Planning a celebration

Gill Sans poster (2)Things are progressing at 5-7 Abbey End – anyone who has been past and looked through the window may have seen the piles of books growing, sofa arriving, kettle installed (essential!), a few posters in the window, furniture that has been there on show gradually disappearing…

I have some shelving arriving on Friday, some help with cleaning on Saturday, some help the following Saturday hopefully with putting the shelves together!  Then it will be easier to see how soon I will be able to open the shop.

I am planning a celebratory event on Friday 26 July, or possibly Saturday 27 July – put the date in your diaries!  Currently favouring the Friday, but it depends on who I can book to perform.  I have found a storyteller (for adults – I love storytelling for adults), am investigating some live music, and generally putting some plans together.  It will be a ticketed event, a fundraiser as well as a celebration, and hopefully a lovely evening.

It is Warwick Folk weekend, and as the musicians I am trying to get are folky types that might mean bad timing…but we’ll see!  I am sure we can find some good entertainment.

Anyway, look out for further updates!  And if you fancy lending a hand either this Saturday or next (15th and 22nd June), do just drop into the shop.  There will be other opportunities – sorting books, no doubt more cleaning, moving furniture about, etc – will quite possibly have another working party day on 29th June, and will in any case be in the shop most days sorting things and setting up.  Can be there in the evening too if that’s better than a Saturday!

Interest is growing, which can only be a good thing, and I’m starting to think about events and activities, for adults and children, and have some volunteers lined up for things like reading stories as well as helping in the shop.  If you’d like to be involved in any capacity, do let me know, if you haven’t already.  And if you wish to donate books, DVDs, CDs, vinyl records, do bring them to the shop – I am not there all the time, but you can either email me to check, or if you bring them and I am not there, the lovely chap at Town & Country Furniture next door is happy to take things in for me.

And if anyone can recommend a local company that makes and installs shop fascia signs, please let me know!

A few photos of the new shop

Just a few ‘before’ photos, at the start of the physical adventure of the Tree House.  All exterior photos so far – there is still quite a bit of furniture inside, the lovely Andy Jones of Town & Country who has been using it as an extra showroom for his made-to-measure furniture business is in the process of clearing it.  Will take some interior shots when the space is emptier.IMG_2682IMG_2684IMG_2683IMG_2686

I always notice mistakes after I letters would not go amiss!
I always notice mistakes after I print…capital letters would not go amiss!



Simple twists of fate

tree house bag designWhat a week!  All sorts of ups and downs.  But the main thing is that I am moving the Tree House into it’s new home tomorrow, 10 June, and then the real fun can start.  I have a couple of working party days lined up to get things ship-shape – if you are in Kenilworth on the next three Saturdays and at a loose end, do come and give us a hand!  Especially on Saturday 22 June, when I hope to have bookcases to put together and fix to the walls.

One of the sort-of downs is that the Film Club,which has been running at the Kenilworth Centre, has not been making anywhere near enough money to cover the fairly high costs of renting the venue, so I have decided to put that on hold until we are in our new shop, where there is space to show films, and some comfortable seating is on its way!  (Any unwanted but still usable armchairs still gratefully received!)  It was worth a try, and a good time was had, just doesn’t seem a good use of precious Tree House funds to keep it going at a significant loss, but not too long, I hope, before we can resurrect it.

The mystery of the stolen books has been resolved, just about – I now know where the books an my new trolley are, and it seems it was a case of a misguided Samaritan thinking they had been left there unwanted and giving them to a charity shop.  I will probably get some of them back – would also love the trolley back, if only to move the books currently in my flat to the new premises – happy to share!

Still a bumpy ride in terms of setting up the business side of things, with a few more bumps to come I’m sure, but one thing I will say about this project is that it has never stopped moving forwards!  Since a friend and I first discussed it back in the autumn, the momentum has kept going, and here I am about eight months later moving into premises and on the brink of opening the shop.  Wow.

