Shakespeare Festival and other fab events

Gill Sans poster (2)We have some great things happening at the Tree House in the next couple of months.

We’ve been a bit quiet on the music front lately, but are very excited that we will have Lucy Anne Sale, Wes Finch, Jez Hellard and others playing in April – not all at once!  Though Lucy and Wes are on the same bill.  Thanks to all of them for offering to come and play!

We have Dr Peter Lockyer coming at the end of March to talk about artist and writer Brenda Chamberlain, whose life and work is fascinating.  I am also giving art history talks on Northern Renaissance art – currently on Monday mornings and Thursday evenings.

On 8 March, we have Greta Berlin coming to give a talk and sign copies of her book.  Greta has been an activist on behalf of the Palestinians for many years, and has much first-hand experience of the situation there.  Her book tells her story, and this should be a fascinating event.

We have our twice-weekly film club on Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons – join the mailing list (or Facebook group if you are on Facebook) for regular details of what films we are showing.  If you want to take pot luck, Sunday films (mostly old classics and fairly gentle films) are at 3pm, Saturday evening films (bit more eclectic) at 7.30, doors open half an hour before – just turn up!

As if all of that were not enough, at the end of April we are putting on a week-long Shakespeare festival, to celebrate the birth of Warwickshire’s greatest son – he’s 450 this year, and still as fresh and meaningful as ever, as one of our speakers, Warwick University scholar Thomasin Bailey, will demonstrate as she considers the question, ‘Why celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday?’  As well as her talk, we have a booksigning with Who Killed William Shakespeare? author Simon Stirling, performances of scenes and sonnets by the Warwick University Shakespeare Society, Elizabethan dance classes with Noël Butler, who has worked as dance instructor and adviser on numerous period dramas, and Shakespeare-based children’s drama workshops with Sam Holley Horseman of Dramalings, her local children’s drama company.  We may even have maypole dancing at Abbey End!  There will be more besides – films, quizzes and challenges for children (and maybe for adults!), and maybe things yet to be decided.  The week runs from 19-27 April – it has its own Facebook page (publicly accessible) and we will produce flyers in due course with the dates and times of the various events.

So do join in with some of these events, it’s all becoming more and more fun as people get to know about us and get involved.  We do also sell lots of lovely second-hand books as well!

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Lots going on!

Gill Sans poster (2)This evening we start our weekly volunteers’ drop-in sessions, from 5-7pm – if you fancy lending a hand with whatever needs doing, just call in for as long (or as short) as you like.  We will be mostly tidying shelves, sorting books, washing up, preparing for our children’s bookstall tomorrow – it’s all much more fun with a group of people.

Then we have T’ai Chi and Nifty Needles, both of which start at 7pm – T’ai Chi on one side of the room, people knitting, crocheting, embroidering and plumping cushions on the other side – surreal but it works!

Tomorrow morning we have a bookstall for children, as it’s half term – if it’s dry, we’ll be outside Town & Country Furniture, if it’s wet or very cold we will be inside the Tree House.  There will be a few things for grown-ups too!

Saturday evening sees the first of our Saturday evening films as part of our film club – Finnish drama The Man Without a Past (7.30pm, doors 7pm).  Sunday afternoon’s treat is the fabulous Brief Encounter (3pm, doors 2.30pm).  £5 including annual subscription to the film club, £3 for members, £2 for members who are Friends of the Tree House.  Refreshments included.

Saturday March 8th is the date for a talk and booksigning by Greta Berlin, a long term activist on behalf of the Palestinians in Gaza.

We are planning a Shakespeare festival in April; we wanted to mark the great man’s birthday anyway, but as it’s his 450th we decided to run a week long series of events from 19th-27th April, including talks, films, performances, Elizabethan dancing, children’s workshops.  There is a Facebook page for the festival, and I will of course update you here as to what’s happening.

Don’t forget our regular Wednesday afternoon therapy sessions – Reflexology and Shiatsu.  You can book full sessions or 20-minute tasters – you can also call in on the off-chance if you are out and about on Wednesday afternoons.  Reflexology 12-3, Shiatsu 12-5.

We have also been running a course on mindfulness on Monday evenings, which has been wonderful.  Vicky Lindsay, who runs it, is planning another course when this one ends – a taster session then another run of the 8-week course, so look out for updates on that – I would heartily recommend it to anyone.

I can safely say ‘we’ for most things now, as I have a fabulous band of regular, committed volunteers without whom I would not personally be surviving!  I even came back from a day away teaching yesterday to find dinner in the fridge…

Slight change of plan – and more art history!

