They say that patriotism is the last refuge to which a scoundrel clings…

Last night I watched the film The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, for the first time. Richard Burton as John Le Carré’s hero Alec Leamas. I think he’s a hero, anyway. A spy disillusioned with corruption, with the price paid for loyalty to national security, with the concept of national security, with the moral self-righteousness of nations, with the soul-destroying nature of espionage and the cheapness of human life that it involves. It wrote large my current preoccupations over the current desperate move towards nationalism, patriotism, clan-based responses, isolationism, countries breaking away from each other rather than pulling together, and all these things at a local level as well as a national and international one.

As I said before, the thing that has been most difficult through this pandemic is facing the introspection of a small town, the introspection of lots of people, the sense that ‘community’ is a local thing. I loathe the rise of overt nationalism that has come to the surface in the wake of the Brexit referendum, and has grown – not just the thugs and Farageites of this world, but the kind of isolationism at different levels of society that is painful to see. At the moment, there is a trend for politicians to appear in Zoom calls with the union flag in the background – often two. We are in danger of starting to worship the flag, as Americans are wont to do. People say, Why are other countries not allowed to be proud of their flag but not us? That’s not the right question, for me: no one should be proud of their flag. Nationalism and patriotism are destructive. The flags are an emotive thing that undermines careful thinking. Lately a Tory councillor has taken to putting up quotes about how many here have been vaccinated with a union flag as the background to his posts, and it’s nauseating.

Why am I ranting about patriotism and nationalism? Because this emphasis on local places and local people is patriotism writ small, and narrows the world for everyone. This year I have spent a lot of time grieving for Kenilworth Arts Festival. It is still going, and the current committee did a lovely job of putting on a small festival with online events. But for four years, the amazing Lewis Smith organised the most beautiful Arts Festival for Kenilworth – put together quite fabulous events bringing some of the most interesting and exciting writers, musicians and creative groups to Kenilworth. Whenever I tried to spread the word, people would say. ‘But what’s it got to do with Kenilworth? Where are the Kenilworth artists?’ And it always broke my heart. It was never meant to be about Kenilworth, it was about bringing the highest quality arts events TO Kenilworth – like Edinburgh, Cheltenham, Hay-on-Wye and others. The parochialism is soul-destroying. It was a shock when someone just mentioned almost casually that Lewis would not be part of the Festival any more, and I have been crying over it ever since, and still going through a grieving process for something that we should have nurtured, developed, continued to grow into a nationally-respected festival. But all people want is a platform for local artists.

The musicians who have come to the Tree House have all been professional musicians on national – sometimes international – tours. They may not be household names, but they have all been significant, sometimes stellar, names on the folk and acoustic scene, which is producing some of the most talented singer-songwriters around. We should be excited that these musicians made Kenilworth part of their tours, but Kenilworth rarely was, beyond a handful of people who were either knowledgeable or adventurous. There was very, very little in the way of sharing our gigs, encouraging others to come to them, spreading the word about how good these musicians are. Lots of businesses and individuals ask me to retweet their stuff on a daily basis; I can count on one hand the number of people who regularly share(d) our events, and three of those are personal friends. We are a very small venue, and without selling 30 tickets each time, we struggle to meet the fees of those musicians, let alone pay for extras such as giving them food, and the shop almost never gets anything to help with rent and paying for my time. This is my livelihood too.

I am being unkind, I realise. But I don’t mean to be, only honest. Having the shop closed for eight months of the last year has given me plenty of time to think, and seeing people not just locally but around the country responding in inward-looking ways to this pandemic has been very sad. For me, sadness and anger can be emotions that overlap and it can be hard to find the line that separates them.

The quotation in the title of this post is from Bob Dylan’s Sweetheart Like You, and is adapted of course from Samuel Johnson. Bob’s song goes on to say, ‘Steal a little and they put you in jail, steal a lot and they make you king.’ We have had a chance over the last year to change our way of thinking about society, about capitalism, about lifestyle, about our place in the world and the cosmos, and it feels as though we have largely failed to do that.

One of these days I will list the things I am most proud of at the bookshop, and half of it won’t mean anything to the people of Kenilworth, but we have done lots of things. The live music, however, is the pinnacle of what we have achieved, though hardly anyone acknowledges it as anything at all. That’s OK – those of us in the know, know! Thank you to those who have supported our gigs.

