Our next musical event – Haddo, 16th August

Our opening event was, I feel confident in saying, a success.  Over 50 people came, and I apologise to those who had nowhere to sit!  (We will sort out some more seating.)  Storyteller Stephe Harrop enthralled us with her tales within tales, and a trio of Spicy Jazz entertained us with their fabulous playing and good humour.  I have never had a song dedicated to me before, let alone had the lyrics changed in my honour!

Our next event is on Friday 16th August, when we will be hosting folk duo Haddo (the link takes you to their website, where you can hear some of their tunes and find out a bit more about them).  They are husband and wife Will and Nicky Pound – Will plays melodeon, Nicky plays viola.  Will is also one of the world’s finest harmonica players (and no, I’m not exaggerating – look him up on youtube!), and has promised us a tune or two on his harmonica.

Will also has local connections – he hails from Leamington Spa, and his mother dances with Chinewrde Morris, Kenilworth’s own women’s Morris team.

So do consider coming along to what promises to be a lovely evening.  Tickets are £5, and you can bring your own refreshments (including alcohol) – we can provide glasses, corkscrews, bottle openers, paper cups.  We will have tea and coffee for sale at a reasonable price, though if the weather stays like this they may not be wanted!  We may even have homemade cake.

It starts at 8pm, doors open at 7.30, and if you would like tickets, please contact me (victoria@treehousebookshop.co.uk or 01926 856843) or buy them in the shop.

Events are listed on our Facebook page, so if you are on Facebook, do ‘like’ our page to be kept up to date, or follow us on Twitter (@TreeHouseBkshop).  Email me if you would like to be added to an email list for event updates.  The website will also have information about events.  I am in the process of organising some author events, and once we get someone to wire in speakers, etc, we will start showing films regularly.

Volunteering opportunities!

Gill Sans poster (2)I love the phrase ‘volunteering opportunities’.  It asks people to give of their time, energy and expertise in return for no payment, and presents it in such a way that the person or organisation in need of volunteers appears to be doing the volunteers a favour.

That said, I know there are people who do have time on their hands who would like to do something with it, so…

I can offer opportunities to volunteer!  Specifically it would be good to have a couple of people who could work on a Thursday between 10am and 3pm.  At the moment I can cover the whole time we are open, but in late September one of the other jobs I have will require me to work a shift in the middle of the day on Thursdays.  I would rather try to get cover for this than to close the shop, and so it would be wonderful if there were people who were able to commit to a regular, long-term pattern on a Thursday.  If you are interested – even if you would rather work fortnightly than weekly – do get in touch.

I will also need other volunteers, including people who might want to help out in the evenings when we have events – checking and selling tickets, helping with refreshments, washing up, etc.

If you would like to be part of the Tree House Bookshop, in these or other ways, do let me know.  I can’t afford to pay anyone yet (not even myself, probably!), but there are things I can offer in return – tickets to events, perhaps – payment in kind rather than money.

Send me an email or phone the shop (856843) – I would love to hear from you.

First impressions

Gill Sans poster (2)I started this blog in January – 15th January to be precise.  In the last six months, so much has happened – and it’s hard to believe how quickly things have developed.  Today we open our doors for trading!

Yesterday a team of volunteers worked tirelessly all day to get the stock in the shop into some kind or order, and while there is still work to be done, we do now have a shop divided into subject categories (with a few miscellaneous shelves still lurking!).  The balance of the stock is all wrong, but over the coming days I will rectify that, reducing some sections and increasing others from the boxes piled up in the office.

Being away last week didn’t help, and I did not leave enough time for sorting the stock to the level I would like to present, after all the build-up.  But we have lots of books on shelves, we have comfy areas to sit, and we have lots more stock to sort and add to the shelves.  (We also need more shelving!)

I am as aware as Jane Austen that first impressions (her original title for Pride and Prejudice) are important…but just as Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy overcame their first impressions of each other to fall in love and form a lifelong commitment to each other, so I am hoping that my customers at the Tree House will look past the initial sense of minor confusion and will be won over in the longer term by the passion, creativity and ongoing development of the place, both as a bookshop and as an event space.

