I AM DOROTHY
Thanks to National Lottery players, Kirkgate is celebrating the life and works of Cockermouth’s most famous daughter, poet and diarist Dorothy Wordsworth, in her 250th year.
Dorothy was born on Christmas Day 1771 at Wordsworth House on Main Street. She was acknowledged by her brother, poet William Wordsworth, as one of his most important collaborators. Her values and close observations and love of nature and the Lake District landscape made her an early environmentalist.
In addition to funding for this year-long project from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, Kirkgate would like to thank Allerdale Borough Council, Cockermouth Town Council, Metalcraft Ltd., Ashley Family Foundation and the Slater Trust.
CHRISTMAS 2021 LIGHT INSTALLATION
We commissioned a new ‘Portrait of Dorothy’ artwork representing Dorothy Wordsworth as part of Cockermouth town centre Christmas lights switched on in November 2021 and now displayed at Wordsworth House.
The portrait is a light installation installed on a temporary plinth in the middle of Cockermouth’s Main Street near the Georgian house where Dorothy was born on Christmas Day 1771.
ArtFly, the Ulverston-based art practice of husband and wife team Chris and Jennie Dennett, designed and made the installation (visit ArtFly website here) in collaboration with several other Cumbrian businesses and organisations.
‘There are very few portraits of Dorothy so we know her best through her words,’ said Chris Dennett. ‘That inspired us to create her image using her journal entries and poems, with each letter varying in size to form a pixel of the image.
‘She’s then been laser-etched onto Perspex sheets and up-lit with LED lights so as you move in front of the sculpture a 3D portrait of Dorothy is revealed – a woman in words.’
The work is based on a photograph of Jessie Binns, of Greysouthen, near Cockermouth, Senior Programming and Partnership Officer at the National Trust in the North Lakes. She posed in period dress, drawing on a painting of Dorothy that is part of the Wordsworth collection at Rydal Mount where Dorothy died aged 83.
Kirkgate ran a series of workshops at the Kirkgate Centre, schools and community centres across West Cumbria for children and adults to give people a go at creative writing, making their own portraits of Dorothy, and handcrafting wildflowers such the Wordsworths’ famous daffodils which are such a feature of springtime in Cockermouth.
In October 2021, a 2-day workshop was held at Fairfield Primary School, with 120 children in Years 4 and 6. Artists Chris and Jennie Dennett told Dorothy’s story then the children created a collaborative portrait using Andy Warhol’s portraiture style in a pixelated format.
The Kirkgate Heritage Group’s Summer Exhibition about Dorothy ran from 7 – 21 August at the Kirkgate Centre and toured local village halls in 2022 before being displayed in Cockermouth Library.
Kirkgate Youth Theatre presented performances at Christmas in the Kirkgate Centre developing their Cockermouth Live! street theatre scenes, ‘Discovering Dorothy’. Please click here to find out more.
MAKE THE JOURNEY
We launched our ‘Make The Journey’ Challenge – to travel in as low carbon a way as possible from Dorothy’s birthplace on Cockermouth Main Street to where she died 30 miles away at Rydal Mount near Ambleside in the heart of the Lake District.
People who made the journey were encouraged to post poems, descriptions and art inspired by Dorothy and we have shared some of these on social media.
A specially commissioned film explaining the project and the journey and A Lakeland Journey inspired by Dorothy’s Journey can be viewed, alongside some of your shared journeys below.
Working with The National Trust, Eden Poets and Rydal Mount, as part of the celebration of Dorothy Wordsworth’s 250th year, Kirkgate challenged everyone to ‘Make The Journey’ – travelling from the place of Dorothy’s birth in Cockermouth to the place where she lived at the end of her life in Rydal Mount, Rydal (still owned by the Wordsworth family).
Following in Dorothy’s footsteps the challenge was to be collaborative, explore the landscape and nature, and be creative along the way using our video below as inspiration.
Thank you to those who shared their journeys via visual recording and the written word.