The night John sang in Swedish

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Local music legend Will Pound playing our piano during the lead-up to the EU referendum.

There is always a tendency to take stock at New Year – to look both backwards and forwards, to be a bit reflective.  Though I have to say that I am pretty much always reflective about the Tree House, trying to work out what is going well, what could be improved, what isn’t working, what the best way forward is.  We have been in business for three and a half years now, which feels like an achievement – one friend says he gave us about three weeks when we started!

It’s always going to be tough financially.  We are not a very commercial outfit, and I am not by any stretch a natural businesswoman.  But finances aside, I think the achievements of the bookshop are enormous.  These are all to do with people – the regular customers and volunteers who are part of the place, some of them since the day we opened, and the growing community of followers around the world, the connections via social media, the fact that we are an easygoing space in a pressurised world.  That’s a direct result of not being commercially-focused…and yet we do have to survive financially, which is not easy.

Our customer-base is very varied in terms of age, background, nationality.  We really don’t have either a target market nor a typical customer.  Even an interest in books is not always a factor – partly because we do other things here, partly because sometimes people come just because they like the atmosphere.  One thing I love about it is how international our broader community is.  Lots of European nationals, especially, who are among the regular faces we see.  Being close to Warwick and Coventry Universities undoubtedly helps with this.  The day after the EU referendum vote, when many of us were feeling hollow and a bit desperate, some of these European nationals came to the bookshop to talk, be with sympathetic souls and generally try to find some sort of solidarity and sense of community with others.  We had made no secret of our desire to Remain in Europe, and we continue to promote a sense of Europeanness in what we do.

That’s why when, at a recent Tree House Session (our regular open mic sessions), John decided to sing Santa Lucia in Swedish, unaccompanied, I was fighting back the tears, not always successfully, and not in sadness so much as pride.  It was wonderful.  John is one of the most solidly loyal members of our community and a regular contributor at the open mics, usually with his own poetry.  He has lived in Sweden and has long been advocating that we create a more hyggelig atmosphere here – I know hygge is a Danish concept, but it is part of Swedish culture too.  I love all things Scandinavian – I am a true northerner, give me snow over sun-baked olive groves any day!

Anyway…we are now facing our toughest challenges yet, and who knows if we will get through them.  If we don’t, that’s fine, I will find a new direction.  But that moment on a dark December night at our open mic session summed up for me what is at the core of the spirit of the Tree House.  It is and always has been about people coming together through a love of the arts, especially literature but also music (very much) and film and a celebration of creativity.  But it’s also about deeper things, things we can’t always put into words, things that run through our collective identity as a community.  It’s one of my favourite things that’s happened at the Tree House, John singing unaccompanied in Swedish.

Crowdfunding

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Click on the image for the link to our crowdfunder campaign!

Today we’ve launched a very ambitious campaign – trying to raise £5000 for the bookshop in just six weeks…  So many have given generously in the past, and I don’t want to ask the same people to keep giving, but we now have a lot of followers on Twitter and Facebook, and if everyone shares, and maybe their friends and followers share, we could have a huge reach and the potential for lots of support!  The best way to support us is to keep spreading the word (as well as buying books, of course!), so if anyone out there is prepared to share, retweet, etc, that would be marvellous.

We are hoping for an injection of cash to boost our ongoing efforts to raise our game a little and make our regular income stronger.  The crowdfunding is to help enable us to survive, and to provide funds for things such as producing some good publicity material (flyers, bookmarks, postcards and more) and a window graphic to make it clearer who and what we are, renewing our PRS and Film licences so that we can carry on playing music and showing films, improving the lighting (those who have visited know it’s a bit basic and there are several bulbs/lights that need replacing!), sorting out our hot water boiler to help with washing up, so that we can perhaps do more in terms of offering refreshments, and other things besides.  If we raise enough, I want to go beyond these necessities and make the bookshop itself – the physical space – a lovelier, more magical place than it already is.

So please do have a look at the campaign, and please click here and share the link as much as you can.  The link will stay at the top right of our homepage here, linked through the image of the bookshop, and you can share on various social media sites directly from the crowdfunding page.  We get to keep whatever pledges we raise in the next six weeks, but if we can reach our £5000 target, that would be amazing!  We have raised £90 in the first hour, so let’s see how far we can get…  Thank you in advance!  Every single share or retweet helps.

