Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle : December 2021

Welcome to #Kirkgate’s December newsletter. Cockermouth’s town centre Christmas lights are now adding a sparkling dazzle to the long nights of the festive season as the winter solstice approaches. Our amazing illuminated ‘Portrait of Dorothy Wordsworth’, by Cumbrian artists Chris and Jennie Dennett, is a fascinating addition. She stands on the Main Street central reservation, not far from Wordsworth House where Dorothy was born on Christmas Day 250 years ago.

Image used with kind permission from Trevor Earthy

Kirkgate Youth Theatre are on stage on Thursday, 9 December, with their original show Sparkles of Light inspired by Dorothy. Please support our young people – get your tickets here.

Thanks are due to National Lottery players, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Cockermouth Town Council and others for their support and funding for the ‘I Am Dorothy’ project.

Winter wonders to entertain you

At The Kirkgate

Saturday, December 11, 3pm The much-loved story A Christmas Carol, (PG), in a special afternoon show as part of the Taste Cumbria food festival. Charles Dickens’ classic comes to life in a unique film combining stunning animation and live action. A grandmother starts to tell the story as the children prepare a toy theatre. Then young Emily’s imagination takes over and the cardboard theatre transforms to reveal a magical world. Tickets here.

Monday 13, Wednesday 15, Friday 17 December The Green Knight (15) One of 2021’s top new films, a five star-rated fantasy of chivalry, quest and heroes starring Dev Patel, Alicia Vikander and Joel Edgerton. For times and tickets click here.

Thursday 16th December 7pm & Friday 17th December 2pm Shared Experience bring us Sleeping Beauty. Full of music, storytelling, joy and love, this live show promises to be an enchanting theatrical and festive treat, for all the family, to warm hearts this winter. Book your ticket here then pay what you feel after the show.

Saturday 18 December, 8pmPecker, our summer sell-out local stars, will twinkle at this Christmas Party gig to celebrate the festive season in style and raise money for our local Food Bank. Get your tickets here.

Monday, 20 December, 7pmNo Time To Die (12A), Special Christmas screening! Dress up and join us for cocktails at the bar, with cabaret-style seating in the auditorium for Daniel Craig’s last outing as James. There’s just one seat left! Grab it here.

Click here for the full programme into the New Year, including Summer of Soul (PG), the film showcasing the legendary1969 Black Woodstock (Harlem Cultural Festival) featuring Stevie Wonder, Gladys Knight, Nina Simone, BB King.

Kirkgate Out West

GreenMatthews’ Midwinter Revels

A heart-warming celebration of Yuletide past, featuring carols, winter folk songs, toe-tapping tunes and a plethora of weird and wonderful instruments.
December 20, Kirksanton Village Hall, 7pm
December 21, Ireby Globe Hall, 7.30pm
December 22, Maryport Settlement, 7.30pm
Check our website for all the details and booking

A Day in The Life

Every month we feature a volunteer. In this wintertime, our writer is Dr Keith Snell, a celebrated photographic artist whose work often includes stunning images of snowy landscapes and wildlife :

I arrived in Blindcrake, Cockermouth, in 2008 having taken early retirement from my job running the research and academic administration of The Institute of Cancer Research and the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, as well as leading a research group of my own there. It was a return to the Lake District where my mother and her family lived and that I had visited throughout my life.

Being a culture vulture and spoilt by the riches in London I was anxious to find what was on offer here and I was overjoyed to find that music, film and theatre were right on my doorstep at the Kirkgate. After two years of taking full advantage of the programmes, I decided to return the favour by being a volunteer and so I became a Duty Manager, mainly for the film nights. I also participate in choosing the film programme.

At that time I also became involved with Keswick Photographic Society, since photography has been a passion from my teenage years. Having run the club competitions and been Chairman of the Society, I now present my photography talks and judge club competitions across the UK. Happily my photography interest has also spilled over into contributions to the Kirkgate. Some of the highlights include photographing our very own version of Strictly Come Dancing, a Friends’ fundraiser in 2014, and the children’s Georgian dressing-up for the 2019 Open Day.

This year I put together a slide show Lakeland Journey  for the launch of Kirkgate’s Dorothy Wordsworth Make The Journey challenge from Cockermouth to Grasmere. I also contributed photos for the Heritage Group’s Dorothy exhibition. I have organised a few art fairs at the Kirkgate, with local artists of all persuasions exhibiting their work for sale.

It is rewarding and great fun to be one of a band of volunteers on the front line of delivering the arts to the community. The thank yous from people as they leave in the evening after a film or some other event that they have clearly enjoyed is a real pleasure. The Kirkgate makes such an essential contribution to the cultural life and social well-being of the wider Cockermouth area. I feel incredibly privileged to play my small part in making sure that this continues and prospers.

All images copyright Keith Snell, used with kind permission.

Last year we made a little film with some of our volunteers which you can see here.

As well as volunteering, there are many ways you can help us with your support. Coming along to our events is the best way possible!
You can donate here.

You can join our Friends organisation from £20 a year and get involved in fundraising events such as Cock Frock and the Great Big Kirkgate Quiz.

Or – make us your Allerdale and Lakeland Lottery Good Cause.
Tickets for the lottery cost just £1 per week. Each ticket has a 1 in 50 chance to win a prize each week, with a top prize of £25,000.
From every £1 ticket you buy, 60p goes to local good causes in Allerdale and improving the community. 50p of that 60p comes to Kirkgate Arts and Heritage if you make us your Good Cause.

