**UPDATE: GOAL £2300, CURRENT TOTAL £2275- THANK YOU!**
The title is a Nick Cave reference, as some of you will recognise…if you don’t, no matter, find the song on youtube and prepare to have your heart broken. But the Tree House can help to heal broken hearts! (As can the music of Nick Cave, but that’s another story.) We’ve had a strange year – perhaps every year seems like a struggle, but this last 10-12 months has been particularly tricky. We always sail close to the edge, and it doesn’t take much to tip our finances into the danger zone. We had some setbacks in 2016 that have put us behind with our business rates and it’s been impossible to clear that backlog.
But on a day to day basis, things are good. Book sales are pretty healthy, we now have three book groups that are thriving, our live music events tend to sell out (the money from those goes to the performers, so those don’t bring many funds to us, but as long as we’re breaking even, that’s all that really matters), though we have had to subsidise a couple of them, our open mic Tree House Sessions are lively and wonderful, our craft group is still going strong after three and a half years, and there is such a great core community at the bookshop, with people discovering us all the time.
I feel we really do offer something a bit different to Kenilworth, something that embraces all sorts and ages of people, that promotes the arts at a time when we need their communal and healing powers more than ever. I struggle with my health, which means I often lack the energy to do as much at and with the bookshop as I would like, but there is a great team of people who help to keep it all going.
Having decided – for health reasons as much as financial ones – that the strain was becoming too great, I decided I had to ask the landlord to find a new tenant for the premises, and that we would close. A few days after that decision, various things happened to make it seem possible that we could not only stay open but develop in new ways to make the business stronger. Our landlord at Berkeley House has been incredibly supportive, and so I made another decision – to launch an emergency fundraising campaign, as our backlog of rates and other expenses needs to be paid by the end of March to avoid further difficulty.
The response has been phenomenal. We raised nearly £1000 on the first day, and in just a few days we have now raised around £1700. What this shows more than anything is the fantastic level of support there is, a huge desire to see the bookshop continue. We are not out of the woods yet, but if we can raise another £500 in the next two weeks, we will clear that backlog of debt and be able to continue. From 1 April, our business rates will be reduced by a very significant amount. Our wonderful landlords will sponsor us through their business. We are planning some things that will enhance the bookshop both as a physical space and as a business (still in very early stages, so no details yet!), and we know now how strong the support is. I genuinely believe that with these changes, the business will be truly sustainable.
If you would like to read about our fundraising campaign, click here – many of you have given in the past, and I don’t expect people to keep giving, but if you could share the campaign, that would be wonderful. It’s not just the people of Kenilworth and regulars at the bookshop who have raised the money so far – through social media, people far and wide have supported it. Every £1 helps, and some have given just that, others have given more. We’ve had the support of our very lovely patron, musician Warren Ellis, and his followers are now retweeting and responding to the campaign. Here’s a bit of Warren in action – his genius and energy and creativity inspire me every day.
You can donate via the button below, if you feel so inclined, but this post is mostly about sharing what’s been happening and asking you to help us by spreading the word so that we can get the final few hundred pounds that we need before time runs out. You can, of course, just come and buy books or come to our events! We have local folk group Romany Pie playing on Friday 24 March, an open mic on Saturday 25 March, a very exciting gig with The Little Unsaid on Thursday 30 March, and I’ll be putting on films and lectures in the next couple of weeks too. But if you’re local and haven’t bought a book in a while, why not come and buy one – or two! – this week? Our paperback novels are less than the price of a cup of coffee in most cafés, they are more nourishing, and the enjoyment lasts a lot longer! They also make great accompaniments to a cup of coffee – today is a sunny spring day, what could be lovelier than sitting in a cafe with a book? It’s my day off, so I will be doing that in a while.
Thank you to everyone who has supported us, in so many ways. Thank you to those who have already given to this campaign, and/or have spread the word already. If you’d like to see us not just survive but increase what we already offer, at a time when small independent high street businesses are closing or moving away, please consider getting us through this hurdle, and I know we can survive and grow if we can clear our debts.
And come and see us soon!