In the meantime, watch our Tree House Sessions video for inspiration!

Events at the Tree House

I have been neglecting this site!  I have been busy, still loads to do at the bookshop and new donations of books coming in all the time.

But we have arranged a few musical treats over the next few weeks.

Friday 8 May, 7.30pm: Romany Pie.  Kenilworth’s own folk group, always very entertaining, they came to the old Tree House and we are delighted that they want to come back and play at the new one.  Free entry – bring a bottle if you like (£1 corkage).  Doors at 7.30pm, music at 8ish.

Saturday 16 May, 7.30pm: Tree House Sessions.  The return of our popular open mic sessions (without a mic!).  Unplugged acoustic music and poetry, always a wonderful range of performances and a great atmosphere.  £2 for everyone, performers and audience, redeemable as a voucher to spend in the bookshop.  If you would like to perform, please email treehousesessions@treehousebookshop.co.uk

Sunday 17 May, 3pm: Andrew Sharpe and Amy Kakoura.  Andrew (piano) and Amy (vocals) came to the old Tree House too, with a taste of their musical Songs from a Ledge, and are returning for a short afternoon visit ahead of a performance at Warwick Arts Centre, Under the Radar, on 7 June – we are thrilled to have them.  Andrew is keyboard player with Steamchicken, the nationally renowned folk/jazz group, with whom Amy also sometimes sings – she has a fabulous voice, and this is an afternoon not to be missed.  Just a shortish set, about an hour, free entry.

Friday 5 June, 7.30pm: Lucy Anne Sale – details tbc.

More being planned – hope to see you at something soon!

Music at the Tree House

An inspiring day, in an inspiring venue, spending time with the most inspiring people. Gigs like this are precious.

(Ange Hardy, Fatea Female Vocalist of the Year, after her gig at the Tree House on 22 September 2014)

Apart from books, live music is the best thing we have to offer at the Tree House.  We’ve had some brilliant gigs over the last 16 months, and we are planning lots more.  We can only seat 30-40, so gigs are always intimate, with comfortable armchairs and sofas for those who arrive early and an ever-boiling tea urn.  You are always welcome to bring a bottle of something stronger – we are not licensed, but it’s fine for people to bring their own alcohol – and we have wine glasses and corkscrews.  We charge £1 for corkage (tea and coffee is also £1 a cup).

We have started regular open mic nights, which we call the Tree House Sessions; our first one was fantastic, and our second one this Saturday, 8 November, promises to be as good.  Come along and listen – we charge £2 entry, but you get a £2 voucher to spend at the bookshop.  Best value night out around!  They will be slightly irregular up to Christmas, but from January we plan to make them fortnightly.

On 15 November, we have a cabaret evening courtesy of Unlock the Music, a charity in Coventry that supports new talent.  Something different for us, and again promises to be wonderful – tickets are £8, with money raised going to the charity.  You can buy tickets online or through the bookshop.

On 6 December, we have Sharpe & Guy and The Somerville Gentlemen coming to give us an evening of folk music, each act performing either side of an interval.  Brilliant musicians all, another fantastic night of live music to look forward to!  Tickets are £6, available through the bookshop.

Then on 20 December, we have the brilliant folk duo Haddo making a return appearance – they wowed us shortly after we opened, in August of last year, and this time are coming to play Christmas music – come prepared to sing a few carols as well as listen to some wonderful music.  Will Pound is now an established figure on the folk scene and beyond, and Nicky Pound is a fabulous viola player and singer, and as a duo they are a force to be reckoned with.  Festive treats will be available too.  Tickets are £7, available through the bookshop.

We are planning more music for the new year – the focus will remain folky, in a broad sense, as this suits the venue well and suits the personal taste of those of us organising the events!

Here is a photo of Ange Hardy performing in September – a wonderful evening!

Ange Hardy at the Tree House, 23.09/2014
Ange Hardy at the Tree House, 23.09/2014

Hope to see you at something very soon – and do spread the word!