Enough rambling for now. Others may be looking forward to returning to their normality, but I don’t want that at all. This is a chance to change, a chance to rethink and re-evaluate, and as I said in my previous post, I am not going to go back to how things were before. We may lose followers and customers, but ours is not a business in the conventional sense, and I am not going to compromise my beliefs and hopes in the interests of commerce-led values. I hope my accountant does not read this.

Here is Bob’s song. On a more positive note, here is something that my other hero Nick Cave wrote the other day: ‘The world still turns, ever perilous, but containing its many joys. Music remains a balm. Friendships endure.’ Thank you Nick. Thank you Bob. Music transcends national boundaries and cultures and languages, music is fundamental to us as humans and so it unites us in a way that being part of a political clan never can. It teaches us to look both deep into ourselves and then out, as stronger people, to others and to the world and the universe of which we are all a part. I will continue to champion music – and live music – in whatever ways I can, and there will be the occasional live and fabulous gig at the Tree House, and we will support Bob and Nick and Nick’s friend our wonderful patron Warren Ellis in all their endeavours. Music Matters.

Next time I will focus on beautiful things not the ones that make me angry.

Proceed with confidence

23 March: one year today since the country went into the first national lockdown. It was a Monday, and I had decided to close my shop on the Saturday, having deliberated for several days about what to do for the best. I don’t think any of us realised that a year on we would still be in lockdown, albeit with breaks along the way. But the Tree House has been closed for over seven of the last twelve months. The government has given us grants so that the bills can still be paid, I have been furloughed so I can still take the few hundred pounds a month I earn from the shop, and I am grateful to a government I generally don’t like much for that. We would not have survived without it.

Ours is not a business that lends itself well to click and collect, nor even mail order, though I did send out some surprise books during one part of the crisis. So the decision to close and go on furlough was not a difficult one. I am actually proud of the tiny part we have played in helping to keep everyone safe, in not encouraging people to leave their homes, and I have stayed at home through much of lockdown. Not being able to walk has made that easier in one sense! Though an extremely generous friend offered me money to buy a mobility scooter just before the first lockdown, and my secondhand scooter has been a lifechanger and means I can get out much more easily. I still stay at home mostly though, sometimes venturing out somewhere people-free, and otherwise only going to the bakery or the library as necessary, once a week or less.

We are due to reopen on 12 April, as long as there are no further setbacks, and I am gearing up to that. But this year has changed me in all sorts of ways. It has taught me about the dangers of parochialism – a kind of nationalism writ small, and little repels me more than nationalism. There has of course been a wonderful pulling together in many ways in our community, with a quite brilliantly organised volunteer team which was set up quickly and has done amazing things – very well run and full of committed people. But there has also been a sharpening of a sense of individual rights being removed, which has led to people pushing the covid restrictions to the limits. Town has been busy, social distancing very hit and miss (more miss than hit), lots of shops open that I can’t see are essential, and discussions on social media that make me feel quite desperate. I am not interested in my own town beyond all others – I am lucky to live in a lovely place, but I find some of the attitudes very hard to take. Having lived in Bristol and London, and spent large amounts of time abroad, I find the introspection of small towns tricky. The lack of interest in wider issues, the shutting down of broader views, the focus on the small and close to home rather than the worldwide picture is disheartening.

The world is my community. I am sad we have left the EU, for all its problems, because I now feel less connected to that world. But the EU is a political institution, and I am still part of Europe, still part of the world, still free of national restrictions. The realisation of this over the last year – the year in which we left the EU as well as dealing with the pandemic and in which the world got rid of Trump as a person of power – has changed my thinking about the bookshop.

Alongside all the other things, my heart has been with musicians. We hosted a couple of gigs a month prior to the pandemic, and my heart is especially with those musicians – the independent touring artists who have always had to struggle to make a living but whose livelihood and identity was swept away overnight and who are still facing a deeply uncertain future. Not many locally have been interested in this, and yet it’s at the heart of what the Tree House is about.

