Cancel your plans for Friday evening! You have a date with a Strange Face…

What are you doing this Friday?  You are coming to the Tree House to listen to a truly fabulous illustrated talk about Nick Drake, of course!  Why would you want to do anything else?

Warwickshire has nurtured three of England’s greatest writers in different centuries – Shakespeare, George Eliot and Nick Drake (for me, the greatest British singer-songwriter of all).  Before I opened the Tree House, when I was thinking of what to call our bookshop/community hub, I really wanted the name to be related to a Nick Drake song.  I thought of Five Leaves, Pink Moon, Northern Sky, Fruit Tree, River Man…none of them seemed right, even though I knew it would be so cool to have a Nick Drake-related bookshop name.  In the end I moved away from that idea and chose the Tree House for a number of reasons, but I still regret not naming it for him in some way.

I love Nick Drake’s music – those exquisite songs and equally exquisite voice.  He died before I even knew he existed, but he is in my top three popular musicians and I consider his record Five Leaves Left to be one of the all-time greatest records.  So I was intrigued last year to see on Twitter some references to the Strange Face Project – about one man’s adventures with a lost Nick Drake recording – and started following the Twitter account.   The project is about the finding of a tape with an unreleased Nick Drake song on it and the adventures relate to what the finder did with this.

The man leading these adventures is the very lovely Michael Burdett, London-based musician and composer, and one day he phoned me to say he had seen my interest and wondered about coming to give his talk at the bookshop.  He then turned up one day and we had an excellent chat, arranged a date, and he left – leaving some wonderful photographs behind.  We used the one of Billy Bragg listening to the recording as our window display for quite a while.

Strange Face

Michael came and gave his talk just over a year ago, and it was fabulous.  It’s hard to convey quite why it’s so fabulous, especially without giving too much away, but ultimately it’s a story about the power of a piece of music – the impact it has on individuals and the way it connects people.  The illustrated show was informative, funny, fascinating and very moving – the material is great, but Michael’s delivery is also fantastic.  He is warm, funny, engaging, generous and passionate.

He went on to take the show to the Edinburgh Fringe, where it (unsurprisingly) won the award for Best Free Show.

He has also become a friend of the Tree House.  He lives in London, but from time to time has appeared in the shop doorway bearing cake and good cheer.  When we reopened I knew I wanted him to come back and give the talk again, and am thrilled that he agreed to do so, and he wants it to be a means of supporting the Tree House.  He has revised and expanded the show, which he is taking to Edinburgh again this year, along with other festivals over the summer.

But he is coming here first!  This Friday, 19 June, 8pm.  You’d be crazy to miss it.

Tickets are £5, in advance or on the door, and included is a £2 voucher to spend in the shop.  We would love a really good audience for this – it deserves to have the bookshop packed to the rafters.  Please come, please bring your friends, please spread the word if you can’t come (or even if you can).  You don’t have to be a Nick Drake fan to enjoy this event, though if you are it will make it all the more brilliant an evening.  If you have friends who don’t know Nick’s music, bring them along – perfect opportunity to introduce them.

There are only 40 tickets available, so contact us if you want to reserve some.  More details in the poster below.

Whatever you do and whyever you do it, just come along – it will be a truly lovely evening at a bargain price (you can give more if you want to!), and you will be supporting the bookshop as well as having the best time.  What more could you ask for on a Friday evening?

Strange Face at Treehouse 2 new postcode

Lots more Tree House ideas

treehouselogo-copy6.pngStill no premises, but I’m developing lots of lovely ideas, building on the launch of the Film Club in May.  There are two or three potential venues in the town centre, and I am hoping that the article in this week’s Kenilworth Weekly News will have aroused some level of interest, however small.  These ideas are a way of establishing the project even in the absence of a physical shop.  It may even be that the best thing is to use other venues for these clubs and activities, and then I will only need a small site for the bookshop – maybe there is a business in Kenilworth that has some space they would like to sublet, even temporarily until I can find suitable permanent premises!  That would be great.

Here are some of the events I am thinking of setting up:

The Tree House Story Club – afternoons of stories and bookish activities for pre-school children

Tree House Talks  – talks and discussions mostly on art and its history, though volunteers for talks on other subjects always welcome

The Tree House Senior Citizen Book Swap – afternoons for sharing books and chatting over tea and cake

The Tree House Film Festival – a day at the movies, a mixture of short films and feature films, including talks and discussion

The Tree House literary festival – talks, writing workshops, book discussion

Student equivalents of both the above, to engage university students with The Tree House

All of these could be accompanied by book sales – I don’t want to lose sight of the fact that the main aim is to open a second-hand bookshop!

If any of this sounds good, do get in touch – good to gauge support, also good to have any offers of voluntary help!  victoria@treehousebookshop.co.uk

Wonderful stuff for booklovers

mier_prod-1 dark redNot a post about me or The Tree House itself, but an example of a good secondhand bookshop by someone who appreciates its qualities and its joys, and the importance of its existence.  It’s always so wonderful to read inspiring articles and blog posts about someone’s love for secondhand bookshops, and this one is particularly lovely:

Church Street Bookshop

It’s from a blog called The Matilda Project – have added this to the series of blogs and websites on the right hand side of my home page.  Thank you to Emily for a fab book-focused blog.

Again – we could have something as fab as the Church Street Bookshop – in fact, I think that before too much longer we will!

