Forest Volunteer Guide - Don't Panic!

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Forest Volunteer Guide

Last updated: 7 February 2010

Last used: ??? (it was made for bristo place)


The formatting here should be ignored. In the printed media medium, there will be a General Edition which contains everything, plus a Kitchen Edition for quick reference for kitchen vollies.

If ANYONE involved with The Forest has ANY thoughts on how the text could sound better, please just click the edit button above and dive in. Create an account if you want. BE BOLD. Assume the reader will be someone with very little knowledge of The Forest, but try and keep it clear and succinct. Add information for the areas of The Forest you are involved with. Copyedit. Add some character without losing the point. Please join in and help! -milk


Welcome to The Forest. Thanks for volunteering! Without you nothing would ever get done around here. This guide is separated into two main sections: basic information on the Forest entity and specific information regarding what volunteers need to know for their involvement in The Forest.

The Forest as an organisation

The Forest is a volunteer-run, self-funded, independent, not-for-profit arts and social space located in the centre of Edinburgh. It's organised by an open working group system using a consensus decision-making process. Various resources are available for use by volunteers, and all events including gigs, workshops and more, are free for anybody to attend. The organisation is funded by the vegetarian/vegan café.

The Forest collective began in August of 2000 and is now a registered charity (charity number SC038234). Also, we're working on a history of The Forest.

Our address is 3 Bristo Place, Edinburgh, EH1 1EY. Our telephone number is 0131 220 4538.

Objectives of The Forest

The association's charitable objectives are to advance access to art and cultural activities amongst the general public of Edinburgh and the wider community:

  • To enable greater access to all forms of the performing arts by providing an open arts venue and facilities in which all events will be open and free of charge to artists and audiences alike.
  • To provide opportunities to learn and develop skills by providing art and cultural workshop programmes. All programmes will be open and free of charge to members of the general public.
  • To increase access to art by providing a community art gallery and exhibitions of local and international artists. All exhibitions will be open and free of charge to members of the general public.
  • To facilitate the development of artists’ work and skills by providing facilities to practise, rehearse and advance their work.
  • To build co-operation and cultural understanding by working with other institutions and individuals, both locally and in the wider international community.

How everything in The Forest is run

The Forest runs according to a working group structure, a horizontal participatory system which makes it easy for you to get involved. There are seven general working groups, each with an open monthly meeting in the Action Room upstairs, plus the core Forest Working Group.

The bulletin board (BB) is the digital grapevine of The Forest where discussion of working group agenda points, meeting minutes and everything in-between and beyond occurs. It is highly recommended that you register and check the subforums you are interested in regularly. It can be accessed via the main menu on the website. The registration keyword is on the Info page of the main website.

We currently have six paid staff. Three Kitchen Managers, who organise the café throughout the day, two Forest Admin, who deal with issues such as the basic running of the building, money and related issues, and a building manager, who helps coordinate work around the space. We also pay out £5 to those who wish to clean our unisexy toilets!

How our Working Groups and facilities are organised

A working group is a team of people who share certain responsibilities in order to try to achieve the mission of that particular group. Working group meetings are advertised in the front room and on the website, and are open to everyone who'd like to be more involved and take on some level of responsibility in any aspect of running the forest.

All working group meetings try to operate with consensus decision-making. This means that decisions seek the agreement of all participants, and also the resolution or mitigation of minority objections. Basically, the meeting tries to come to an agreement that suits everyone - peoples' concerns are taken into account and synergised into the final decision.

Our working groups have annual budgets and are autonomous – they are able to take decisions that affect them directly.

One person should be nominated facilitator and one person a minute-taker. The facilitator's job is to make sure the discussion stays on topic, the flow of comments is orderly and everyone gets heard. A series of hand gestures are also used to improve efficiency. Hand gestures help the facilitator by showing what kind of comment you have to make. Ask someone to explain this to you at the start of the meeting. Don't be afraid to say "what the ----?!" if you get confused! Minute-takers record the discussion and decisions taken and post the text onto the BB afterwards.

Feel free to come to the next working group meeting for the area(s) that interests you. The meetings are open to all and we welcome those who wish to participate in The Forest community. Check out the BB for upcoming meeting agenda points and to make sure specific events are still on.

Volunteer Working Group

First Sunday every month, 5pm.

This group is a forum for all aspects of volunteering including general issues in The Forest and volunteer morale and retention. Organises occasional volunteer parties! Also redirects queries to the appropriate WG and/or coordinator.

Café and Events Working Group

First Thursday every month, 7pm.