I raised £2000 to pay those musicians whose gigs we had to cancel and then to give a small amount each to a number of other musicians. I give art talks via Zoom so that I have a little money to spend on buying music each month. I have been to lots of online gigs. I share whatever I see of musicians on social media, to try to keep their situation in people’s minds. Drops in the ocean, but something each of us can do. The musicians themselves have been amazing – continuing to find ways to make music, to make recordings even, to keep in touch with audiences and fans, to keep their world alive. And in fact out of it all has come some positivity – nothing replaces live music, but online access has opened up audiences a little, and surely streaming live gigs in future will be something to think about, to increase revenue as well as reach more people.

So when the shop reopens, it will have a slightly different focus. More outward-looking. I like to think we have been that anyway, but the focus will be on books and music – selling books in order to support the music industry as well as to keep books in circulation. The community hub aspect will be less of a priority – in terms of the events we host, for example, and getting involved in things at a local level. My heart is with the wider world. We will raise funds to support musicians – whether we do that via donations to Help Musicians UK or more directly has yet to be decided. Shop profits will go to this, as will events or initiatives through the year.

Ironically, I won’t be hosting much live music, to start with at least. We are very small, and there have always been problems with organising gigs, exhausting problems for me. I am rethinking that, but it is not in any case possible while social distancing is still in place. We have had INCREDIBLE gigs from so many amazing musicians over the last 7-8 years, and I am so proud of having brought so many fantastic musicians to Kenilworth. But it was always so hard to sell tickets and I was not the most dynamic host. So I will focus on books – my original dream was to run a secondhand bookshop, and I want to make it a better bookshop than it currently is. And that now has an extra aim, of raising funds to support the music industry. Our glorious patron Warren Ellis remains my daily inspiration; he has lost two years of touring, but remains a major creative force. (The title of the post is a quote from him, a word of encouragement to his great friend Nick Cave in the film One More Time With Feeling.) Warren reaches for the stars while staying completely grounded, and that’s how we should all be living. Exploring our creativity but staying focused on the world around us.

A long-winded post, I am sorry. It may annoy some people – that’s OK. None of us can please everyone. It’s been a tough year for every single one of us, in different ways, many of them unexpected ways. But as spring now starts and the clocks move forward this weekend, we at the Tree House will embrace the light and the warmth of each day as it comes, and work towards creating a wonderful bookshop that keeps the essential presence of the arts in full view and accessible, with standards of quality but aims of affordability, and we will do so by being creatively adventurous and being fully focused on the wider world. It will be great to see customers again and find ways to promote the joy of reading and of owning books, and through this to help to keep the world of live music afloat.

#MusicMatters

Cosmic Dancing at the Albany Theatre: Stella Foodcov interviews Danielz, lead singer of T.Rextasy

We love live music at the Tree House.  We also love Marc Bolan.  We generally shy away from tribute bands, but this is something a bit different, and when Stella, the person behind the wonderful Food Covolution project and website and a key part of the team at the Tree House, went along to interview the lead singer of the band T.Rextasy, I thought it would be great to publish the interview.  The band are at the Albany Theatre in Coventry this Thursday, 28 November, one of only 10 performances in the UK of this particular show, and this should whet your appetites.  Over to Stella!

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T.Rextasy, the world’s only official live tribute band dedicated to the iconic music of Marc Bolan & T.Rex, is playing Coventry’s Albany theatre on Thursday November 28th. But this will be a show with a difference, as Stella FoodCov found out when she interviewed guitarist and lead singer Danielz.

Stella FoodCov: Hi Danielz! How did the idea for this very special tour come about?

Danielz: After one of our usual electric gigs that we’ve been doing for the last twenty-seven years, I was speaking to my agent, Sweeney Entertainment, and I said “it would be nice to do something a little bit different” just once, just a one-off, never to be repeated. So we came up with this idea of the whole band playing acoustically with the Mavron String Quartet behind us. We’re only doing ten of these, ten in the UK – that’s all there is. But working with the Quartet has been fantastic and the sound is amazing because it takes the music into a different sphere.

 

SF: So what should the audience expect?

D: It’s very relaxed and it gives us the opportunity to make things a little more intimate than at the electric gigs. With the Albany show, for the first half of the set we go on as a four-piece and we play four or five songs on our own. Then I introduce the Quartet and we close the first half with them. When we come back after the interval, again we do four or five songs on our own, then I do a Q&A with the audience. After that I introduce the Quartet again, and we do a lot more with them. And it’s not just the hits – we are doing the odd album track as well for the die-hard fans that want to hear something a little bit different with the strings behind it.

