I am afraid the shop will be closed today, as I am ill – had hoped to soldier on, but my soldiering skills need work! I hope to open the shop again tomorrow.
Sorry for a public announcement…but no other way to get in touch! If you are not called Tom, you can just ignore this post.
Tom (not just any Tom, the Tom who is a regular at the bookshop and put my office shelves together!), if you are around would love you to call in, something to ask you about!
Today there are drop-in sessions at the Tree House for shiatsu, with Ernie Boxall, and reflexology, with Colleen Waters. 20-minute sessions, £10 each. You can call in, and either wait for an appointment (we have tea/coffee – and books!) or book in for a later session. They are both here until 2pm, last appointment 1.40pm. A bit of relaxation in the middle of a busy Saturday!
This evening we have Latin American band Amapola playing from 7.30pm – a Warwick University based group playing Latin rhythms, should be a lovely evening – £3 on the door (£2 for Friends of the Tree House), bring your own alcohol if you wish (we have glasses/corkscrews), tea and coffee will be available.
Tomorrow afternoon we have our Sunday afternoon film club – a Hitchcock classic as a tribute to Joan Fontaine…more details, if needed, upon request! 3pm (doors open at 2.30), £5 including annual subscription, £3 for members, £2 for Friends of the Tree House.
Something for most people there – we do also have lots of books for sale (including a wonderful donation of Philosophy books!), and tea/coffee/herbal tea/hot chocolate to aid browsing or snoozing on the sofas.
People regularly come into the bookshop to find out what it’s all about. Hopefully better signage (on its way!) will make it less confusing, but I know that it’s also that we are perhaps offering something that is a bit new in the town. This week at the Tree House has contained a great variety of activities, showing what a flexible place we are and how we are growing as a community hub.
Monday evening we had the start of an 8-week course on Mindfulness. Tuesday afternoon we sorted lots of books from the unsorted mountains and made plans for expanding the book display areas. Wednesday we had T’ai Chi and a needlecraft group. Tonight we have a film. On Saturday we have reflexology and shiatsu sessions during the day and a band playing Latin American music in the evening. On Sunday another film – tonight’s film is one of the finest examples of modern European cinema (with subtitles and everything!), Sunday’s film is an old-fashioned black and white classic. We have Duke of Edinburgh students volunteering today and on Saturday. As I type, three people are having a meeting and a cup of coffee in the sofa area. It just struck me that this week has been a microcosm of what the Tree House is all about.
We have even been selling books!
Last night at Nifty Needles, our weekly needlecraft group, we were chatting about all the people we have got to know through the Tree House – including each other, of course. It’s something we are still working on, but things do seem to be happening, and having this space in the centre of town is wonderful. We hope to have more live music in the coming weeks, and some literary events too, and we are still trying to sort out events for children – we certainly want to make more of the school holidays, and offer something that parents and other carers can bring children to that will encourage them to read (not that some of them need it – it’s often the child that doesn’t want to leave when the parent needs to press on, which is always great to see!)
If you have any ideas for the Tree House, do let us know – we may not implement everything, but it’s always very helpful to know what people would like to see happening, and as a community space it has a dynamism that is centred around the people that use it. So do get involved!
Just for this week, the Tree House will be opening slightly later, to facilitate various practical things that need doing. So we are closed today (Monday) as usual; Tuesday-Thursday we will open at 12; Friday we will open at 2 – I am at a three-hour meeting on Friday morning, business-related, and not sure what time I will be back, so may be able to open a bit earlier, but will certainly be open by 2. Saturday opening hours will be as normal, 10-5, and next week we will be back to normal opening hours every day.
It’s a quiet week in terms of events, but this evening sees the start of an 8-week Mindfulness course (it is quite well-subscribed, but probably space for a couple more!) and on Thursday evening we are showing the film Wings of Desire at our Film Club.
On Saturday evening, we have a Latin American band, Amapola, playing – they are not all from South America, though some are, and the music is! £3 entry, 7pm start.
This has been an exciting week at the Tree House. Last Saturday, the piano was tuned – hurray! Some people have been playing it already as they browse in the shop, including one tiny girl yesterday who played gently and beautifully – it’s lovely to have a piano, and I hope lots of people will give into the temptation to bash out a tune on it.
Thursday evening we hosted a wonderful event organised by The Wild Hunt, a venture set up to buy the protection of an acre of woodland in Warwickshire through the Woodland Trust. Their fundraising has been so successful that they are well on the way to buying protection of two acres! The event at the Tree House was a mixture of storytelling and music – stories (for grown-ups) from Chloë Lees of Midnight Storytellers UK and music from folk duo Tinkerscuss. They intertwined their talents to provide a spellbinding evening. The finale was a performance from Tinkerscuss of the great Sandy Denny’s Who Knows Where The Time Goes, and it was a stunning conclusion to a wonderful evening that raised lots of funds for the project. The Tree House was very proud to host such an event.
