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At The People's Cafe in Edinburgh, the fight continues to liberate the collective space previously known as The Forest Cafe on Bristo Place. The Forest Cafe was a volunteer run space – but had a paid management. The new regime is a genuine collective. The occupation that began two weeks ago has successfully kept the doors open without any major complaints from surrounding businesses or passing policemen. The premises is still connected with water and electricity, having closed only three months ago. Occupiers are wasting no time in connecting shower facilities, sorting out the leccy and fitting fire alarms with the help and advice of the Fire Brigade. A free shop allows Christmas consumers to wander in and help themselves.

However, amidst these seasonal good tidings, a petition has been lodged by the owners PricewaterhouseCooper (PWC) to remove the illegal dwellers before Christmas is out. One member of the occupation is to represent The People´s Cafe at His proposals are to invest in the space as a community project as opposed to previous offers of turning the listed building into ´flats with added business space´. Profit previously obscured any possible vision of a collective organization at the cafe as allegations of bankruptcy and corruption are doing the rounds among the disheartened artists and musicians that once loyally frequented the venue.

The old Forest Cafe management don’t want anything to do with the occupation and are still currently looking for a new premises in which they can continue their 'collective' arts project.

So will the courts listen to the occupation´s proposal for a facility that embraces ´the people's interest´? The cafe´s legal representative told SchNEWS: “we are interested in a centre for community projects – not workshops and not for entertainment.” The emphasis was on providing a space for the less privileged communities on the outskirts of Edinburgh and bringing these communities along with the inner cities, together.

There has been some support within Edinburgh´s judicial system for an autonomous space were popular culture and a community spirit can thrive, but against a capitalist model that operates on segregation and individualism, a collective unit is far from welcome. PWC are ready to wash their hands of the administration, remarking ”The Forest is more trouble than it´s worth”. With these kind words from Bruce Cartwright, The People's Cafe go into battle with a legal system that all too often supports the bistro, the banker and the building contractor before the collective.


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Twitter: @SchNEWS