Thank you!

Kirkgate History and Heritage By Gloria Edwards

Christmas will soon be upon us. What were Cockermouth Christmases like in the past?  In the 19th century, inmates of the Workhouse (which stood where the buildings of Christchurch Terrace now are) could look forward to a little more cheer than usual in their unremittingly grim days in that institution.  In 1877 we read in the West Cumberland Times of 29th December:

‘The inmates of the workhouse had their customary Christmas dinner of roast beef and plum pudding.  Mrs Watson also treated the old women lodged in the sick wards to a quarter of a pound of tea and a pound of sugar each; and Miss Benson, of St Helen’s, sent tea and sugar to all the other old women who are inmates of the house.
The Rev W Williams gave snuff and tobacco to those of the old inmates who use these articles.  To the children he also presented oranges, and Mr J B Banks furnished them with a supply of marbles.’

Jump forward 70 years to 1947, in those difficult post-war days of rationing, to Brigham Memorial Hall, where a Christmas party for 150 children of Twiname’s workers is being held:

‘A new-style running buffet was a feature, and though a beautifully decorated Christmas tree towered to the ceiling it was not large enough to hold the array of presents, which were distributed by Santa Claus (Mr S Kennon of Cockermouth).  Entertainers included artists from the Opera House, Workington, and a Salterbeck conjuror.  Games and dancing were also enjoyed, and everyone received a gift.’

I don’t know how snowy the Christmas of 1947 was but our pictures show a snowy Main Street in 1917, and a frozen River Cocker in 1895 where an ice house built on the banks drew large crowds.

Gloria Edwards

To get involved with the Heritage Group email or

Our Cockermouth

Each month we hear from a member of the wider Kirkgate Quarter family.  This month, it’s Jo and Pete Fox of Strengthening Practice in Market Place. For several years Pete and Jo provided rent-free office space to us at their former premises on Main Street, for which we are very grateful. After such hard times for everyone in social care – the sector they support – we are pleased to say ‘thank you’ and celebrate their Cockermouth success story:

We have lived in Cockermouth for nearly 20 years now, having moved from Oz in 2001. We formed Strengthening Practice in 2007 as a small, family-run company providing training nationally in social care, focusing on social work. Our goal is to help the frontline workers make a meaningful difference to the lives of the people they serve. We have a core team of 16 people, 5 of whom are based in our Cockermouth HQ.

When COVID arrived, it forced us to rapidly re-imagine our business. 2020 was a challenging year for us, but thanks to our amazing team, we came out the other side stronger and bolder. We recently launched an online learning platform which has transformed the way we teach and learn.

Another positive outcome from COVID has been our partnership with the British Association of Social Workers, with whom we have developed the Social Work Professional Support Service. Our 60 coaches offer confidential peer support to social workers across the UK. The service has been welcomed as an essential aid to an exhausted and stressed frontline workforce. A great example of a Cockermouth business making a real difference nationally.

Alongside all this, we recently moved around the corner from Main Street into Market Place. It’s fabulous to be part of the bustling community that makes up the Kirkgate Quarter. We especially enjoy being surrounded by so many culinary options – one of the many fantastic benefits of living and working in Cockermouth. Our out-of-town staff and clients enjoy their visits to HQ, especially at this time of year when the Christmas lights cheer the town.

We’ve never regretted our move, and truly believe we’d be hard pressed to find such a friendly and well-serviced town anywhere else. The Kirkgate plays a key role in that liveability, and we enjoy taking part in the quizzes, the National Theatre screenings and live music events. One of our happiest memories is our 50th birthday party, which we held at the Kirkgate, and which was catered by another Cockermouth staple, Wild Zucchinis.

We are so pleased to continue to support Kirkgate: a fabulous, essential part of Cockermouth life.

Letter From The Chair

Unlike the ‘Front of House’ areas of venues, the ‘backstage’ and admin areas are often a bit bashed about and ‘well-used’ (but always clean!), and our back stairs to the auditorium and office at the Kirkgate were long overdue a sprinkle of stardust. When that route to the first floor had to play a bigger part in the public’s movement around the building due to the need for a COVID one-way system, we were made even more aware of the need for a makeover.

Now, thanks to a very generous donation from an anonymous donor, we have been able to have that area redecorated professionally by Tom Mattinson’s team and it is all looking so much better. Thank you Anonymous Donor!

If you’d like to make a donation to completing the work (the front stairs will be next) please donate here or email me at

The building refresh mirrors all the new entertainment offerings we’ve been busy lining up for 2022. We’ve launched new monthly Open Mic and Poets Out Loud nights and there’ll be regular jazz gigs, kicking off with the renowned Jeremy Sassoon quartet on January 22. We’re excited to be hosting one of the UK’s most in-demand singer/pianists.

Not least of all the excitement these days at #Kirkgate will be the post-lockdown return of our Friends group’s unmissable Great Big Kirkgate Quiz, devised and hosted by the fabulous Toby Gaffney of Coronation Street and Theatre By The Lake fame. Get your team together and book now.

Watch out for your next Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle in early January, check our website for all the upcoming films, live-streaming, music and more, and in the meantime, a Happy Christmas to one and all from your #Kirkgate team. See you in 2022!

Marion Bowman