Last stand for sit-in as eviction looms at arts centre

The protesters aimed to reopen the Forest Cafe to the public
The protesters aimed to reopen the Forest Cafe to the public
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SQUATTERS who moved into a former arts centre more than three weeks ago in a bid to reclaim the space for the community were today set to be evicted from the site.

More than 100 people began the sit-in at the former home of Forest Cafe in Bristo Place, which the group renamed the People’s Cafe, on November 30.

They moved into the building, which they said was unlocked, and vowed to stay for “as long as it takes”.

The three-storey building had been empty for around three months after the Forest Cafe was forced to leave when Edinburgh University Settlement, which owned the building, went bankrupt.

The former church is now in the hands of administrator PricewaterhouseCoopers, and is up for sale.

One member of the People’s Cafe was reported to have said they were happy to have lasted so long.

They said: “To get this building for three weeks is really good because it’s illegal according to the squatting law in Scotland. It’s disappointing we have to move out, but it’s a success we’ve lasted this time.”

Protester Kim Grant, who is also involved in Edinburgh’s St Andrew Square occupation, was quoted as saying: “I’ve seen the process of how quickly we turned this space around – we changed the dynamics of the space. We’ve had a very positive response.”

PricewaterhouseCoopers was contacted for comment about today’s planned eviction, but failed to respond.

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police declined to comment on the evictions.

Police chiefs said previously that no criminality had been reported at the site, while officers would continue to monitor the situation.

Banners displayed in the cafe’s windows had slogans reading “The People’s Cafe” and “The Enemy is Profit”.

Another notice stated: “We want to reclaim this empty, privately owned space as an open place for the community.”

The squatters hoped to open the building to the public, and planned to hold meetings to discuss how the building could be used for the benefit of the community.

They wanted to organise a programme of events, which could include cooking workshops and arts or music projects.

A campaign to save the Forest Cafe got under way earlier this year, with organisers of the cafe pointing out that if they could raise £100,000 they could secure a mortgage to buy the property for themselves.