Yesterday Pauline Davies, a stalwart of the Tree House, led a crochet workshop in the afternoon, and as well as the fun the small group appeared to be having, it created a lovely atmosphere in the shop. Such activities are very welcome, especially on Saturday afternoons.
Today we restart the film club, after a couple of weeks of downtime – we are still planning two screenings a week, on Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings, and today we are showing Dean Spanley, a tribute to Peter O’Toole – a little known film but a gem, a charming and delightful film. On Thursday we will be showing one of my personal all-time favourites, Wings of Desire, a German film by Wim Wenders from 1987, a real beauty of a film on every level.
Several local musicians have been in touch to see if they can come and play in the shop. I am thrilled by this, but also aware of how fragile the future of the shop still is, and unsure of my ability to stage good events. We are not out of the woods yet – but as the Wild Hunt evening showed, being in the woods is an exciting as well as a potentially dangerous place to be. We are a treehouse, a place of shelter amid the beauty and danger of the forest…we hope to remain such a place, and develop as such a place, but the wolves are still prowling.
I started this blog a year ago today. I’ve just re-read that first blog post, and it’s quite sweet! What a year it’s been – the Tree House is still lurching from one minor crisis to another, but we have been open for six months and just about surviving.
We are doing several of the things I set out in that first blog post, though not all. Some still need to be established, and other things have inevitably developed – the Tree House is not at all as I imagined it would be, despite the basic concept remaining the same, but that is the nature of any creative venture, it is a dynamic thing that grows into its environment.
There has been overwhelming enthusiasm for the project, and even after just six months a real sense of community is beginning to emerge. We have a strong core of regulars, and people still finding us for the first time, and thanks to the power of social media we have followers and fans around the world – extraordinary!
I have met some wonderful people, made some good friends, hosted some fabulous events.
But it has also, inevitably, been a massive challenge too, on a personal level – the practical challenges can generally be overcome, but the personal ones have been enormous and have pushed me close to breaking point. I imagine this is common among those setting up businesses from scratch, even those who have half decent business brains, which I certainly don’t!
Anyway, just another little anniversary, and amazing to look back on a year that began with that tentative and idealistic announcement of what I hoped to do, little knowing how far on we would be a year down the line.
Thank you so much to everyone who has helped – and continues to help – to make this venture a reality and a community asset!
There are some positive things coming to the Tree House to brighten the last weeks of winter! I was on the verge of deciding it was a losing battle, but the wonderful encouragement and enthusiasm for the Tree House of friends and strangers alike has spurred me on.
After a short break, the film club will restart this coming Sunday – thanks to those who helped make this happen! We will meet twice weekly, on Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings – see the Film Club tab for more information.
The piano was tuned yesterday, and is sounding lovely! I was really worried it was too far gone, but the lovely piano tuner did not throw up his hands in horror and in fact was quite jolly about the whole thing. I can recommend Keith Owen, if anyone needs a piano tuner! So feel free to tickle the ivories next time you are in. Someone did yesterday, soon after Keith had left, and played beautifully…I was in tears! So lovely to have a piano in the shop, now that it can be played.
I am hoping to introduce some little bits and pieces to make the shop more fun. A blackboard where people can tell us what they are reading, or write a quote, or recommend a read. A ‘blind date with a book’ box – an idea I saw on Twitter over the weekend: books are wrapped in brown paper with a few words written on it to give a basic sense of what sort of book it is, and you buy it unseen – a little adventure! Great for when you can’t decide what you want to read. A regular radio time – maybe Crime and Thrillers on Radio 4 Extra, which runs from 1-2pm during the day; once a week we could meet on the sofas with a cup of tea and listen to the radio. And other such things!
Various musicians of various kinds have been in touch offering to perform, so I will get my act together and get a programme of live music together. I was going to scale things down and focus on the books, and still very much want to do the latter, but it’s crazy to turn away lovely and talented people who want to be involved.
I am thinking about bigger things in the longer term – changing the status of the shop to a community interest group or, more appealingly, to become a co-operative, if there is interest. This might help with our overheads – the shop is doing well, if only we could reduce our overheads slightly we would get on much faster.
There’s more – there is always more – but I have a renewed sense of what might be achievable. Above all, though, I want to promote reading and books and literature as a crucial part of society and a means of creating and enriching a sense of community. The key reason for setting up the bookshop in the first place was to make a stand against the anti-intellectualism I see all around me in British society, and that is my priority for this new year.
Reading is fabulous, on so many levels.
The donations of books are coming in thick and fast, which is marvellous – but I have absolutely no chance of getting on top of it all, as a customer obliquely pointed out this morning! And I’m very behind with the accounts.
If anyone would like to come and help sort books, feel free. It would be a huge help if you know about books and can sort them unsupervised – any ex-booksellers or ex-library workers, or even current ones of course, would be extremely welcome! Even if you can just spare an hour, we could make good inroads. The more the merrier – it is quite fun when a group of people get together to sort and tidy things!
Many thanks to all those who donate books to us – it’s incredible how much stock we have been given, a lot of good stock too, and I really don’t mean to sound ungrateful. It makes it even more deeply a community venture.