 

SF: Marc’s lyrics have a superb poetic quality, don’t they?

D: People annoy me when they say Marc’s lyrics were nonsense. Marc was very well-read. People know he was influenced by the writing of JRR Tolkien, but he was also into poets like Dylan Thomas, and I think that set him apart. A lot of his lyrics were autobiographical. There’s an acoustic song called ‘Spaceball Ricochet’ (from The Slider album), and it’s a song we play in our set. The lyrics are pure poetry and it’s all about Marc’s life at that period.

 

SF: And he was a great innovator?

D: To me as a young kid, he looked like he’d beamed down from Mars or Venus or something. Unlike earlier bands, he really didn’t look like someone who might be your next-door neighbour! But it’s a mistake to say he invented glam rock, because in the 1950s you had totally outrageous people like Little Richard, who wore thick eyeliner and very glamorous clothing. People like him were years before Marc, but Marc loved them. What I think Marc did invent was 1970s glam rock. I met up with David Bowie once, and I asked him about that, and he said “Well of course, Marc was the first”.

 

SF: How does Marc’s legacy continue?

D: Marc was one of the very few people from that era to be cited as an influence by punk musicians like Siouxie Sioux and Johnny Rotten. And as recently as a few months ago, Nick Cave played ‘Cosmic Dancer’ at his show in London; before he sang it, he said something like “this is one of my favourite songs of all time”. On a more personal level, because he often mentioned him in interviews, Marc introduced me to Bob Dylan, who has become almost as important to me as Marc himself. Marc helped a lot of people, he paved the way for a lot of people.

 

SF: For people who think of T. Rex as an electric band, why should they come and see this show?

D: People who’ve been to see us in Coventry before will be used to seeing us as a live rock’n’roll band playing Marc’s music in a certain way, with electric guitars, very loud, very lively, very up-on-your-feet. With this, it’s a completely different thing. Bring an open mind. Come along and see it beautifully played by a string quartet, hear different songs that you probably won’t hear live ever again. It’s a one-off, I think that’s the main thing. Fans can still come along in their glam-rock gear, clap along, sing along, but they can also see and hear the songs in a completely different light. I can one hundred per cent guarantee that if people have been to see us as T.Rextasy, they’re going to love seeing the acoustics with the string quartet. Everybody who’s seen what it entails has come away thinking “My God, this is tremendous”.

 

Stella FoodCov would like to thank Danielz for generously giving his time to be interviewed.

Live music is the BEST!

jack rutterOur live music gigs have been fantastic this year – all of them sell-outs, and word seems to be getting around!  We only book professional musicians, usually on national (or international!) tours, as well as a few local bands and performers who we think are good, and the quality of the acts we book seems to be paying off.

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We have two coming up very soon, in quick succession, both major names on the folk scene, so I am very excited.  Jack Rutter is coming on Sunday 12 May and Kim Lowings on Friday 17 May, as a duo with her father Andrew Lowings.  Tickets are available from the bookshop or online, and advance booking is strongly recommended.

Have a look at our Live Music tab under Events at the top of the page to see what else is coming up; everyone on it is superb (otherwise we wouldn’t book them!).

Anyway – here are Jack and Kim to whet your appetites!

Live music – let’s keep it happening!

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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.

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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.

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!

As you were…

gigAs most of you will know by now, the recent changes I referred to a couple of blog posts ago have fallen through.  Sometimes it becomes clear that things are not going to work out, and business is often a risky thing, especially on the high street.  Things are unpredictable.  While the recent change may have seemed a good solution to our crisis a few weeks ago, it was clearly not meant to be – and we have unexpectedly been given another chance to carry on with what we’ve always done at the Tree House: focus on building community through books and the arts.  This seems a very positive thing despite the difficulties!  I am meeting with the landlord on Monday, and all being well, we will carry on and the support during the last week has been fantastic – loads of books donated, and good book sales each day.  We will start regular evening events again very soon, but I want to get the books sorted first – those who have been in will know that there are lots of empty shelves and books everywhere, it’s very similar to when we first opened!

It is not easy running a small, independent, high street business – especially when the heart of that business is not commercial.  We do need to strengthen our commercial activity, but not at the expense of the more important things – making books accessible and affordable and offering great quality cultural events to our town, bringing people together and cementing friendships.  Community, for us, means sharing experiences and exploring ourselves, our humanity, our place in the word through the arts.

