Live music is the best!

gigWe love live music at the Tree House, and we have a couple of fabulous gigs this week and next.  There is a dynamic to live music that you just can’t get from recordings or television, and it’s especially magical in an intimate setting like the bookshop.  If you haven’t been to one of our gigs yet, why not try one of these?

This Friday, 6 May, we have Sarah McQuaid.  Sarah is a well-established singer/songwriter with four recorded albums and many international tours to her name.  She has a rich, beautiful voice – something like Carole King blended with Karen Carpenter but unique to her, and with folkier overtones.  Listen for yourself and see what you think.


On Friday 13 May, we have Gill Sandell with two musical friends.  Gill is best known as one of the Red Clay Halo who played with Emily Barker (who wrote what became the British Wallander theme song, among much else) for a number of years; they are all now doing their own things, but Gill will be joined by fellow Halo Anna Jenks on violin, and Ted Barnes – a slightly different line-up from the one advertised on the poster, if you’ve seen that.  Emily Barker and the Red Clay Halo are one of my absolute favourite bands of recent times, and I was so thrilled when Emily called in to record a Big Comfy Session in the old shop – and thrilled now to have two more Halos playing for us.  Maybe we’ll get Jo Silverston, the fourth member, one day!  Gill is a multi-instrumentalist as well as a singer, playing flute, accordion, piano and guitar.  Here she is playing solo.


Tickets are £11 for Sarah McQuaid and £10 for Gill Sandell, from the bookshop or online.  These are two great opportunities to hear top quality live music in Kenilworth – would be a shame to miss out!  Our gigs also make lovely gifts for music-loving friends, and are a great way to introduce people to the Tree House.

More from Emily Barker

It’s been so busy at the Tree House lately that I failed to post this video when it was published, but here it is – the second song that Vena Portae recorded at the bookshop the other week as part of the Big Comfy Sessions – a cover of Peter, Bjorn and John’s Young Folks.  (Emily Barker sang in my bookshop!!!)

The Big Comfy Bookshop opens at the new Fargo Village development in Coventry next weekend (27 September), so that session really was the last to be filmed at the Tree House – I still feel so happy and privileged and honoured that we were able to host these lovely people.

There will be lots more fabulous music at the Big Comfy Bookshop, as well as lots of books, cake, coffee and much more, and I wish Michael all the very best in his own exciting new venture.  The Tree House is doing so well these days, and I hope the Big Comfy Bookshop will be equally successful – it’s so great that new bookshops are still opening and disproving the media gloom about the apparent demise of books and bookshops.  People still love books!  And bookshops are great places for music, films and all sorts of community events.

Emily Barker sang in my bookshop!!!!!

Me with Emily Barker in my bookshop!

Me with Emily Barker in my bookshop!

Thursday 28 August 2014 was a big day for me.  When I opened the bookshop and was thinking about which musicians I would love to see playing here, Emily Barker was top of my list (well, other than Nick Cave, but I have to be slightly realistic…occasionally!  I’m getting the piano tuned just in case, though…).  In case you don’t know her music, she came to prominence after one of her songs was chosen as the theme song to the British version of Wallander, and then another, which won a BAFTA, to The Shadow Line, and she has made a few fabulous albums – look her up on youtube!   I knew that she was now too famous to come and do a gig for us, but she always seems so lovely and down to earth, she does record store gigs, and I hadn’t entirely given up on the dream.  Then the guys from the Big Comfy Sessions got in touch to ask if it would be OK to do a session on 28 August…with Emily Barker.  I screamed.  I wrote back in an email that was as close to the sound of me screaming as I could muster.

Last Thursday, the day arrived, and Emily turned up with her colleagues from Vena Portae, one of the projects in which she is involved, who were on a short tour and stopping off in the Midlands on their way up to Durham.  I screamed before she came, but managed to act with relative dignity once they arrived at the shop.

They then proceeded to engage in the best Big Comfy interview we’ve had, and sang two songs, one of their own and one cover, as is always asked of guests at the sessions.  They were outstanding…it was so lovely to have them sing at my bookshop, to a handful of us, and meet the very lovely Emily as well as Dom, Ruben and Jesper, the other members of Vena Portae, all equally lovely.  They have a new record out (their debut), which is wonderful, and Emily still sings with the Red Clay Halo, and she and Dom organise something called Folk in a Box – they talk about that in the interview.

