Pop up venue Checkpoint Charlie revives the spirit of the Forest Cafe

  • The List
  • 7 August 2012

This article is from 2012.

Pop up venue Checkpoint Charlie revives the spirit of the Forest Cafe

The vacant space on Bristo place is to host gigs, cabaret performances and more

Many miss the unpretentious vibes of the Forest Café, Edinburgh’s foremost independent arts and social hangout. Unfortunately the charity that owned the building (Edinburgh University Settlement) went bust in 2010 leading to its eventual closure and a gaping hole in Edinburgh’s cultural landscape. Now restaurateur Malcolm Innes is taking over, hoping to resurrect the venue with the Bristo Place premises opening its doors as pop up venue Checkpoint Charlie for the duration of the Festival.

Housed in an old Methodist Church the building is full of character. ‘Rather than sanitising and gentrifying this traditional edifice, they have elected to preserve and maintain its majestic decay,’ explains promoter Innes Reekie.

Checkpoint Charlie, until 27 Aug, 7pm-5am, free.

Check Point Charlie

Dynamic, eclectic kick-ass showcase of some of the best local and national musicians. The train runs from delta blues to hip-hop with stops at Indie Parkway, Absurdist Junction and Trip-Hop Temple Meads. Get involved.


1. Jerry Cream8 Aug 2012, 9:58am Report

When Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream was bought by Unilever in 2000 the British-Dutch Multinational with profits in the billions said, amongst much criticism, that they hoped to carry on the traditions of the founders while, of course, making piles of sweet, sugary money. The Unilever name does not appear on any package of Cherry Garcia.

It seems from this article that two wealthy entrepreneurs, Innes and his partner William Burdett-Coutts of Assembly Venues, have managed a similar manoeuvre. Clearly, these new owners of Bristo Place are keen to capitalize on the community that The Forest's collective of volunteers built up over the past decade and have found that confusion is not just good for sex. (For WBC it has been good business to conflate the identity of the charity Assembly Rooms and his Assembly Venues).

For Unilever to co-opt the values and image of Ben and Jerry's they had to buy the brand and pay off those who built it. The new owners of Bristo place, as with Assembly venues, merely had to invest in a building and coast on an established reputation. The owners of Bristo place claim a "resurrection" thereby portraying themselves as saviours rather than cultural vultures. This is not just un-original but a disingenuous scavenging of the work thousands of volunteers and artists put in building a community space free of hierchy and personal profit in which anybody could participate. While the building at Bristo place could be bought, the name and spirit of The Forest has never been for sale. The left over detritus and 'majestic decay' is only an image the new owners want people to associate with bohemian veracity and the building's former occupiers without actually offering anything to the many who gave it originality and spark. Even the picture of this article is a stock photo of volunteers working in The Forest though one might assume it is an image of Checkpoint Charlie.

I have no doubt that, to punters, this venue will taste and feel the same as The Forest because that is how the owners have decided to market it. Likewise, Unilever makes an ice-cream that still tastes pretty great and continue to sell the Ben and Jerry's brand as an eco-conscious, right-on, groovy choice for us to easily signify our political commitments and self-identity. However, they also market Axe / Lynx with reductive and simplistic notions of sexuality and a degree of sexism which underscores the cynical methods lurking beneath this kind of insidious green-washing.

I'm disappointed to see The List, once again, proving itself to be Edinburgh's journal of record when it comes to polishing up press-releases and continue to hope that there will be space in Edinburgh for those still interested in the genuine. Though, these days, it is easy to get confused.

2. Ben Dover8 Aug 2012, 11:02am Report

Well said, Jerry.

Judging by the lack of furniture, the photo could be of The People's Cafe - the last lot to attempt to revive the spirit of The Forest.

Meanwhile, in other news, The Forest Cafe revives the spirit of The Forest Cafe.

3. H Giles8 Aug 2012, 5:33pm Report

Can you fix the other factual innacuracy in this article, please, and issue a correction in a future prrint edition? The Forest did not go bust in 2010: the charity which owned the building -- that is to say, The Forest's landlords -- went bust, which of course had nothing to do with the financial stability of The Forest itself. The Forest, a registered charity, is alive and well, has been running events for the past year, and is opening a new space next week. All of these facts could have been easily checked by reading www.theforest.org.uk. For you to publish misleading information, and to keep it on your website, is detrimental to The Forest's reputation, so I'd ask you again to fix the error online and to publish a correction in print.

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