Gill Sans poster (2)As ever, my barely existent decision-making skills mean that I have changed my plans slightly from my previous post.  We will still have our literary discussion group, but on a Friday rather than Thursdays, and they will alternate with any music events that we have on Friday evenings.

Thursdays will now be reserved for art history lectures.  I gave some daytime ones before Christmas, which were very successful, and am starting another daytime series on Monday 24th February at 11am – see the Events tab for more details.  I will then start evening lectures on Thursday 27th February, repeating the lectures I gave last term, on German Renaissance art.

This evening we will just be staying open until 9pm.  Nothing is happening, just the shop open, I’ll be pottering around shelving books and doing things, the urn will be on, so if you fancy a civilised place to spend an hour reading or working (we have free wifi), or even to buy a book (radical!), do drop in.  This will happen next week too, and then from the following Thursday we will have lectures, starting at 8pm.

More soon, about regular volunteer slots, children’s bookstall for half term and more…

Late night opening and intellectual pursuits

Gill Sans poster (2)While we are not having the film club on Thursdays for a while, I will be experimenting with late night opening instead – and encouraging people to come and discuss books.  In a bookshop…radical!

One of the purposes in setting up the Tree House was to counteract what I see as an increasing anti-intellectualism in our society.  If you proclaim that Thomas Hardy is better than Dan Brown, and more worthwhile as a writer, you are accused of being a snob.  If you use words of more than two syllables you are mocked for being clever.  If you prefer The Bridge to The Voice as Saturday night viewing, with all those complicated subtitles, you are patronised, even by the BBC, whose remit is to go well beyond pandering to viewing figures and flogging stale programme formulae.

There is not a single regular programme about books on the BBC, let alone on other standard channels.  This has long shocked me.  Radio 4 serves us a little better, and I am deeply grateful (though even A Good Read is not what it was!), but while we have endless cookery shows, antiques shows, documentaries about all sorts of rubbish, books are given very short shrift.  The Beeb should be leading the way.

So in our little corner of middle England, my plan was to promote the wonder of books, the importance of literature, the pleasure of reading, the civilising influence of reading, the lifechanging consequences of engaging with the ideas of the intelligent of this and past centuries.  You can read as much Dan Brown as you like, but the Tree House is about much more than that – we want to promote serious engagement with serious literature, and in the desperate attempts simply to keep afloat financially that has been neglected.

So Thursday evenings for the next few weeks – maybe indefinitely! – will be set aside for people to come and have a cup of tea and discuss things literary.  Not a book group in the usual sense, more a chance to discuss literature, to engage with others who love reading serious books, to think about what books (specific books) tell us and how they tell us what they tell us…and so on.  I may occasionally invite speakers along.  The shop will be open for general browsing, and the sofa area can be used for those who want to take part in discussions.  We will simply stay open, and close at 9 if no one is around, and if people are around, we’ll close when they have had enough.  Spread the word!

Thursday Salons at the Tree House.  Oh yes.

Dickens, films, Shakespeare and more

dickensToday is Charles Dickens’ birthday (b.1812).  One of the things I need to do more in the bookshop is celebrate literature!  One of the things that seems to get lost in all the furore of trying to make ends meet is the purpose of having a bookshop at all – to promote, enjoy, share, explore and honour the literary creative process and its importance to civilisation.

As a small gesture towards promoting one of our very greatest novelists – our greatest? – anyone who buys a novel by Dickens today can choose another novel up to the value of £2 free.

In other news – I have decided that for the next few weeks the Film Club will meet on Sunday afternoons only.  Attendance on Thursday evenings has been very low, and with the weather persisting in its evil ways I think it might be better to establish the Sunday afternoon films and wait until the evenings are a bit more inviting before attempting a regular weekday evening screening.  We may still have the occasional film!  And the selection of films on Sundays may broaden slightly, though the emphasis will still be on classics or gentler films – with the odd challenge thrown in!

We now have a little pile of books wrapped in brown paper with a nice red ribbon – the start of our ‘blind date with a novel’ feature.  I have chosen a few paperback novels to wrap, and written a few words on the paper to give a very general indication of the kind of book hidden within.  For those times when you can’t decide what to read, or are in the mood for a surprise or a literary adventure.  A bit of fun, great for a wet weekend!

In the pipeline: more music, with some excellent local bands keen to come and play as well as those from further afield, some more storytelling, some adventures with exotic animals, and a week of celebrations for Shakespeare‘s birthday in April.  And more!