(I have had to type these minutes mostly from memory as I lost the file. I used the 'Guest account' on Emma's laptop, not realising that there is a default setting which deletes all files when you log out! So please forgive me if I have not represented what everyone said as well as I could have It would also be great if everyone could post up their Action Points as I can't remember them!)
Minutes of the Volunteer Meeting on Sunday 26th July 2009
Present: Matias, Milk, Yas, Stephen P, Ryan, Judith, Osama, Jeanne, Bree, Radek, Stephen M, Milk, Tove, Hannah, Julie, Rachel, Lynne
Intro: Group Agreement
- Active participation
- Mobiles off/silent
- Allow people space to speak
- Hand signals
Agenda Check - Run Through and add points (including Bike Rack)
- Circle game
- How are you currently involved in the Forest?
Aims of Volunteer Meeting
- What does the Forest mean to you?
- What would you like to see happen more / less at the Forest?
- What would you like to get out of Vollie meetings?
- Working Groups
- Alcohol licence
- Festival - Hype / Importance
End of Meeting
- Bike Rack
- Shout outs
- Next meeting
Intro: Group Agreement
Yas went over the terms of the meeting and everyone agreed to them. She then explained how the meeting would work and what the bike rack was for, i.e., putting issues we don't have time to discuss on the bike rack 'til the next meeting.
Yas then asked the group if there was anything else they wanted to add or change in the Agenda. Ryan suggested adding the Festival.
We all took part in the circle game to find out everyone's names, then broke off into three smaller groups to discuss the Aims of the Volunteer Meeting.
Each group had a brainstorming session based on the following three questions. Here is their answers:
What does the Forest mean to you?
- A lifestyle!
- Lots laugh - international people
- A platform for people to come and learn, and put on workshops etc.
- Arts community - social group
- Cultural exchange
- Cafe and space
- Support network - interesting
- Dirty toilets
- Music and arts - volunteer and serving
- surprising nature and dynamic
- Free Space - What does this mean?
- Alternative to mainstream society
- Evolving - cheap and original food
- Relax atmosphere and no authority
- Mutual responsibility
- A living example of how alternative ways of organising can work
- Many meetings, little progress, some mistakes repeated
- Not having enough money
- The ability to do whatever you want that isn't harmful
What would you like to see happen more / less at the Forest?
- Better lighting, specifically kitchen
- Fix up workroom / darkroom
- Fix up crafty room
- Less of superior attitude
- Fewer strange folk
- More food on menu
- Better ventilation / fans
- More art happenings!
- Tidy up garden
- Access to garden
- More and better equipped artist's facilities
- Quieter music - vs - let people play loud (supply earplugs?)
- More doing things (less judging)
- Social centre!
- More respect for space / equipment
- More hours for Old Hat Books
- Continuity of vision
- Less people taking advantage of the space
- More availability of information (more open)
- More structured aims to working groups (so things get done)
- Using the cafe space less as a cafe and more as an adventurous art space
- More cool events (fewer bad ones?) - But, if it's free to perform and the Forest offers them a place to learn to play - this is the purpose of the Forest
- More involvement together
- Being open to new people and ideas
- More variety of food
- Fruit smoothies?
What would you like to get out of Vollie meetings?
- More focus on this is Our space - everyone to be part of activity in cafe
- Direction / aim of Forest for the next month
- See the result of these aims (hopefully!)
- Brief summary of working group meetings
- Accessible and welcoming for new vollies
- Stronger sense of Forest community - growing together (we're not just a cafe)
- Addressing people's concerns and questions - FFAUQ
- Finding out everyone's different roles and responsibilities
- Action!?! Space for 'Big Discussions' (like we did for becoming non-smoking)
- Better distribution of information - clearer!!!
- Blind man's bluff. BIG LISTENING
- Problems addressed frankly and respectfully
- For volunteers to be able to bring big, random proposals
- An avenue to welcome volunteers nicely
- Give people spaces for their vollies to be heard
- Website - please add pictures, more up-dates
- Use website, agenda in cafe and other means to carry out the conversations - meetings are short and to the point
The group then re-formed and had a look at what we had all written, then we moved on to Other Stuff:
The Forest runs according to a working group structure. There are five main working groups. People explained a bit about what each working group is responsible for:
Matias began by talking a bit about what the Cafe & Events Working Group does, i.e.,volunteering, events and promotions, film night, kitchen - health & safety, building and maintenance, sound engineering etc.
Stephen P spoke a bit about what the Artist's Facilities Working Group does, i.e., Screen printing workshops, darkroom & photography, publishing & library, computers, equipment etc.
Yas described the Action Working Group which deals with all aspects of community action, bikes, crafty room, environment & garden, workshops etc.
Milk explained what the Behind the Scenes Working Group does, i.e., all aspects of business and charity admin, projects and grants, shop, website etc.
