I have been a bit coy about mentioning this, and I’m not sure why, as public support may be of great help to The Tree House. There is a disused sports pavilion in Abbey Fields, the beautiful park in the centre of Kenilworth – a 1930s wooden structure that the council want to demolish, as part of the refurbishment of the children’s play area. They have stayed its execution in response to a local outcry, and are now taking proposals for its potential use. I was encouraged to apply to use it for The Tree House, and the more I think about it the more I want it!
It is small, and needs a lot of work doing to it. It is not in the town centre, in terms of being near shops and the majority of footfall in the town. The reason for the council wanting to remove it is that it can be a place for people to congregate to drink and take drugs, and makes the play area unsafe. Some people think I’m a bit crazy to want it at all, let alone as much as I do.
But all I see is the vast potential! It is small, but has character. It needs work, but it’s a blank slate. It is not in the shopping centre, but it is in the centre of a park that many people walk through for pleasure or for access between the old town and the new – it is right between the two parts of the town. It is right by the children’s play area and the swimming pool, and on a popular dog-walking path, so does have a reasonable natural footfall. It’s near a car park.
It’s right opposite the old barn that was part of the medieval abbey (perhaps we could collaborate with the museum there in some way), and near the other physical remains of the abbey, and St Nicholas church, so is right in the historical hub of the town. The castle is not far away, and between the pavilion and the castle is the wonderful lake with all its ducks and swans.
Abbey Fields is beautiful. It’s one of the key reasons I came back to Kenilworth after 27 years away – I loved walking there as a teenager, and love it just as much now. I am very lucky to live close by it. It makes a spectacular setting for a second-hand bookshop and community hub!
The bookshop could put on regular events for children, given that many use the area to play – a good place to shelter when it’s cold or wet, and the potential for outside story sessions when it’s warm and dry (it has been known!). We could host regular events for adults, daytime and evening – talks, readings, groups, all the things I’ve mentioned in connection with the project before. Workshops by local writers, open mic poetry sessions, little theatre productions. A Christmas grotto, an Easter garden, St George’s day celebrations and Shakespeare’s birthday, a maypole on May Day, just the most obvious seasonal celebrations among many others. We could offer tea and coffee, with outside seating in summer. A place to rest in the middle of a walk, a place to head for as a break from work, a place to enjoy on a day off.
The Tree House would look after the building. It is a community venture, and as such the building itself would be a focal point of that – a place saved by the people of Kenilworth, for the people of Kenilworth.
The play area has just been refurbished (the photo was taken during the refurbishment, it’s not the finished product!), and I would love to make The Tree House part of the sprucing up of this beautiful part of our town.
The council will not be announcing their decision until the end of October, so a long wait. But if you think this might be a good use for the disused pavilion, do let the council know! Public support might help The Tree House. David Anderson at Warwick District Council is the man in charge of handling the proposals.