|What a packed twelve months it has been. After the disruption caused by Covid, it has been a joy to open our doors and welcome the community back.
2022 started and will end with a film about music. Last January we aimed to lift the spirits with The Summer of Soul and we are hoping to have everyone all shook up as we end the year with Elvis. In the midst of these musical treats, we saw our biggest film success ever with Kenneth Branagh’s Belfast.
We also had some great live music on offer. In January we launched Jazz@the Kirkgate. On the third Sunday of the month some of Britain’s top jazz musicians grace our stage. The town welcomed back Cockermouth Live in July and we were thrilled to host Peter Knight’s Gigspanner Big Band as the headline act on the Saturday night.
We held our first Cockfrock event in three years in May and then due to high demand brought it back again in November. The two events saw many a happy shopper, added to the bank balances of around 100 sellers and saved large volumes of clothing from landfill. Now that’s what I call a win-win.
Refurbishment turned the ground floor Egremont Room into a lovely space so we wanted to make the most of it. We started monthly Open Mic and Poets Out Loud nights and their success gave us the confidence to put on some of our ticketed, more intimate, events downstairs. The first of these gigs was Jesse Terry with his beautiful voice and charming, heartfelt songs.
In March we started our illustrated Heritage talks on the first Thursday of the month. We are very happy to give Eric Cass (the chair of the Heritage Group) an opportunity to share his enthusiasm and knowledge of local history with the community. The heritage team were keen to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee with not only a talk covering the ways in which jubilees have been marked by the town in the past but also an exhibition.
We were very pleased that Cockermouth Town Council chose the Kirkgate as the venue for their Music through the Ages concert that saw young and older local talent perform songs from the time that Elizabeth had reigned.
Word had clearly got out around that we can provide a great space for outside users as Cockermouth School also came with their Move Over Words exhibition showcasing the amazing creative work of the schools’ students.
In July, we used the whole building for the finale of our ‘I am Dorothy’ project (a 12-month celebration of the life and work of Dorothy Wordsworth) as we had so much to fit in, from the light installation which had pride of place on Main Street during last year’s Christmas lights, to Toby Gaffney and Emma Rydal’s specially commissioned short play, to readings of poetry written by local people that came out of our Make the Journey challenge.
We provided space for Bassenthwaite’s Ragged Edge theatre company to develop their new show The Mystery of the Blue Moon Saloon. The end of their rehearsals tied in nicely with the relaunch of our Friends scheme – we offered Friends free tickets to the final run through before Ragged Edge took the show on the road.
Kirkgate Arts Out West has been back up and running in village halls and other community venues up and down the west coast. Some of the shows were so good we brought them to the Kirkgate as well. The Syrian Baker was beautiful, with delicious food, and we went for something quite different at the start of October when we screened the original horror movie Nosferatu with a new score performed live. Continuing the spooky theme at the end of the month, we held torch light tours of the building bringing just the right amount of joy and fear to children and their adults.
While all this has been going on the staff and volunteers have been working away behind the scenes with contractors making improvements to the building. All the windows on the ground floor carpark side of the Kirkgate were replaced in March which has made the Egremont Room warmer and reduced the noise from the carpark. We received a significant grant from Allerdale Council towards capital improvements including a new kitchen off the Egremont Room and long overdue new boilers. All this has added to the customer experience and allowed us to provide one of Cockermouth’s friendly Warm Spots to the public every Monday morning.
None of this would have been possible without the hard work of all our volunteers and staff so a big thank you to them all. I hope that you have found time to enjoy one of our many offerings over the last year and I will look forward to seeing you again in the New Year.