A few of us sat last night and watched James Stewart in Mr Smith Goes to Washington showing that ordinary individuals can make a difference – it felt like an endorsement!  Abbey End is not quite the US Senate, and I am not heroic as Jefferson Smith was in the film, but I hope we will make a small contribution in our little corner of the world.  Here are the closing lines from Warwickshire-born George Eliot’s great masterpiece Middlemarch, my favourite novel and some of my favourite lines in literature:

‘For the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unheroic acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.’

5-7 Abbey End – the Tree House has an address!

tree house bag designIt’s been a rollercoaster of a week.  Decent quantity of books, and a new trolley, stolen on Monday.  Lease for the shop came through the same evening – that has been verified by an external adjudicator, signed and went in the post this morning.  Strange phone call that has ended up giving me a good deal on electricity supply for the shop – I think!  All sorts of people ringing me up, cornering me in the street, contacting me in various ways, warning me of all the pitfalls, criticising this and that, or hoping that I will be able to use the shop to benefit them in some way.  Some of the latter I will think about, some I won’t!  Hey, I’ve done all the hard work, it is, as someone said to me this morning, my train set, and while I am generally quite good at being a soft touch, I am working on how to say no!

But the main thing is the lease, which is now signed, and I have a shop!  An address!  I have already added the address to the Tree House website.  Tomorrow evening a sofa is being delivered, thanks to Freegle and a friend with a van, and more furniture has been promised or suggested.  Lots of fun things ahead, like buying a computer and a till (have always wanted my own till, since playing shop as a small child!), arranging the space and sorting the books, lots of non-fun things too like opening a business bank account.  It’s a pretty steep learning curve, and at times feels terrifying.

But the day has arrived – I have premises, and all the ideas and dreams and plans now have a foothold in reality.  The shop is 5-7 Abbey End – what used to be the Cats Protection shop, and the Job Centre before that – it now has the Job Centre sign over the window, that will be changed in due course!

There has been a fantastic amount of goodwill, encouragement, moral and practical support along the way, for which I am extremely grateful.  A few special thank yous, though.  First and foremost to my friend Ben, who started the whole thing off by asking me one day last autumn what I would really like to do with my life…and this is the result.  He’s been a brilliant sounding board along the way, as well as providing practical help, and many of the ideas encompassed by the Tree House are his.  To Richard Davies, now chairman of Warwick District Council, who responded to the online survey I sent out in November by arranging a meeting – once he became interested, the whole thing took off, as he provided me with contacts and all sorts of suggestions of where to look for help.  He put me in touch with Zoe Court, town development officer, and Charles Smith, property adviser at Boston Fieldgate, who have both been fabulous.  Andy Jones at Town & Country, who has been using the premises up to now as a showroom for his lovely furniture, has also been fabulous.  I could not have got this far without  these excellent people.

It is already a community venture – lots of people have given books, or have contacted me to offer help in various ways, people really rallied round after the news of the theft earlier in the week, and I know so many more Kenilworth people through all of this.  The market stall has been a lovely experience, despite the hard work involved (I have now given that up to focus on the shop).  I still can’t quite believe what’s happened, let alone what is about to happen, but somehow it is all true.

I am sure the rollercoaster will continue to roll up and down, but I’m getting a bit better at hanging on when it plummets downwards.  Not a lot better, but a bit!  I am not sure when the shop will open, it all depends obviously on how long it takes to convert the space and get it all ready, but you will see signs of activity in the shop if you are passing that way in the next few weeks.  I’m starting to get some events lined up, and hope to transfer the Film Club there in due course, but for now I need to paint, put up shelves, sort out the utilities and stamp a lot of books.  I like stamping things.

Here Comes Everyone – an evening of music and poetry

I have mentioned Here Comes Everyone on these pages before.  It’s an online community for writers – a magazine (published in hard copy too) and an online network for those who write poetry, fiction and articles.  It’s run by Silhouette Press, and is a very good thing.

They are holding an event on Saturday 29 June at Taylor John’s House in Coventry – an evening of music and poetry with a bar and lots of general grooviness.  Details on their Facebook page (you can access this even if you are not on Facebook).

Should be a great evening, and a great way to support an excellent creative venture in the Coventry/Warwickshire area (life – or at least typing – was simpler when Coventry was still in Warwickshire!).

We are planning to sell copies of the Here Comes Everyone magazine in the Tree House when we open.