Building, Events & Promo, Film, Kitchen/Health & Safety, Posters & Advertising

This group plans and promotes the Forest Café kitchen and events, plus deals with all front of house issues. Manning, fixing, building and maintaining the public Forest space by repairing equipment and other broken things.

Those wanting to work in the kitchen and/or get involved in events promotions are encouraged to attend. We also maintain the aesthetics of Forest front of house, from painting murals to the smallest details of ambiance such as tending flowers and mending sofa covers. All artists and crafters are welcome to attend and are free to help change The Forest on a regular, never-ending cycle.

Action Working Group

Second Sunday of the month, 7pm.

Community Action, Crafty Room, Action Room, Environment & Garden, Workshops

This group plans community actions, organises free workshops, plans dramatic performances, works to protect the environment, and tends to the garden. Those interested in "stirring the soup", sharing skills and getting things done are encouraged to attend.

Artist Facilities Working Group

First Wednesday of the month, 7pm.

The Cave (Music Studio), Darkroom & Photography, Forest Publishing, Forest Records, Library, Computers, Equipment, Technology & Broken Things, Screen Printing, managing the six artist studios (located on the Balcony), and co-ordinating the Sound Team

This group meets to welcome newcomers and to maintain and improve The Forest Rehearsal Studio (The Cave), photographic Darkroom, Screenprinting Room, the Tools Workshop and the Artists' Studios (in the Bristo Hall balconies). This group buys new materials and equipment and repairs damage. It also creates, edits and distributes all Forest Publications, and Forest Records and looks after the Swap Library.

Behind the Scenes Working Group

Third Thursday every month, 8pm.

Business & Admin, Projects, Shop, Website, Freeshop

This group keeps us in business, does the bulk of administrative tasks, plans projects, helps local artists sell things in our shop and maintains the madness of our website. People with great organisational skill who want to learn more about the business of running a thriving community arts project and flagship non-profit social enterprise are strongly encouraged to attend.

Visual Arts Working Group

Last Thursday of the month, 7pm.

This group deals with the running of TotalKunst, The Forest's art gallery.

Forest Working Group

Issues that affect the Forest as a whole and working group conflicts and budgets are dealt with by the Forest Working Group, a team of longer-term volunteers who have been actively involved in general working groups for three or more months and have consistently achieved action points and taken on further responsibility. Membership of the Forest Working Group is subject to the approval of the current members of the Forest Working Group.

Areas of The Forest

Ground floor

The Café

The Forest serves cheap and healthy vegetarian and vegan food. The money we make in the café is used for art projects, workshops, paying our rent and making the place cool for you to enjoy. If the café doesn't turn a profit, The Forest loses out – and that means less fun for you.

We aim to use as many organic, fairly-traded and ethically-produced products as we can, and also to run the kitchen environmentally by minimising waste, recycling as much as possible and using eco-friendly products. We also aim to support local small businesses in preference to national or multinational suppliers.

Organised through the Café and Events Working Group.

Biz`Art Shop

The Biz`Art Shop is a place where you can purchase Forest Publishing, Records and Screenprinting merchandise, and also receive a professional, stylish and unique haircut from our resident vodka-dispensing coiffeuse Magda B., or have the stress pummelled out of you by masseur extraordinaire Alex Highet.

Open Tuesdays to Saturdays, 1pm to 7pm.

Organised through the Behind the Scenes Working Group.


TK is a volunteer run, open-access gallery and Artist's collective, located in the centre of Edinburgh. A part of The Forest events space and café, TotalKunst is run by a bunch of Visual Arts volunteers and is funded in full by the proceeds of the Forest’s café.

The TotalKunst gallery has an open submissions policy and welcomes proposals for exhibitions, one day performances, projects, events and workshops. Information is available on the website or there are flyers in the gallery.

Organised through the Visual Arts Working Group.

Old Hat Books Library

Old Hat Books is a library of hats and radical books placed in the front room. Run by a collective of volunteers, the Library aims to make radical publications more widely available to people. And we like hats.

If you’d like to donate a book/hat to the library or become a volunteer, please email Usually open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 4pm to 8pm.

The Library

The Forest has a free community library with bookshelves, both in the café and in the front room, providing opportunities to read and exchange books, and other independent publications. We subscribe to a number of zines... come and have a look! The Forest Library is an ever-growing resource, and we always welcome donations of books, magazines and zines. If you've got any good books please bring them in.

The Legendary Forest Book Swap: some of our books are reference-only but most are available to swap. We operate a swap-book policy in which anyone can bring a book and exchange for a book in the library. See a book you like, bring in a book to replace it, get a sticker for it from the Library drawer under the coffee machine. There are 2 kinds of stickers: books to swap and books for reference only. If you enter a book, please write a note recording the title of the book and place it in the drawer. ONLY swap the swap books, don't let the reference books leave the café. If you're rearranging the café, try to keep a cosy reading corner near the library.

