Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle : December 2022

There’s been Christmas fare aplenty at the #Kirkgate and Arts Out West venues so far this December.

Cockermouth Amateur Dramatic Society have given us laugh-out-loud comedy in their show The Farndale Avenue Housing Estate Townswomen’s Guild Dramatic Society’s Production of A Christmas Carol (phew – what a title!). And there’ve been gorgeous Celtic Christmas Strings with Máire Chathasaigh and Chris Newman playing festive music at many Arts Out West venues all over West Cumbria from Gleaston near Barrow in the south to the Settlement at Maryport.

To bring 2022 to an epic close, we have a King and some other wise men to entertain you at the Kirkgate.

16, 19 and 21 December
Elvis will be entering the building in Baz Luhrmann’s film exploring the complicated relationships between Presley (Austin Butler), his enigmatic manager Tom Parker (Tom Hanks) and his influential wife Priscilla Presley (Olivia deJonge).

17 December
We present our last live music gig of the year – our two-tone Christmas party fundraiser with AKA Skafell. Bring your dancing shoes, lots of cash – it’s a food bank fundraiser! – the bar will be open! – we take cards too! – and get your tickets now!


Next year, #Kirkgate aims to bring you ever more good stuff right to your doorstep.

Completely new for 2023 –  a quarterly Comedy Night starting on January 28 with Archie Kelly (star of Peter Kay’s Phoenix Nights, and Car Share), Paul Imrie (an up-and-coming comic championed by Jason Manford), and MC John Lebbon.

We’ll have great new films now that the film-makers are back in gear after the Covid slowdown.

We’ve booked a year of fabulous music-makers, with some of your favourites, and some not-to-be-missed new names, from the worlds of folk, jazz and beyond.

book festival for springtime is in the pipeline.

All this plus regulars like The Great Big Kirkgate Quiz, Cockfrock, Local History talks and exhibitions, workshops, art shows and a full slate of Arts Out West entertainment in village halls, at the Kirkgate Centre and community venues across the region.


Also coming in 2023 – screen advertising from our local businesses.

Offering them the chance to advertise their wares and services to our audiences at our film showings is a way to do our bit to get the message out and keep Cockermouth thriving. Why travel further afield when there’s so much on offer here?

We’ve featured many Kirkgate Quarter businesses in the Chronicle, from Goodness and Grain in Market Place to The Swan on Kirkgate. Now we aim to bring the whole of Cockermouth and district to the Big Screen!

If you are a business owner and like the idea of regular, unique exposure to our engaged weekly audiences of keen, creatively-minded customers, local residents and visitors to the area, get in touch with our Operations Manager, Katie Gentry, on We have a great value early bird deal for this exciting new marketing opportunity.


Wednesday, January 14 2023 is going to be a red-letter day for us, featuring two contrasting firsts at the Kirkgate.

Loose Articles 
We’re very excited that the opening live music gig of the New Year is all-female Manchester band Loose Articles starting off their Kick Like A Girl tour with us. There’s a special, free, VIP offer for 20 quick-off-the-mark music fans who are female or identify as female.

Loose Articles are a punk quartet with plenty to say. Their music speaks to all those determined to get through the age of austerity with tongue in cheek, and two feet firmly on the dance floor. Steve Lamacq at BBC Radio 6 Music is a big champion and they’re on The NME’s 100 list. They’ve appeared on BBC One’s Football Focus as keen amateur pundits and fans of the beautiful game. 

Get Involved
If you are female or identify as female, come along to shadow the band and crew at their Kirkgate soundcheck. Your name will be added to the band’s new VIP LAFC fan club, and you and a guardian/friend will be put on a VIP guest list for the show. These 20 special tickets are free on a first-come, first-served basis.

For a ticket to the Kirkgate soundcheck, Q&A and gig please email and for tickets click here.

