personally won't be coming back to Bristo Hall next year, regardless of what happens, because of commitments I've made in Canada for next summer. I've given myself over to every moment in this knowledge and it's never occurred to me that this should lessen my desire to fight. Forest Fringe and Forest Café have shown me the beauty of collective ownership - of being part of something, and of it belonging to you entirely, but not exclusively. The hard work starts now. And I'm up for it. Because it's not just a building any more. It's a principle. It's one of those rare moments when you know the good guys from the bad guys. This is when you fight until you can't. And this is where we find our metal.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love it - you've done brilliant work there Deborah :D