Organised by the Artist Facilities Working Group

Free Shop

The Free Shop is a regularly occurring event on Sunday afternoons in the main café space. Anyone can donate items they no longer require that someone else might want to use. For free. Like: clean clothes. NOT skanky dirty underwear or broken bits of plastic. Things are stored in the Free Shop cupboard on the balcony landing at the top of the building. Please help to keep it clean and tidy.

Organised through the Behind the Scenes Working Group.


Action Room

The Action Room is used for working group and other meetings, plus general Forest work. If any of the workstation computers is broken, please post about it on the BB with details of what it is not doing correctly if this hasn't been done already.

If you create any kind of mess in the action room, please please please clean up after yourself!

Photocopying facilities are available for Forest use - prices for non-Forest usage are on the wall - give the money into the café.

Organised through the Action Working Group.

Bristo Hall

Our ex-church hall is used for Forest events and can also be hired for private use. See our main website for details and pricing, while available dates can be seen on

Before handing out the key to the Hall, volunteers must check the booking details in the Hall Bookings book, in the Hall drawer.

Balcony Studios

We have spaces on the hall balcony which are hired out to local artists. None are currently available.

Organised through the Artist Facilities Working Group.


The Cave

The Cave is a Community Music Paractice Space and is available to hire for just £5 p/H. It's organised through the Artist Facilities Working Group.

Included is the use of: full drum kit, 2 guitar amps, a bass amp, mixer & P.A. (with 2 mics)

To become a member and enjoy our new 100% online system just go to; any questions: email

Dear Volunteers, If people want to know about the Cave, there is a flyer in the “Cave Drawer”, or just ask them to go to

If they are a member and want the key: take their membership card (put it in the “Cave Drawer”) and ask them to sign to sign the key out on the “cave key sheet”. [the key is in the drawer]

When they return the key, ask them to sign it in, and take from them an envelope marked with their name, the date and time, containing payment for the session. Put it in the till. Thanks!

Workshop and Darkroom

We have a tools Workshop that you can help maintain and use.

Black and white film processing is available in The Forest Darkroom behind the Workshop . People must contact the darkroom co-ordinator at before being put on the user list.

Organised through the Artist Facilities Working Group.

The Garden

There is a garden, located in the communal area behind the building, which needs help to "be all it can be". Check the bulletin board for more.

Organised through the Action Working Group.


If you want to earn 5 Pounds you can clean our unisexy toilets! Just ask in the kitchen for the cleaning stuff before. Loo rolls are stored in the drystore.

Screen Printing

We have a screen printing room! More to come... ask on the BB.

Organised through the Artist Facilities Working Group.

Other resources


All events in The Forest are free. Listings for what is happening can be found on the website, the event board above the doorway near the café counter, or the printed programme which should be lying around the café. Events bookings are made through the events book.

Organised through the Café and Events Working Group.


All workshops are FREE and open to everybody. To find out more about current workshops or to organise a workshop, contact the co-ordinator at

Organised through the Action Working Group.

Forest Publishing

The Forest is an independent publisher. For information about getting work published please check the Bulletin Board. Forest Publishing books are for sale in the BizArt shop.

Organised through the Artist Facilities Working Group.

Forest Records

Information about Forest Records to come.

Organised through the Artist Facilities Working Group.

Sound Team

A group of volunteers who are committed to keeping The Forest sounding great. Anyone with some knowledge of and interest in, live Sound Engineering, who is looking for a great opportunity to gain experience and share skills, should get in contact. sound [at]

Organised through the Artist Facilities Working Group.

Website and internet

Involved in a working group or event at The Forest? You're shooting yourself in the foot if you don't promote it online! We gets thousands of visitors to our website every month, so please register and ask the website co-ordinator to give you access to post news and events.

The Forest Web Team is involved in keeping the website up-to-date with info, news, events, and more, plus maintaining the backend (Drupal 6) and associated features and themes (which use CSS, with optional PHP control). Liaises with other co-ordinators to help post content online. Ask on the BB for more info on getting involved.

We also exist on Wikipedia,, Twitter and Facebook. We also have mailing lists, usually administered by the appropriate co-ordinators and volunteers.

Organised through the Behind the Scenes Working Group.