Love and Theft

tree house bag designThe last 24 hours have been an emotional rollercoaster at Tree House HQ!

I have been storing some of my books under the communal stairs where I live – packed in boxes and tucked away – this was mainly to make getting them to market easier.  Yesterday the whole lot disappeared, along with a trolley – presumed stolen.  Probably about 300 books, though that’s a guess.  I was heartbroken, needless to say, even though I knew it was a risk; the building should be secure, though the door does sometimes get left open, and various people do come in and out.

I had just heard about that (I was at work) when an email came through with the tenancy agreement for the shop attached – one minor detail to change, which this morning the landlord has said is fine, but I should now be able to sign it very soon.  Tenancy due to start on 10 June – that’s Monday!

In the wake of the disappearance of the books, a friend called on all her Facebook friends in Kenilworth, and I now have the promise of lots more books…truly community in action.  I have decided not to bother the police or do anything further; last night I was mostly upset about the theft, this morning I am mostly excited about the lease!

I have also been offered lots of furniture for the shop, and a few people have volunteered their time when the shop opens, so there are definitely more positives to focus on than negatives.

But if you do see someone selling books at a car boot sale, and the books have this stamp in the front:

The Tree House Bookshop stamp

…do take a note of the car registration details and let me know!  Would love to know where they are…

And hey…I have a shop!  It’s the former Cats Protection shop at Abbey End – fantastic location, lovely big space for events, and while it’s a temporary lease due to the fact that the site is going to be redeveloped at some point, it’s perfect as a starting place for the Tree House.  Could be there six months, could be there longer!  I have a one-year lease in the first instance, subject to notice when the redevelopment goes ahead.

That has to be something worth focusing on – I’m angry and upset about the disappearance of my books (and my new trolley!), but the excitement about moving forwards is much stronger!  And I’m glad I hadn’t moved any more stock downstairs – suddenly weeks of tripping over boxes and bags and living in general chaos doesn’t seem so bad…

(The blog post title is a Bob Dylan album title, in case you were wondering!)


tree house bag designAs the time gets closer for my move into premises, and then the grand opening, I will be looking for volunteers to help out at the Tree House.  I have already been on the scrounge for fixtures and fittings and for stock, now I want your bodies too!  There is no end to my rapaciousness.

I am planning to open the shop five days a week at the start, Tuesday to Saturday (closed Sunday, Monday).  Ultimately I’d love to open seven days, but will see how it goes!  I have paid employment (very part time) elsewhere which I need to keep for now, and that involves Sunday and Monday evenings, so it makes sense to close on those days.  I am hoping to be able to draw a wage in time, but am planning to work for nothing as it becomes established, unless it takes off immediately!  I want to make it my full-time work, but we’ll see how it goes.

So at the start at least, I can’t afford to employ people (not even myself!), but would love some help.  Ideally I would like a few people who could spare some time to work in the shop (even just an hour here and there), to help with the Film Club on the night (setting up, making tea and coffee, collecting subs, etc) and other events that I am planning to have, to read stories to children, to hand out flyers in the street, to sort books, and more.  It’s a community venture, for the community but that also means, I hope, *by* the community!  Would love lots of people to be involved.

Although I can’t pay you, there are other benefits I can give to volunteers – film club membership, tickets to events, books, etc – will think of ways to repay your time!  But I hope it will also be a fun place to be and just join in with.

So if you feel you can offer a bit of time and enthusiasm (I would like people who are enthusiastic about books, primarily, and literary things, and about the project as a whole), do get in touch.  Also if you have events you could offer, I’d love to hear from you – talks, workshops, literary events of one kind or another, acoustic music events – I have a few offers of things already, but there’s lots of scope for all sorts of things.  If you are not local but are prepared to travel to Kenilworth, that’s great!  If you have agents, send me their details.

I would particularly love to hear from storytellers – for children or adults – I’d love to have some storytelling sessions fairly regularly (as well as story and other literary readings, which are different!).  I have not quite got access to the shop, so don’t want to tempt fate, but should get it very soon – I have unofficial access! – and it is a nice open space, lots of potential.

Let’s make this happen!