 

A word about trees

treeI love trees.  (The one pictured is in our glorious Abbey Fields.)  And not only because they provide the raw material for books, although I am supremely grateful to them for that!  I especially love decidous trees, because they change with the seasons, which is a wonderful thing to watch.  My favourite thing in the whole of nature is a mature oak tree.  They are great for hugging – they have wonderful bark that is rough yet soft, and although you can’t get your arms around the trunk, that is wonderful too, as the tree gives back a comforting sense of being bigger than you in every way, stronger, protective.  You may now be starting to write me off as a hippie kook, but while there is a litte hippieness in my heart and soul, I am simply someone who loves a tactile relationship with the things I love!

What does this have to do with secondhand bookshops?  Well, I have called my planned bookshop The Tree House in part because it reflects how important I think trees are in our world – the world would not survive without them and the oxygen they produce.  They are a crucial part of the ecosystem, providing habitats for all sorts of creatures, giving their leaves back to the soil, often producing food for humans as well as animals.  And thinking about my bookshop as a community project, that is very much the atmosphere I want to create – a sense of something firmly rooted in the community, providing a sheltering space that then branches out into the unknown.  That’s what a community hub can do, but more to the point it’s what books can do – that’s why I want to combine the two.  We live in an age where intellectual activities are not celebrated – and by intellectual I don’t mean that these activities are dry or purely cerebral or just for people who are very clever, but I mean activities that demand that we engage our brains, and encourage and enable us to strive to reach our potential by focusing on what is below the surface and engaging with other people and the world around us in a more thoughtful way.

Books are not just a means of passing the time, they are lifechanging experiences – the good ones, anyway!  They tell us more about what it is to be human, they feed our inner lives and our imaginations (another aspect of humanity that often seems a little underrated!), and make us more creative in our engagement with the world.

The tree is therefore a wonderful image for me of the heart of a reading community – deeply rooted, creating a sheltering and nurturing space, pushing us out into a richer existence as individuals and as a community.  Reading can do this!  And coming together around books and literary adventures is like planting a forest.

The government wants to sell off our forests.  Our libraries are under threat.  I see these two things as related – the very things that give life to our planet and our community are seen as superfluous when what is needed, supposedly, is to generate more wealth and get rid of spaces that do not do this.  We need trees; we need a sense of community.  We can all sit in our homes ordering books over the internet, or downloading them to our Kindles and Kobos and iPads, or we can protect our libraries and bookshops and share this fabulous experience of enjoying books and learning from each other.  You can’t browse properly on Amazon – who knows what you might find next to the book you are looking for in a bookshop?  You can’t savour an e-book, re-reading sections with ease and making notes in the margins.  (I know because I own a Kindle, and I’ve tried!  I am not against e-readers at all, they are jolly useful in some circumstances, but they do not provide the same experience and potential as reading a book.)

Well, in my opening post I asked if I was crazy, and decided I almost certainly was.  You may now think the certainty is even greater!  But I am passionate about books and reading and providing a space that focuses on books but also draws in, and reaches out to, the community in imaginative ways.  I want to make this happen in Kenilworth – I would love to think the good people of Kenilworth would love to see it happen too!
tree2

A new small business and community venture for Kenilworth

mier_prod-1 (2)Hello!

I am writing this on a day when a number of high street retailers have gone into receivership.  Doom and gloom abound regarding the future of books and bookshops.  Yet I am still excited about my new venture: to open a not-for-profit secondhand bookshop in Kenilworth.  Am I crazy?  Almost certainly, but not in a bad way.

What makes me think this is a good idea?  Well, I don’t for one moment believe that the death knell has been sounded for the supposedly humble book.  Yes, e-readers are offering a challenge – though I would say they complement rather than damage conventional books. The book is surely one of the greatest pieces of technology in the modern world.  Simple, easy to use, portable, aesthetically pleasing and more besides.  A book is a satisfying object on an intellectual, practical and emotional level.  What more do we want from technology?

There is still a vast number of books not available electronically, and also a vast number out of print that will probably never be available electronically.  I believe there is still a place on the high street for a good, quality-driven secondhand bookshop, and that is what I aim to set up.  A bookshop that stocks as wide and deep a variety of stock as I can get my hands on, offering a service to try to track down any book we don’t have.  A bookshop that promotes the intellectual and social benefits of literature and reading.  A bookshop that brings together all sectors of the community to enjoy these benefits.

I envisage a space that will draw people of all ages to come in and browse, enjoy a cup of coffee or tea as they do so, where they will want to spend time.  A space where the focus is very much on books and reading, but where we can host small scale community events – talks, readings, writing workshops, music events, films and more, by and for local people.  Storytelling afternoons for children, a space for people who want somewhere to write, competitions, raffles, quizzes for all ages, with prizes selected from other local independent retailers and businesses.  The ideas are still developing.  All profits once overheads and staff wages are met will go to local charities and events.

To start with, we are going to organise regular coffee afternoons, probably at Jubilee House (the council are giving me wonderful support and help!), where books will be on sale and different book-related talks and activities will take place to give a flavour of the enterprise and to establish ourselves while we find a suitable permanent site.  Please check back or follow this blog for details of these – they will be advertised elsewhere too.

Some of you may have filled in my online survey, and will notice that I have changed the name of the shop – I had thought of calling it Middlemarch Books, after Warwickshire-born George Eliot’s great novel, but felt it needed something a bit snappier.  My hope is that the shop will become a bit like a tree house – a flexible space that can be a sort of den, or a quiet space, or a community space, both a retreat and a social hub.  That may all sound contradictory, but with a bit of organisation and creativity it will be possible to enable customers to use the space as they wish.

I will update this blog as things progress, and with more detail about what I hope to achieve, as well as sharing literary bits and pieces I find interesting, and posting a few things about my own love of books and reading.  In the meantime, look at the blogroll on the right of this page for links to existing fabulous independent bookshops, and watch the Scarthin Books video to be truly inspired!