Volunteering information and responsibilities

First up

Please remember that you are volunteering in a public place. This means you're going to meet all kinds of people of various backgrounds, attitudes, mindsets and more. In the interests creating a place where people feel welcome and safe, there are certain kinds of behaviour that are NOT welcome. Do not be rude or aggressive and keep your racist/sexist/ageist/homophobic opinions to yourself, thank you. If someone else's behaviour is making you feel uncomfortable or threatened please speak to the Kitchen Manager straight away so we can do something about it.

Our equal opportunities policy; "The Forest aims to ensure that no volunteer receives less favourable treatment on the grounds of race, colour, sex, nationality, ethnic or national origin, age, gender, gender reassignment or marital status, sexual orientation or disability. All volunteers have a legal and moral obligation not to discriminate and to report incidents of discrimination against individuals or groups of individuals."

You are very welcome to attend the Volunteer Working Group Meeting, every first Sunday of the month at 5pm in the Action Room!

If you are interested in volunteering either email us: volunteering [at] theforest [dot] org [dot] uk, come to the Forest and ask in the kitchen for a Volunteer Application Form, get onto our web forum, the bb, or come along to a working group meeting.

Please come to our fortnightly Volunteer Induction Days on Sunday afternoons at 3pm! We will do a tour through the Forest, explain what the Forest is and how we work and we will tell all you need to know about the different ways of volunteering (plus some legally required health and safety stuff). The next dates are 10 January / 24 January / 7 February.

What To Do In An Emergency

If you need emergency help with something Forest related, call one of the Forest Collective – emergency numbers are listed on the blue cupboard where the Roster lives.

If a situation arises which the volunteer team feels uncomfortable dealing with or threatened by an individual who refuses to leave, notify the Kitchen Manager. If required, call the local Police on 662 5000.

In the event of serious emergency – Fire, Police, Ambulance – call 999.

Fire – if alarms go off help the kitchen manager to ensure that the building is empty. Evacuation points are across the road from café entrance and in the back garden.

Café and kitchen guide

If you have signed up for a shift but can't make it, please call and let us know, preferably 24 hours in advance so that we can organise a replacement, thanks! If you're ill or can't make your shift for any other reason, it would be polite to contact us cos so it's understood know how many volunteers we have/need.

Please do not work while intoxicated, we don't like that. If you're not on shift, always ask permission to come in to the kitchen cos sometimes it’s not practical. If you’re not sure about something, ask a Kitchen Manager.

You will be shown around the building on you first shift. Fire exits are the main café door, the doors near the shop and downstairs exit near the Crafty Room. If you see things piled up in the fire exits, move them!

You get a volunteer discount on food and drinks in The Forest. When you're on shift, you should get free juice/hot drinks and some food: a full meal for a 5 hour shift and a snack for a shorter shift. No free cakes or fizzy drinks. They rot your soul. You also earn tips – it's easiest if these are divided at the start/finish of shifts. Don't spend it all at once...

Be sensible: wear working clothes that you don't mind getting a little bit dirty, and closed shoes.

Importantly: nobody expects a volunteer to know everything about The Forest. If you don't know something – ASK!

Corkage and alcohol

The Forest does not yet have a liquor licence. We currently charge Bring Your Own Booze corkage – a small fee to allow people to drink their own alcohol inside The Forest. Spirits are NOT allowed. All beverages with paid corkage should be marked with a strip of "sold" tape found in the drawer under the till. This tape goes ALL THE WAY AROUND the drink; either the can or the top of the bottle. This helps us recognise a legit drinker from a scam artist from across the room.

If you spot someone drinking a beer/bottle of wine without the Sold tape, ask them kindly to pay some corkage, or throw away their drink. Corkage is split with bands only when requested and arranged prior to their performance. Paying corkage is not much to ask when you're getting a free show (or social and arts space).

The Cleaning Code

Not unlike The Bible Code, this is a complex system which connects the filth of our toilet floors with the Knights Templar and their dirty plots to rule the world. No seriously, colour coded cleaning stuff: Green = kitchen, Red = toilets, Yellow = hallways/cafe. Do NOT mix these up. All our lives are at stake.

Hygiene - You gotta be hygienic, or we’ll poison people, which is bad when unintentional. Here’s a few things to think about.