All in all a hugely exciting and wonderful day for me, still can’t quite believe it!  Great people, great music.  In my bookshop!!  Here is the evidence – the video of their cover song will be along later.  Enjoy!

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…

…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!

If you feel like singing a song…

Tree House statement design v2Some of you already know this, via Facebook and/or Twitter, but in the light of much moral support and the green light from the landlord, I have decided to keep the Tree House open.  It’s not going to be easy – for me personally or financially – but it seems the right thing to do, and sometimes I find myself capable of doing the right thing!  Not always…but I do think this is the right thing.  I could spend weeks weighing up the pros and cons and not achieve a rational answer, but I’ve always been someone who goes with their heart, and while it often gets me into trouble, it is simply who I am, and I’m slowly – painfully slowly – learning to accept that.  Others may have a harder time accepting it, and I fully understand that!

We have a great little space in the heart of Kenilworth, and now that the decision has been made, I am thinking hard about how to make the most of the Tree House as a venue – more on all of that later.  I need to be bold, I think.  One of the things that decided me that the Tree House needed to continue was the Big Comfy Sessions that have been filmed there (a few more in the pipeline too).  These are a temporary feature, until Michael McEntee opens his Big Comfy Bookshop at Fargo Village in Coventry at the end of September (very exciting!), and the Tree House has just been the venue for the recordings, but they have shown me the potential for cool and groovy things that the Tree House has.  We need more cool things happening!  Musical or otherwise.

I will also resurrect the Film Club, which has languished since my right hand man in that venture left in January.  There is still a huge void there, as I am a bit rubbish when it comes to films, and I miss the input of a knowledgeable, passionate, energetic person (who also had a great collection of films to share with us!) – but I have a longish and pretty varied list of films I plan to show (from Mary Poppins to Les Amants du Pont-Neuf with all sorts in between).  We can’t afford to renew the licence yet though, so that’s the next target!

I also have offers of help with poetry nights and open mic music nights, and am working on getting some more musicians to come and perform.  But I also want to shift the balance a bit, and start some more literary things.  The focus of the bookshop needs to be bookish – it was set up to counter the anti-intellectualism I see in society, and I want to find creative ways to do that.

We are also increasing our commitment to charity.  We are non-profit, but we haven’t made any profit yet, so have not been doing much in terms of giving to charity!  But we had a coffee morning for Helen Ley Care Centre earlier this month, and have carried on with a collecting tin – the day of the coffee morning raised £120, and if we can keep doing little things throughout the month, we can at least give this sort of amount monthly to charity.  In July we will be supporting Zoe’s Place baby hospice in Coventry, and in August it will be the Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance – again, more in later posts.

More significantly, I want to ally the bookshop to the Woodland Trust.  There is lots to say about this, but in the longer term, that’s the charity I want the bookshop to support.  I shall wax passionate at another time, but its aims are intrinsic to the ethos of the Tree House (there is the word Tree in the name for a reason!).

I am rambling, so will shut up.  So much to think about and plan, not least how I am personally going to survive financially and emotionally!  But the Tree House really has already become a lovely social hub, a community of caring, friendly, committed people, who want to help the place to thrive.  I really think it can thrive, and with their help, I am sure it will.

A friend gave me this song about a year ago as the bookshop’s signature song, and it still encourages me to keep going forward during the dark times.  Thank you Ben.


Big Comfy Cover – Chains sing Carole King

Gill Sans poster (2)Perfect for a Sunday morning…

I recently posted about Chains‘ visit to the Tree House to record a video for the Big Comfy Sessions.  Musicians always perform one of their own songs and one cover – I’ve already posted their own song; their cover was Carole King’s glorious Will You Love Me Tomorrow?, co-written with Gerry Goffin who died this week, and did a very fine job.  They also found a great use for our generally unwanted copies of Fifty Shades of Grey.

The Big Comfy Sessions are organised by the Big Comfy Bookshop, soon to be opening at the new Fargo Village development in Coventry and using our shop as a venue in the meantime.  If you want to support the Big Comfy Bookshop (and why wouldn’t you?), Michael, its owner, currently has a crowdfunding project on the go – visit the site for more details.

In the meantime, here are Chains.  Just beautiful.  And funny.  Enjoy.