Live music at the Tree House

gigHot on the heels of three sellout music events as part of Kenilworth Arts Festival, our own programme of top quality live music kicks off again on Sunday 15 October with the fabulous Amy Kakoura and Andrew Sharpe.  They have played for us two or three times before, and are always a complete joy – you don’t want to miss hearing Amy’s voice live!

More music all through autumn, winter and spring – see our Live Music tab under our Events page for a list – more details on all events very soon.

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Books, subscriptions and Advent calendars

advent booksOur rent is due at the weekend, and this month has been a quiet one – we’d love to sell a few more books by Friday!  If you’re local, come and buy books – we have a new coffee machine too, which does a range of coffees and hot chocolate.  We also have lovely greetings cards, handmade by two of our regular craft group members and by another local crafter, plus others by a local painter.  Some of the money from cards this week is going to Macmillan – we have a Macmillan coffee morning on Friday 29th from 11am.

If you’re not local, you can still buy from us!  This week we are offering two paperback novels in the post for £5 all in – see if we have what you want, or let us surprise you.

We also have our Tree House Box of Treasures scheme – a monthly subscription, but you can also buy individual boxes.  In each box you get a book, a bookmark and a postcard, plus three other book or Tree House Bookshop related items, and a mini magazine – it’s great fun!  Subs are £10 a month including postage, individual boxes are £12.  There is still time to get a September box up to the end of this week!  Or you can subscribe for October (October boxes will be ready in a couple of weeks).  Go to our Box of Treasures page for more info and to order.

We also have our book club on Thursday evening and open mic on Saturday evening, £3 for each of these, and both are always a good night, thanks to the lovely people who come along.  New  faces always very welcome!

We are also now taking orders for our popular Advent book calendars – 24 individually wrapped books, one to open each day in December up to Christmas Eve.  Much more substantial and rewarding than normal Advent calendars, at very reasonable prices – see our Advent calendar page for details and for a form to send if you would like to order one (or more!).  Available for all ages, 0 to adult.  We’ve even received an order for a baby who hasn’t been born yet!

In the longer term, if you shop online, you can help us every time you make a purchase with many  online retailers and service providers (including holiday sites, insurance companies and more).  Just sign up to easyfundraising.org.uk (that link will take you directly to the Tree House page!), and once you’ve registered, that’s it.  It doesn’t cost you anything, the retailers just make a donation each time you spend. (Amazon and eBay need you to go through the easyfundraising site, but you just add an icon to your browser bar, and it’s easy – others pick up the connection automatically).  Every penny helps, especially if lots of people support us in this way – and with Christmas coming up, it could all add up to a really useful contribution!

Books in the Wild

kafIf you live in Kenilworth, keep your eyes open as you walk around town…we’ve released some books into the wild!  You might find one on a park bench or at a bus stop or who knows where.  The books are free to take, and the slip of paper encourages the reader to pass the book on when they’ve finished, or rewild it!  We’d also love to hear about any finds – there is a Books in the Wild page here for reporting back.  We’re raising awareness of Kenilworth Arts Festival as well as just spreading bookish fun around the town.  Happy hunting, happy reading!

Art lectures at the Tree House

In my past life, I was an art history lecture – at Bristol University, the Open University, as a freelance lecturer and for Oxford University (summer schools, dayschools and the like) – I still edit and tutor online courses at Oxford.  Art is very much part of what the Tree House is about, and I’ve always given lectures – mostly on my specialist subject, which is the Northern Renaissance, but on a few other things too.  I am currently giving lectures on Tuesday evenings – they are a great way to get to know a bit more about art, or just spend an hour or so looking at beautiful images in congenial and stimulating company – even when the audiences is small, people are always thought-provoking!  This Tuesday, 25 July, I am focusing on my PhD subject – the extraordinary sculpture produced in Germany in the Renaissance period.  So different from their Italian counterparts – they were contemporaries of the very much more famous Michelangelo – these sculptors carved beautiful but often strange (to our eyes) works in wood.  There is a beautiful example at Compton Verney, so we have some local interest.  The images here are a snapshot of the three most significant of the sculptors, but if you want to find out more, come along on Tuesday evening.  Lectures start at 8pm, and the cost is £8 including tea or coffee.  They are informal in tone and last about an hour, plus time for questions at the end.  Next Tuesday, 1 August, we’ll be looking at how Vermeer, a painter much-loved today, drew on the earlier painters in the Netherlands, who created a very strong Northern tradition in the fifteenth century.

But for now – my beloved German sculptors!  Would love to see you on Tuesday evening.

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Happy Birthday Bob!

A very happy 76th birthday to Bob Dylan, the single most brilliant, most influential, most indefinable singer-songwriter of modern times!  I will take no arguments on this.  One of the household gods of the Tree House, and a constant source of motivation, inspiration and sheer poetic beauty, which we all need in this troubled world.