You In Time
Starting at 11am on the same day, Saturday, January 14, we have a fun, immersive, 2-day digital photography workshop. Using modern mediums to capture photos in a historical style, the workshop will feature backdrops bringing the present and the past together, encouraging reflection on the changes in our lifestyles.

The work of Victorian-era local photographer Fred Nainby from the Kirkgate’s Local History Collection will be used as a reference point for participants to recreate their own photography.
You can book for this workshop here.
More details on all our upcoming shows and activities here.



Our Autumn/Winter Cockfrock weekend last month broke all records.

Cockfrock is a legendary shopping experience, our ever-popular fundraising sale of ladies clothes and accessories. The idea is that you register in advance as a seller, then drop off your pre-loved, good-quality fashions, and our Friends, who organise the event, set up the rails and sell, sell, sell to the buyers who come on the Cockfrock weekend. Sellers receive 75% of the price tag with the rest raising funds for Kirkgate.

November’s event raised £1,500 towards Kirkgate’s operating costs – a very welcome amount when you consider that our estimated energy bill has gone from under £5000 a year to over £20,000, even with our new, much more efficient boilers and the new double-glazed windows in the Egremont Room.

Over the weekend we had a full complement of sellers with people on the waiting list. (Top Tip – there are limited places for sellers, so watch out next year for when seller registration opens.) We sold 370 items ranging from a few pounds to a record-breaking £150 for the most expensive garment, a gorgeous, absolutely top quality cashmere cape originally worth over £1,000. Several sellers made over £200. A highly successful and enjoyable weekend, and lots of new ideas for the next Cockfrock on June 17 2023.

Huge thanks are due to Judith Bennington and her team of front of house volunteers, bar staff, sales assistants, cashiers, packers and publicists. And thanks to all the sellers and buyers – it’s fun to spread a bit of affordable glitter around the place, to help the planet when perfectly wearable clothes might otherwise end up in landfill, and to literally keep the lights on!


Every month we feature an organisation or business that hires the Kirkgate for their activities, adding a lot to what together we offer to the public.

This month the slot goes not to a hirer but a collaborator – Bassenthwaite-based theatre company Ragged Edge. We provide them with time in our theatre now and then to work up their new plays. Recently, it’s been The Mystery of the Blue Moon Saloon, and here is Stefan Escreet, Ragged Edge’s Artistic Director, to tell us all about it:

The Mystery of the Blue Moon Saloon is a Wild West Murder Mystery Comedy, presented as a radio play live on stage with the assistance of the audience.

I was Associate Director at Theatre by the Lake for many years and I’ve written and perform in this new show with Peter Macqueen and Claire Webzell – all experienced professional actors based in Cumbria.

We don’t claim it’s great art, but it is great fun. We developed it for village halls and community spaces and we invite the audience to get involved in an enjoyable and sociable way with their friends and neighbours.

The show wouldn’t exist without the support of the Kirkgate and the staff and volunteers that work there.  The Kirkgate welcomed us in to the building to devise and experiment with the material.  The warmth of this welcome, and charm of the Kirkgate as a performance space, is reflected in the production we now have.

We were able to present a showing of work-in-progress at the Kirkgate in April this year. We gathered feedback from the audience that day and came back in November to rehearse in preparation for a tour of Cumbrian venues. This tour was kicked off with a dress rehearsal for an invited audience at the Kirkgate and it was then that we really knew we had something that worked and is destined to bring a lot of joy.

Three of the initial Cumbrian dates were at Arts Out West venues and it was encouraging to see staff, trustees and friends of the Kirkgate turning up.  We’ll be touring again next spring and have already attracted further Arts Out West bookings, so watch out for us in Kirkgate’s 2023 listings. All of us at Ragged Edge would like to thank the Kirkgate team for their generous support and encouragement.

Interested in hiring the Kirkgate?

Please get in touch with our Operations Manager Katie Gentry on or phone 01900 829966. You’re welcome to come and see all our facilities and extensive technical equipment in the Egremont Room and in the theatre upstairs before making a booking.