Lastly there is the Visual Arts Working Group which deals with the Total Kunst Gallery, all aspects of visual art and front of house issues.
All of this information can be found in the Forest Volunteer Guide 2009 - 'Don't Panic'. It can also be found on our website and on the big poster in the red room (first room as you enter the Cafe).
In order to give the group a clear idea of why the Forest is applying for an alcohol licence, Ryan began by explaining our relationship with our landlords, Edinburgh University Settlement (E.U.S).
The Forest started off in really small premises in West Port in August 2000. In 2004 (approx.) we became involved with E.U.S. and they housed us in our current premises on Bristo Place. To begin with we occupied a smaller part of the building than we do now. However, over the years the Forest has spread out over the whole building using all the spaces for our artist's facilities.
E.U.S are very supportive of the Forest and count us as one of their most successful projects. For the last five years or so E.U.S have subsidised the Forest by charging us a minimal rent for the building, meaning that the Forest costs them a very large amount of money per year. As a result, E.U.S. have had to look into other options, one of them being selling the building to someone else.
At the same time E.U.S offered us the space that the Bowery bar now has. However, the Forest Working Group members decided it would be a shame if we had to lose a lot of our spaces, like the gallery and other artists facilities, as this would change the face of the Forest too much. (The Forest Working Group decide all the other stuff that falls outside the remit of the regular working groups, i.e., the bigger issues and responsibilities involved in running the Forest).
One way to stabilise our position in Bristo Place is to apply for an alcohol licence. We would then be able to pay E.U.S. a decent rent as well as making the building more valuable. It would also mean that we would have more money to put into upgrading and maintaining the building and our artist's facilities - thus retaining what the Forest is all about (our charitable objectives).
We began the process of applying for the liquor licence around ten months ago. We have appeared at the Licensing court three times now, tomorrow being our fourth appearance. Ryan explained how if we got refused on the issue of overprovision, this would mean that the people who want to buy our building would be more reluctant to do so.
(Overprovision = overprovsion of licensed premises in the Cowgate/Grassmarket area).
However, there is a possibility that we might eventually get the licence. Ryan explained how this would change the way we operate. Volunteers also asked how having the licence might affect them.
Osama asked if we would be getting a licence for our first floor function hall. Ryan confirmed that we are applying to licence the whole building, both upstairs and downstairs.
Radek asked whether the volunteers would receive training. Lynne confirmed that volunteers will receive training in all aspects of selling alcohol and licensing law.
Stephen M asked what the obstacles were that we had to get over in order to get the licence. Ryan and Lynne explained the issues around the building and what building works we will have to carry out to comply with the Council and Police.
(We have been to the Licensing Court today and our application has been deferred again until the end of September.)
Festival - Hype / Importance
Ryan (being one of the oldest serving members of the Forest at the vollie meeting) described what it will be like during the Edinburgh Festival. He explained how the Forest was built upon the Festival as we started in August 2000. He also told the group how the Forest is a unique Festival venue in that we are totally autonomous - we aren't sponsored by anyone and we provide an alternative to everything else that is happening.
Ryan told the volunteers how the Festival will be truly amazing - you will have the best time of your life, but also the worst; you can be filled with joy, then despair - all in the same night! In other words it will be intense, but it will be worth it! Edinburgh's population rises from 500,000 to 1,000,000 odd people overnight. A lot of people really love the Forest and some get the whole volunteer ethic and help us out.
The Festival is also very important for the Forest - it the one time during the year where we make all the money to sustain ourselves for the rest of the year.
Ryan and a few other people asked the group if they could sign up for as many shifts as possible. If people don't have enough time to do a whole shift, even coming in to wash the dishes can be a massive help.
On the subject of dishes, Osama asked if we have enough. Yas said that it would be a great help if everyone could donate what they could. We need lots of everything - dishes, plates, mugs, tea pots (especially!), cutlery - you name it!
Milk explained the system he is in the process of setting up called 'Forest Frequently Asked and Unasked Questions'.
He is beginning to compile a list of all the questions people want to know about how the Forest works.
(Milk, I can't remember the details of what you said, so please insert them for me. Thank you! Lynne x)
End of Meeting
FFAUQ - How can we make the Forest more like how we want it (problem solving & community building). To be addressed at the next meeting.
Judith gave a shout out for people to work at Old Hat Books. Unfortunately everyone who runs Old Hat Books - apart from Judith - is away on holiday, so she needs other people to help her staff the library.
If anyone is interested, could they please get in touch with Judith.
The shifts are four hours long (I think?!) and they mostly involve just being present.
The next volunteer meeting will be on Sunday ..... September 2009 - Please help me out on this guys!!!
(Again, I'm sorry if I've misrepresented anyone / thing. Lynne x)