It’s so exciting to be given another chance, however daunting the finances.  We still have an imminent crisis – we have only two weeks of the month in which to raise the rent and rates, due on 1 September – that’s £1700.  There is a little left in the bank from before the recent brief takeover, and we’ve had a good first week since we regained the business, but it’s going to be touch and go.  However, I will do my best and there is certainly no lack of support!

If you wish to support us with a donation, however small, we have a fundraising page; if you are local and have books you are going to get rid of, we always need donations – DVDs too; and we have a programme of amazing music and exciting performers coming up in the next few months.  First up is the wonderful Mark Harrison, blues singer/guitarist and a very engaging guy, this Friday, 26 August.  I know it will be a great night.  Tickets are just £10, online or from the bookshop, and there are just 12 tickets remaining – see our Events and Buy Tickets tabs for more details.  Live music is such an amazing experience, especially in an intimate setting such as the bookshop, so I hope you can join us.

It’s not going to be easy, but life rarely is.  Certainly things that are truly worthwhile rarely are.  I believe we have something a bit different, something life-enhancing and even a bit magical to offer at the Tree House, and I am hoping we can take it forward and strengthen the foundations of what we have begun.

Secure future for the Tree House

bookshopA lot can change in a week – this year has certainly shown us that.  It’s no different here at the Tree House: a couple of weeks ago we found ourselves at a point where survival seemed impossible, but last week salvation came in the shape of the fabulous Astley Book Farm near Bedworth, the largest second-hand bookshop in the Midlands, and a popular haunt for some of our volunteers and regular customers.  Owner Vivienne Mills (we even have the same initials!) appeared on the scene like some sort of angel and offered to take on the bookshop.  It was too good an offer to refuse, especially as I will be able to carry on working here (three days a week) and will still be able to run our evening events.

It means the Tree House will no longer be a Social Enterprise – in other words, it’s no longer a non-profit community venture, but will be run as a commercial second-hand bookshop.  Vivienne has been running Astley Book Farm for 12 years and it is thriving, so we are in very good hands!  It is a huge relief to know that the bookshop is now much more financially secure.  Things are already changing in terms of the stock, and it will be an excellent second-hand bookshop – something in itself of real value to Kenilworth.

The community side of things will continue via our evening events, and I will have more time and energy to focus on organising those.  We are having a bit of a break at the moment, but I am putting together a new programme of music, lectures, films and literary events, and will publish those soon.  For advance notice and earlybird tickets when available, you can subscribe to our mailing list (see the tab above for this).

So there is still lots of potential for us to continue to bring people together through literature and the arts, and to bring live music and other wonderful things to the people of Kenilworth.  This is all thanks to Vivienne and Astley Book Farm.  Hurray!

Book donations: We are no longer taking donations of books – we now buy books, so if you have books you are getting rid of, call in on a Tuesday or Thursday and have a chat with Vivienne, or bring them to her on those days.

Tea/coffee: We have also stopped offering tea and coffee – this was always an informal arrangement, and while refreshments will still be available at evening events, it is not possible to carry on providing them during the day.

It’s all very exciting, I hope you will continue to follow us in this new chapter and call in whenever you can.  I have a lot of people to thank for getting us this far, but will do that in a separate post.

This week

red shoesThis week we have lots of music – see our Music page under the Events tab.  This is a brief post to let you know that fabulous folkies Red Shoes are here on Friday, and tickets are just £5.  So tell your friends, treat your friends, bring your friends along – but please book in advance, it helps us more than I can say.  There  is an online ticket link in the tabs above, or local residents can buy direct from the bookshop.  We will ask on the evening if anyone is able to pay a little more, to help pay the performers and support live music at the bookshop, but there is no obligation to pay more!

Red Shoes are Birmingham-based but nationally renowned, a well-established acoustic band who are a bit Fairport Convention in style – they have in fact played with members of Fairport over the years.  They are lovely supporters of the bookshop too, so I am thrilled they are coming.  Do come and enjoy an evening of wonderful live music at a bargain price!

There is also an informal folk session on Tuesday and contemporary jazz on Thursday – see the Music tab under Events for more info on those.

Meanwhile, here is a taster of Red Shoes. Lovely!

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.