Taking it to the next level

Radio Warwickshire presenter Tamsin Rosewell sharing a cup of tea and a chat on the Tree House sofa with the lovely Lucy Ward.

Radio Warwickshire presenter Tamsin Rosewell sharing a cup of tea and a chat on the Tree House sofa with the lovely Lucy Ward.

We’ve had an amazing few days at the Tree House.  I wanted to keep our first anniversary celebrations low key, for various reasons, but it was lovely to mark the occasion, and we had an excellent tea party in the afternoon with all sorts of people dropping in, most notably our incredible team of volunteers, who brought cake, ice cream and lots of good cheer.  They even put the hoover round and put wheels on our new trolley while they were here.

Tom the Philosopher (a wizard when it comes to sorting, pricing and shelving books) reckons that now we are a year old, we need to go to the next level.  That could mean all sorts of things, but what it means mostly to me is live music.  That’s the area where I need to do a lot of work – bringing in musicians, creating a better ambience, organising things more efficiently, marketing events better.

One of the really lovely things that happened this weekend was that Radio Warwickshire folk presenter Tamsin Rosewell recorded a couple of interviews for her radio show (which is back in the autumn) at the bookshop – one with Lucy Ward, fresh from her performance at Warwick Folk Festival, one with Stevie Jones, so look out for those!  Her producer Tim, who manages bands and is generally a music industry wiz, said that the acoustic in the shop is just brilliant.  No wonder our Big Comfy Sessions have sounded so good (well, I imagine the awesomeness of the performers had something to do with that, but you know what I mean!).  So we are going to build on that.

We walk a tightrope financially, which holds me back a bit when I’m thinking about who I could get to perform here.  But this whole venture has been about taking one risk after another, and so I ought to feel ready to take a risk on this, in order to get the Tree House more established as a small, intimate music venue.  We have seating for around 30, can get 50 in if some don’t mind standing, perching, sitting on the floor or stairs.  Acoustic music has worked really well, we’ve had some truly wonderful gigs here, and some of the performers have said how much they’ve enjoyed playing here.  Amplification is not really needed, though I appreciate some groups use microphones to get the right balance – we don’t have equipment, but most seem happy to bring their own.  In due course, we can of course get what’s needed – with advice from those in the know!

So if you are a musician – acoustic, folk, jazz, classical – who fancies a small venue with an appreciative audience, do get in touch – 01926 856843 or victoria@treehousebookshop.co.uk, I’d love to hear from you.  Our general policy is to pay 75% of the takings to performers, but I’m happy to discuss any terms you might have.

We have re-established the film club; started informal socials on a Friday night (weekly, unless some other event is happening); we are launching a monthly Sunday Salon on Sunday 3 August in the afternoon for literary discussion; a new monthly book group on Monday 18 August in the evening; a new mindfulness course will start in September on Tuesday evenings; our Nifty Needles needlecraft social group on Wednesday evenings is growing and is great fun.  These are all wonderful, and I hope to increase attendance particularly at the films and socials – but live music is such a very special thing, and I do hope that by the time we are celebrating our second anniversary next year, we will indeed have taken the Tree House to the next level, creatively and financially.

More Big Comfy Sessions

We have had live music at the Tree House on the last three Saturdays, all part of the Big Comfy Sessions run by the Big Comfy Bookshop, musicians playing a song of their own and a cover version recorded by the lovely Rob of Redwood Photography.  Yesterday we had The Fallows in the shop – more of that when the video has been edited and published.  Last Saturday was the amazing Luke Jackson, just 20 years old but a fabulous talent – his voice almost literally blew us all away!  And the week before that (when sadly I was away) lovely Matt Lakey graced the Tree House sofa with his presence.  Here are the results – two original songs, two covers, from two fab singers.  I shouldn’t be partisan, but Luke Jackson’s version of Richard Thompson’s Beeswing is particularly exquisite…

Happy birthday to the Tree House!

Origami roses made by faithful friend and supporter Tamsin.

Origami roses made by faithful friend and supporter Tamsin.

The Tree House opened for business on 26 July 2013 – we have now been trading for a year!  It’s been immensely tough at times, and will no doubt continue to be so, but here we are.  It’s good not to be among the statistics in terms of businesses that fail in the first 12 months.

We celebrated our opening with a wonderful evening of storytelling from Stephe Harrop and jazz from Spicy Jazz (three of them at least).  We have had more storytelling and more live music since then, and the music has to be one of the highlights of the place – a shame more people haven’t come to the gigs, but we’ll keep working on that.  I am currently working on a programme of music for the autumn and winter.

The Tree House has developed thanks to a wonderful group of people (or rather, a group of wonderful people!) who give so much in terms of time and energy to it and to me, but who have created a great sense of community by being there regularly, getting to know each other, and making the place what it has become.  It also could not have happened or survived without all the fabulous donations of books we have received and continue to receive.  Storage has at times been an issue, such has been the generosity of local people – anyone who has used the loo will know that there is plenty of reading material in there!  But the stock is now at manageable levels, and people are working very hard to get as much of it onto the shelves as possible and in some sort of order.

We would also not have survived had people not come and bought the books and come to our events.  We seem to attract a very high percentage of lovely people, every day brings wonderful conversations and a lot of fun in the interaction between staff and customers.

So thank you to everyone who has made this adventure what it is – do come in today and have some cake and listen to some music (there are two Big Comfy Sessions being recorded while the shop is open) and buy a few books.  All books are 30% off just for today.  Hope to see lots of you there!

The cat’s away…

Gill Sans poster (2)I’m away teaching in Oxford for a week from today, but the bookshop is in the capable hands of stalwart volunteers Pauline, Vicki and Angela.  They will endeavour to keep it open as much as possible, but there may be times when we can’t stick to our usual opening hours, so please bear with us.

There are more Big Comfy Sessions being filmed – today at 2ish and next Saturday (19th) at 10.30ish – so if you fancy a bit of informal live music while you browse, do call in and watch the fun.


…and then Josh Doyle does James Taylor at the Tree House!

As his cover for his Big Comfy Session (see previous post), Josh Doyle chose James Taylor’s lovely You Can Close Your Eyes – nice complement, unintentionally, to Chains choosing Carole King!  And he also indulged in a bit of Fifty Shades of Grey, as they did.  Here is the result.  Josh Doyle.  James Taylor.  Kenilworth.  Oh yes.


Josh Doyle at the Tree House

Josh Doyle used to be the singer and guitarist with the Dum Dums; he is now a solo artist based in Nashville and shares a manager with Dolly Parton.  Very cool.  Thanks to the Big Comfy Sessions, he brought his coolness to the Tree House and recorded a version of his song Setting Sail.  Here’s the video – organised by the Big Comfy Bookshop, filmed by Redwood Photography, and featuring Mr Josh Doyle drinking tea from a Tree House mug.  I might faint.

Speak, Brother

Here is the latest video from one of the Big Comfy Sessions.  I’ve already shared Speak, Brother’s wonderful version of their own song Dry Bones (follow that link for more of the sessions too); this is the cover version they did the same day (all performers are asked to sing one of their own songs and one cover version).  This is Peter Katz’s Son.  Beautiful.



The Big Comfy Bookshop will open at Fargo Village in Coventry on 27th September – in the meantime, we are loving having the Big Comfy Sessions at the Tree House!