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And no more shall we part…with your help!

**UPDATE:  GOAL £2300, CURRENT TOTAL £2326 – THANK YOU!**

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The title is a Nick Cave reference, as some of you will recognise…if you don’t, no matter, find the song on youtube and prepare to have your heart broken. But the Tree House can help to heal broken hearts!  (As can the music of Nick Cave, but that’s another story.)  We’ve had a strange year – perhaps every year seems like a struggle, but this last 10-12 months has been particularly tricky.  We always sail close to the edge, and it doesn’t take much to tip our finances into the danger zone.  We had some setbacks in 2016 that have put us behind with our business rates and it’s been impossible to clear that backlog.

But on a day to day basis, things are good.  Book sales are pretty healthy, we now have three book groups that are thriving, our live music events tend to sell out (the money from those goes to the performers, so those don’t bring many funds to us, but as long as we’re breaking even, that’s all that really matters), though we have had to subsidise a couple of them, our open mic Tree House Sessions are lively and wonderful, our craft group is still going strong after three and a half years, and there is such a great core community at the bookshop, with people discovering us all the time.

I feel we really do offer something a bit different to Kenilworth, something that embraces all sorts and ages of people, that promotes the arts at a time when we need their communal and healing powers more than ever.  I struggle with my health, which means I often lack the energy to do as much at and with the bookshop as I would like, but there is a great team of people who help to keep it all going.

Having decided – for health reasons as much as financial ones – that the strain was becoming too great, I decided I had to ask the landlord to find a new tenant for the premises, and that we would close.  A few days after that decision, various things happened to make it seem possible that we could not only stay open but develop in new ways to make the business stronger.  Our landlord at Berkeley House has been incredibly supportive, and so I made another decision – to launch an emergency fundraising campaign, as our backlog of rates and other expenses needs to be paid by the end of March to avoid further difficulty.

The response has been phenomenal.  We raised nearly £1000 on the first day, and in just a few days we have now raised around £1700.  What this shows more than anything is the fantastic level of support there is, a huge desire to see the bookshop continue.  We are not out of the woods yet, but if we can raise another £500 in the next two weeks, we will clear that backlog of debt and be able to continue.  From 1 April, our business rates will be reduced by a very significant amount.  Our wonderful landlords will sponsor us through their business.  We are planning some things that will enhance the bookshop both as a physical space and as a business (still in very early stages, so no details yet!), and we know now how strong the support is.  I genuinely believe that with these changes, the business will be truly sustainable.

If you would like to read about our fundraising campaign, click here – many of you have given in the past, and I don’t expect people to keep giving, but if you could share the campaign, that would be wonderful.  It’s not just the people of Kenilworth and regulars at the bookshop who have raised the money so far – through social media, people far and wide have supported it.  Every £1 helps, and some have given just that, others have given more.  We’ve had the support of our very lovely patron, musician Warren Ellis, and his followers are now retweeting and responding to the campaign.  Here’s a bit of Warren in action – his genius and energy and creativity inspire me every day.

You can donate via the button below, if you feel so inclined, but this post is mostly about sharing what’s been happening and asking you to help us by spreading the word so that we can get the final few hundred pounds that we need before time runs out.  You can, of course, just come and buy books or come to our events!  We have local folk group Romany Pie playing on Friday 24 March, an open mic on Saturday 25 March, a very exciting gig with The Little Unsaid on Thursday 30 March, and I’ll be putting on films and lectures in the next couple of weeks too.  But if you’re local and haven’t bought a book in a while, why not come and buy one – or two! – this week?  Our paperback novels are less than the price of a cup of coffee in most cafés, they are more nourishing, and the enjoyment lasts a lot longer!  They also make great accompaniments to a cup of coffee – today is a sunny spring day, what could be lovelier than sitting in a cafe with a book?  It’s my day off, so I will be doing that in a while.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us, in so many ways.  Thank you to those who have already given to this campaign, and/or have spread the word already.  If you’d like to see us not just survive but increase what we already offer, at a time when small independent high street businesses are closing or moving away, please consider getting us through this hurdle, and I know we can survive and grow if we can clear our debts.

And come and see us soon!

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I meant to include this in my earlier blog post – but will now give it its own space, as it’s wonderful!  Tim the Swim, one of our core customers since the early days in the old premises, found this lovely card, designed by Fiona Hart, and gave it to me as a Christmas card.  It is perfect!  I will get a frame for it.  We’ve been having fun deciding which character represents the regulars.  I think that’s me sitting on the balcony on the left in blue…though it looks more like Hillary Clinton.  Tom the Philosopher and Vicki on the right in yellow and red.  John Who Sang In Swedish with the telescope, though that may be a girl.  John could get away with a dress though.  India in the tyre swing, Angela sitting on the branch above her…  Tomorrow they’ll all look like someone else.

Anyway – Happy New Year!