The Tree House is already fully a community venture – the way that people have offered their time, their books, their money, their moral support, their enthusiasm and their willingness to put up with the vagaries of what’s been happening and the consequent ups and downs in my mood (!) is the bedrock of what now stands ready to receive customers at Abbey End.  I could not have achieved this opening day without all the incredible input from a large number of people, and the extremely generous input of a small number of people.  Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone…and especially to those who have gone and continue to go beyond the call, they know who they are.

So if you are out and about in Kenilworth today, do come and say hello.  There is homemade cake and even the promise of homemade coconut ice!  And tonight there is a free concert of storytelling and jazz, which begins at 7.30.  Bring your own refreshments (including alcohol) – we have glasses and paper cups, and may even be able to scare up a corkscrew or two!

Off for a shower and then down to the shop for a final couple of hours  before we open…and the sun is shining in a clear blue sky.  Auspicious, I hope!

Dios nos vigila…

Gill Sans poster (2)So…I’m back from my week away.  Didja miss me?  Hmm, not sure evoking memories of Gary Glitter is quite how I intended to start this post.  I’ll move swiftly on.

Today is Tuesday.  On Friday, the Tree House will open its doors for business at 9.30am…still seems unreal, despite the hard work that I and several others have been putting in, and will continue to do so over the next three days!  But we are almost there – still some work to do in the shop, but it’s taking shape nicely.  In fact there is lots of work still to do in the shop, but I am focusing on what’s necessary; we will be working on making the space better and better after we open, and in fact it will be a continuously-developing space, which is part of the fun.

But we have a wonderful shop statement in preparation and a manifesto to get the blood rolling, and we have books on shelves (they may even be in some sort of approachable order by Friday) and comfy chairs and sofas to sit on, so we are all set.  Wow.

Donations of stock keep pouring in, and bits of furniture keep appearing – people are wonderful. Wonderful. Some window-gazers assume we are a charity shop (as the premises used to be) and that the sofas are for sale, but they aren’t. I have also been scouring eBay and elsewhere to begin to fill gaps in the stock we have – I want to make the stock as good as I can, as quickly as I can, to set off on the right foot.  But as with the space itself, the stock will inevitably evolve, develop – find its own form, as my friend Tricha always says about everything in life (and she’s right).  And we have lots of fabulous books to sell!

We hope to have homemade cake during the opening day, and I will fire up my new urn to provide tea and coffee.  My food hygiene certificate is not yet in place, so you take your chances!  The risks are low.

And of course we have our free celebratory gig in the evening – starts at 7.30, doors open at 7pm – bring your own booze, we can provide cups/glasses/corkscrews.  Storytelling and jazz – it will be fabulous!  Literally, in terms of the storytelling at least…

I’ve been up early watching the storm and loving it; the thunder and lightning seem to have passed now, though the glorious rain is still raining down.  I’ve been listening to this song a lot since yesterday, by one of the inspirations for the Tree House, and my greatest hero.  It’s a perfect song for a heatwave and a thunderstorm – ‘Was that the thunder that I heard?’  Another of Bob’s songs that would make a good film…why has no one based films on Bob’s songs?  Some of the stories are wonderful.

A break and then a final push

Gill Sans poster (2)I am about to go away for a week – a summer school teaching commitment set up before the Tree House was even thought of, which is a reminder to me of how quickly things have developed!  So the bookshop will not be accessible from 12-20 July inclusive, though one or two friends may be calling in to do a bit more work on getting things set up.

But when I am back on Monday 22nd, I will have four days until the bookshop officially opens…  If anyone is able to call in and do a bit of tidying or shelving or hoovering or anything else that might need doing, please do just drop by!  I’ll aim to be there from 9am each day until 5pm, possibly a bit later.

Don’t forget our opening evening shindig – Friday 26 July, 7.30pm, storytelling and jazz.  No charge for entry (though I will offer a gentle plea for donations to the cause!), and bring your own drinks if you like – we aim to have glasses (or paper cups at least!) and corkscrews to hand, but that’s still on the list of things to organise!

Look forward to seeing some of you then.  If you’re a Kenilworth Weekly News reader, you may see a short piece about our progress in this Friday’s KWN.

