Day 4: looking ahead

4 November 2015 

The Strange Face Project: adventures with a lost Nick Drake recording, with Michael Burdett.  The bookshop was packed - took this as we were setting up, too engrossed to take photos during the event!

The Strange Face Project: adventures with a lost Nick Drake recording, with Michael Burdett. The bookshop was packed – took this as we were setting up, too engrossed to take photos during the event!

I generally don’t really know what I’m going to say when I start writing these daily scribblings, other than a general sense of a theme, so I am liable to get carried away at times.  I had no idea where yesterday’s entry was going, but in the end it was cathartic!

Today I am thinking about some of my ideas for developing things further at the Tree House, having already written a little about what is already going on.  Part of what I think I need to do is to build on those things we are already doing – especially the films, which I think could be really popular (I still don’t really understand why they aren’t more popular than they are, given that the only other place to see films regularly in Kenilworth is the Talisman Theatre), but I also want to build on the success of my art history lectures.  So there will be a bit of a marketing push for the films, and the possibility of two films a week (Sunday afternoons and Thursday evenings) to provide some variety.  We always aim to show films that are not easy to see elsewhere, including foreign language films and other things that don’t get shown on television very often, and we are also showing some music documentaries (The Last Waltz, 20,000 Days on Earth, 32 Short Films About Glenn Gould so far, and Don’t Look Back, about Bob Dylan’s 1966 tour of England, coming up soon) and when these run out there will be another genre to replace them.

As for the lectures – my plan is to expand these and bring in people to give talks and workshops on other arts-related subjects.  I would love to use the Tree House as a base for a sort of Lifelong Learning programme, perhaps using Sundays and Mondays and a weekday evening to provide a variety of fascinating lectures and short courses taught by people with some academic experience and expertise.  We have a screen and projector and room to seat 20-30 people comfortably, so the search is now on for some lecturers – some emails already sent out, and more to send.  In the meantime, there will be lots of art history in the New Year!  Including a course, as opposed to standalone lectures, and the course will include notes, discussion sessions, suggestions for further readings, perhaps even a gallery visit or two.  Being little more than an hour away from London by train means the fabulous riches of the National Gallery and V&A are within easy reach for a day trip.

I have been tentative about our live music evenings, as in the past we have rarely made any money from these, and at times have lost money – we want to have professional musicians play, and with small audiences it can be hard to raise enough money to pay the fees such professionals deserve.  But with the help of online ticket sales, our last three gigs have been sold out, and we realise we can fit in another five seats, and get 40 people in for our music events.  If we can sell all those tickets, we can pay our fabulous musicians and keep a little for our own needs.  So as word is getting out about how enjoyable these evenings are, we are getting more emails from people wanting to come and perform, and I feel confident about putting music events on a little more frequently, maybe two a month.  Another exciting development for Kenilworth is that two friends, Lewis and Charlotte, who run our open mic nights, have set up an arrangement with Kenilworth Castle and are organising folk events in the Stables there, following the success of the Blair Dunlop concert at the Kenilworth Festival in September.  On that note, we hope to be even more involved in the Kenilworth Festival next year.  But this initiative means that Kenilworth should become known on the folk music map as a great place to perform, and that can only help us!

Our open mic nights mentioned there, the Treehouse Sessions, are always wonderful, though numbers are down on where we were in the old premises.  These are run, as I say, by Lewis and Charlotte and not by me, but I am always trying to think of how I can make these events even more popular.  The atmosphere is always wonderful, mainly because of the group of regulars (performers and audience) who are just so friendly and supportive of each other and welcoming, and that’s what makes the evenings so lovely.  The array of local talent has been wonderful to discover, including a strong contingent from Warwick University during term times, but there is always room for plenty more.  We charge £2 to everyone, including performers, but that is fully redeemable as a book voucher for the Tree House.

We are planning some Christmassy things – we will be open late on the night of the Christmas lights switch-on in Warwick Road, and will be offering a lucky dip (wrapped books for adults and for children of different ages) and hope to have some local handmade Christmas decorations for sale, and I am thinking of other things we can do.  We were hoping for live music, but I think we will be too close to the radio stage by the clock tower for that to be feasible!  We will also be offering Advent Books – 24 children’s books individually wrapped for children to open each day in December up to Christmas Eve.

But the main thing is to find ways to raise about another £300 a week – which may sound a lot for a little enterprise like ours, but I think the potential is definitely there, especially now that our reputation is spreading beyond Kenilworth.  Building on what we already do will undoubtedly help, but I am also working on some other events and activities.  I need to promote our new Mail Order Book Club (surprise books in the post every month, so people anywhere in the UK can be part of the Tree House!) and need to start selling books online – we should have been doing that already, but it’s never too late to start!

So – lots to think about, lots of marketing to do, ideas to put into practice, and various projects large and small to work on.  In the meantime, our book sales are healthy and remain and will always remain the key area of income as well as the focus on what we do, so I will also keep working harder on making our book stock and displays the best they can be – I am indebted to my faithful friends for helping out with this!

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