  • Wash your hands. All the time. Think about it when you touch your, or someone else’s hair or face, butt, when you come into the kitchen etc. Wash your hands many times.
  • There are four sinks. Handwashing (near the till), two for dishwashing/rinsing, and one for washing veg.
  • Don’t put things (e.g. tubs) on the floor. The floor is dirty, and this dirt will get carried onto counter-tops and maybe even food.
  • Don’t eat, or roll cigarettes or anything else weird when in the kitchen. This applies to Kitchen Managers too, shame on them.
  • Don’t let dogs in the kitchen.
  • Wear shoes and clothes in general. Aprons are good. When the rules change, we’ll have a naked kitchen. Till then…
  • Wash dishes with hot soapy water, and rinse them with hot water. It’s best to do glasses first, cups and mugs, cutlery, plates then pots. Leave things to drip dry. Nothing soapy should ever be put to dry. Big things are best washed separately, towel dried and put away to save space.
  • When you finish a job, clean up after yourself. Put dishes in the dish pile, spray and wipe down surfaces, put stuff back in the fridge etc.
  • Tie back long hair. Use blue plasters from the first aid kit if you have a cut or graze. Don’t pick your nose!
  • Use a fresh batch of milk each time you froth.
  • Label things properly with a name and a date when made. If it was made with ingredients made the day before, make a note of that too. If soup or curry, label it with a good description. That way we can tell the customers about the delicately roasted peppers or the lovingly prepared TVP.
  • Label defrosted things with the date defrosted, so we have a better idea how long it will last for.
  • At the end of the night, try to put flapjacks, wraps etc in sealed containers. Label the wraps so we know what it is in the morning. You don’t need to label flapjack etc. Just leave it in the display cabinet and we’ll know what it is. Try not to just cling film things, to keep waste down.
  • Keep bread in sealed containers always.

Happy Hygiene!


We've got recycling bins now and this is how we recycle:

  • Glass - and ONLY Glass goes into the VIRIDOR container
  • Mixed Recycling - Tetra Paks, Cans, Paper, Cardboard, Plastic Bottles, etc., in the smaller all grey “ALLIED WASTE” Container (NOT the big one with blue lid)
  • Landfill/General Rubbish - In the WHITE TRADE WASTE Container

Please lock the containers! Thanks!

What needs doing in the evening

  • list of tasks to undertake as the night approaches
  • Close windows and shutters
  • Take candles from the cupboard under the jukebox, put in bottles, light and distribute around the café
  • etc

What needs doing at closing time

  • Turn on all the lights
  • Lock the front door
  • Bring in the sandwich board signs
  • much more

Night Managers

Night managers have veto power over any performances if they feel the event is going badly and driving customers in droves from the cafe.

Night Managers get two free meal coupons which are stored in the till by the admin at the start of the day.

Night Managers can get monies for a night bus (or for a taxi in exceptional circumstances, though confirm with a KM or admin before hand), taken as a refund from the till.

Events and booking

If someone wishes to book a slot to perform in the café, they need to make an entry in the Events Book which is located in one of the drawers beneath the coffee machine. Make sure they read the instructions at the start of the book. The events co-ordinator for the Café and Events Working Group deals with any specifics.

It is recommended that events are posted to the website as an event - ask the web co-ordinator for access to post content. Also, we have an Events section on the BB for both internal and external events.

If any issue arises, The Kitchen and Night Managers have a final veto on whether an event is to continue or not.


Who do we use? Food and other whatnot.


Keys for project rooms like the Action Room, The Hall or The Cave are to be found in the drawers below the coffee machine. Remember there is a fee for The Cave. (see Cave section)

The Red Key and the key to the Freeshop cupboard are in the blue drawer under the bench. Check with the Kitchen Manager or Night Manager before handing out these keys, if you don't know the person you're giving them to.

Volunteer cupboard & staff toilet

The red key is sacred. Don't lock it in the toilet. Don't let anybody who's not a volunteer keep stuff in the cupboard. This cupboard is supposed to be used only by volunteers who are on shift at the time. The Lost Property Box is located here. The staff toilet can be used by disabled personages.

Lost Property

There is a lost property register book in the Drawer of Doom underneath the till. When items are handed in, they're logged in to this book and then placed in the Lost Property Box in the volunteer cupboard. If someone comes in to claim something, look in the book first, then go find it in the box. Don't just hand random stuff out to people, or let them look through the box – this is not the freeshop!

Donations and tips

There is a PayPal button on the website for Forest donations online. If anyone wants to hand a large amount over in person, by all means, come in and speak to an admin or the kitchen manager.

Donations to the coin tip pot in the café are split between kitchen volunteers at the end of the shift.

General good advice

Try not to use tin foil – think of Iceland!

Fridge Freezer

If the fridge breaks, post on the BB for help.


what goes where?


how volunteers can do things for forest records and publishing, film nights, how TK works, the sound team, screen printing, dark arts


If you have any questions that are not answered in the above Volly Guide, please ask us in the frequently asked and unasked questions thread on the BB. Insert non-formatted text here