A rose by any other name…or Philip K Dick with an unwanted Romeo complex

Gill Sans poster (2)Opening day is getting closer, and the shop space continues to take shape.  It now looks less like a second-hand furniture shop and more like a bookshop with some comfy sofas and chairs to entice you to linger among the books.  We have our opening night celebration all lined up, and two more music gigs booked, one in August, one at the start of November – currently working on booking something in between, it would be great to have music once a month.  Once the bookshelves are properly installed, I will get some projection equipment sorted and we can start watching films sooner rather than later.  And I have a couple of authors keen to come and and talk about their books.

So progress continues – it does feel as though it all moves forward in some way every day.  Now I am starting to make more specific plans about the shop itself, and one of those is how to lay out the stock.  The day is getting close when we can sort and arrange the books, which is exciting!  Non-fiction is easy – I plan to keep categories fairly broad (History, Biography, Travel, Religion, Cookery, etc), though I think I’ll also need a plain old Miscellaneous section too.

But when it comes to organising the fiction, which currently constitutes the majority of the stock, I am considering the issue of genres.  I instinctively want to undermine the whole concept of genres – too many writers have been neglected because their work has been given a label and put in the sort of cover that goes with it.  Philip K Dick springs immediately to mind: one of the great novelists of the 20th century, his books have been largely read only by those with an interest in science fiction.  Yet they are simply great novels, beautifully written, with a profound understanding of what it is to be human, an imagination that is both vast and somehow controlled, a writer with something to say but who is not taken seriously by those who think SF is for geeks who spend their spare time stalking William Shatner and inventing spaceships in their bedrooms.  It’s not all ray-guns and alien planets.

Anyway, before I get carried away…  I want to shelve all the novels in one run, A-Z by author, untainted by genre.  Crime, horror, fantasy, science fiction, classics and general fiction all in one sequence.  I admit that I shared that prejudice towards science fiction for a long time, until a friend whose passion for Philip K Dick persuaded me to try him – and my prejudice was swept aside on my first reading of The Man in the High Castle – which has at least now been given Penguin modern classic status rather than put in a cover with garish images on the cover that have little to do with the content of the book.  I now rate his books among some of the best I have read – and apart from Tess of the d’Urbervilles, no book has made me cry harder or longer than A Scanner Darkly.  Those two books have a lot more in common than making me cry, and certainly a lot more than many people might think.

I have had lots of prejudices overturned in recent months – another friend has been lending me DVDs, choosing them himself, and often giving me things I would never otherwise have watched.  I have discovered all sorts of gems that I was sure I wouldn’t enjoy – there are a number of them, but Heat is my Philip K Dick moment in terms of film.  What an outstandingly beautiful film – something I never dreamed I would hear myself saying (despite my love for Al Pacino).

I have loved having my expectations turned on their heads, my prejudices challenged, my tastes broadened – hell, I even enjoyed Mad Max!  Humble pie sometimes tastes pretty good.  I want to encourage, even to expect, my reading customers to consider things outside their usual tastes and literary comfort zones, and shelving the fiction in one run is partly a way of doing that.

I am still to an extent (and unashamedly) a book snob – I think there is good literature and bad literature, worthwhile literature and disposable literature.  Both have their place, but I’m not going to pretend I think they are equally important.  I am not a snob, though, when it comes to genres – there is good and bad within each genre.  As well as that, if people only ever go to the SF section, the Crime section, the chick lit section, then how do they know what else might give them equal pleasure or other rewards?

It will no doubt irritate some people not to have novels divided into genres, but maybe a few of those who are expecting genre divisions will embrace the challenge and even find things they would not otherwise have read.  I will work hard at getting to know my stock so that I can direct those who do want genre fiction to some relevant titles.  We’ll see how it goes!

I don’t mean to be didactic, not at all; I just want to present books as books and shelves of books as a treasure trove of the unexpected.  Literature should stir us, shake up our beliefs, challenge us, confront us, help us explore the world, as well as sometimes comforting us, confirming us, entertaining us; a bookshop should do the same, and the Tree House will strive to fulfil this role.

Friday 26 July – new opening date!

Gill Sans poster (2)The other day I announced that The Tree House would open on Tuesday 23 July…but as things are not going as quickly or smoothly as they might, and there is so much still to do – plus the fact that I am away from 13-20 July (teaching not holiday, sadly!) – I have decided it will be better to set Friday 26 July as the opening date.  Then we will have the evening celebration on the same day – big day!