Live music – let’s keep it happening!

Ashley Hutchings

Live music is the best.  It really is!  We are so lucky to live in an age where recorded music is so easily available, from an increasing number of sources.  But fabulous though that is, it can make us complacent.  Live music is a whole different sort of experience.  As many of you know, I am a huge fan of Bob Dylan and of Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds, and having seen both live last year, I am still feeling the impact of those concerts.  If you doubt the reality of any kind of spiritual element to life, go and see Nick Cave live.  Or a great symphony orchestra.  Or live opera.  It is far removed from even the most wonderful time spent listening to recorded music, however good your stereo system.

DSC_2600 (1)
Emily Barker

Here at the Tree House, live music has always been part of what we do.  Our aim is to bring people together through literature and all the arts, but books and music are our two chief means of doing that.  The day we opened, we had a fantastic jazz trio, and that set the standard.  As well as our monthly open mics, when anyone can take part, we have regular gigs by professional musicians who are usually on national or even international tours – occasionally they just come because I ask them.  We’ve had amazing people: the biggest name has to be Ashley Hutchings, founder member of Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span, among many other accolades.  But hosts of fabulous musicians: Emily Barker, The Little Unsaid, Duotone, Ange Hardy, Lukas Drinkwater and Tobias ben Jacob, Siobhan Wilson, and so many more.  Local genius Wes Finch has played several times, with a variety of collaborators – he really deserves to be better known, he’s a brilliant songwriter and performer.  Sorry to leave people out, but in five years, we’ve had a lot.  The above are all people who have been described as ‘off the scale’ or something similar by the audiences.

It’s wonderful to go and see major acts in a big stadium, but there is something very special about intimate gigs like ours.  Sometimes there is no amplification at all (as with Emily Barker, pictured) and that’s very special.

But putting on gigs is harder work than it might seem, and this is one aspect of running the Tree House that I do alone, which is truly hard work.  From booking and corresponding with musicians, deciding who to book, deciding what fee to agree to, to marketing the event and selling tickets, to hosting on the night – putting out chairs, making sure musicians are OK, making sure refreshments are sorted (basic, but all still needs sorting), checking tickets, sorting out the lights, and more, it’s a lot of work and occasionally quite stressful.  The hardest thing is persuading people to buy tickets in advance – but without this happening, the future of any live music gigs is in jeopardy.

This is not an issue specific to us – I chat to enough musicians and venue owners on social media to know that it’s a constant struggle everywhere in the UK.  It’s understandable to a degree, but it can be frustrating.  Often people turn up on the night simply expecting that there will be tickets, but sometimes we have to turn them away – other times, we are hoping desperately that people *will* turn up on the night.  When major artists announce gigs, you have to be online at a certain time to book them, and they sell out sometimes in minutes, usually on the first day.  I don’t mean that our gigs have that much clout, but something between that and our current predicament would be good.

This Friday, 13 July, we have the wonderful Anne-Marie Sanderson playing for us.  Quite a few regulars are away; some are going to protest against Donald Trump’s visit; but generally ticket sales have been slow.  So if you are around on Friday, and perhaps haven’t been to a gig at the Tree House before, why not come?  It’s only £8.  You can bring your own wine or beer; we can offer tea and coffee and we will have some non-alcoholic cold drinks as the weather is so warm.  Anne-Marie’s latest EP is songs based on books, which makes it all the more wonderful for us as a bookshop.

Below are some tasters of her beautiful songs and lovely voice.  She is just back from touring in Europe, and it would be great to give her a very warm welcome to Kenilworth.  We do need to sell more tickets, though…and if you want to keep seeing top quality professional musicians in an intimate venue right here in the town centre, then consider buying your tickets in advance.  You can buy online or in person at the bookshop.


Treehouse of Stories – launch event

mattWe are thrilled that poet Matt Black will be working with us over the summer and into the autumn, funded by West Midlands Readers’ Network.  Matt will be hosting poetry and storytelling sessions in the bookshop and down by the swimming pool/play area in Abbey Fields, and there will be other events and activities over the summer.  He and Tree House bastion John Watson are even building a treehouse to go inside the Tree House, big enough for Matt to sit inside and read stories!

We are launching this initiative on Saturday 30 June, from about 12.30 until about 4pm, with live music from the fabulous Hatstand Band, a cartoon drawing working (1.15pm) with artist Okse, poetry, free tea and cake, and more.  We will incorporate watching the Carnival parade as it passes by at around 2.45pm.

Do come and join in the fun!

Books by post

tree-house-figureIf you’re in the UK but don’t live locally, we can send you books in the post – just £6 for two paperbacks, £10 for four, including p&p.  You can see if we have specific books, suggest genres or just let us surprise you.  It’s a great way to support the Tree House as well as get the best kind of parcel in the post.  Use the box below to get in touch – treat yourself or send books to a friend!

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.

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 (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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.