There’s free wifi and we’re right next to a car park with 3 hours free parking. More details here.


This is where we usually feature one of our wonderful volunteers, but this month we’re giving a shout out to Celia Burbush, a professional, award-winning artist who has been working with us over the past year.

For a Kirkgate project funded by Arts Council England and Allerdale Borough Council, we asked Celia to lead several groups in Maryport and Cockermouth doing Arts-Based Research. Participants make art inspired by local history and the work and life stories of successful local artists. The aim is to find out what local people want and value about art and culture in the area while they get hand-ons to show their own creativity.

Last month it was the turn of Year 2 children at Netherton Infant School in Maryport. Here’s what happened when the children went with teacher Leah Dixon and Celia to Maryport Harbour exploring aspects of the town’s links to the sea.

They passed The Wave leisure centre, located on the site at Irish Street where ships used to be built and were launched broadside (sideways on) into the River Ellen. Then at the Lake District Coast Aquarium they found out about the remarkable underwater life of the Solway Firth.

Image used with kind permission from Netherton Infant School.
The children studied the variety of fish, including recent arrivals in the aquarium’s ‘sea lab’, where creatures such as baby lobsters and jellyfish are hatched. The children created drawings of the fish and creatures, describing how they moved and their special markings and shapes.

They then visited a large mural by Maryport artist Alan Roper, a special artwork not normally visible to the public. The mural, depicting the launch of a ship into the River Ellen, is in a private garden overlooking the harbour.

‘The mural is a vibrant impression of what it must have been like over a hundred years ago when great ships were launched, casting spray onto the watching crowds,’ said Celia. ‘The children were thrilled to see the painting, having learnt about this unique aspect of their town’s history.’

At school, the children will exhibit their own version of a Maryport merchant ship, a sculpture measuring 2.2 metres long by nearly 2 metres tall which they have been constructing with Celia’s help. The ship will be displayed at a public exhibition to be held next year at Kirkgate, featuring the wide range of work produced by the many participants in the project.


As Christmas approaches, Gloria Edwards of our Heritage Group of volunteers takes a look in our archives at winters past:

The winter of 1895 was known as The Great Freeze, and Cockermouth did not escape. In January and February of that year both the Rivers Cocker and Derwent froze for miles around. So deep was the ice that people flocked to skate on it, and an ice house was built beside the Cocker, on Rubby Banks.

Ten men, unable to work because of the bad weather, were employed to cut blocks of ice and build the house. The local newspaper reported that it was 27 feet long and 9 feet wide. An admission price was charged, with enthusiastic visitors entertained by the Mechanics’ Band, refreshments served, and pupils from Miss Todd’s private school regaling the crowds with songs.

From left to right: The frozen River Derwent, the ice house on the banks of the Cocker, skating on Sal Dam (on a frozen River Cocker).
Sadly, the weather meant that many others were also unable to work as normal, and consequently no wages were earned, leading to great hardship.  Several soup kitchens were set up, including at the Apple Tree Hotel, Main Street (now the  Wordsworth Hotel), and in St Helen’s Street and Market Place, where hundreds of people were catered for. This was in the days before the Welfare State, with no benefits for people who were unable to work. They had to rely on charity.

Christmas in the 1930s was also a time of great hardship:

‘We didn’t have much money but we always managed to fill their pillow cases.  In those days, nothing cost more than 6d at Woolworth’s and they had all the games, dolls, toys cars and trinkets which were always appreciated … In the bottom of the Christmas stocking would be some pennies, nuts, sweets and fruit.  Roast goose seemed popular for Christmas dinner and a jar of goose grease was kept as an old remedy for rubbing the chest when you had a bad cold.  I can still remember the smell.  Whether it did any good I don’t know.’

(from ‘Yance Ower’ – ‘Once Upon a Time’, by Clifton Oral History Group, editor Michael Gregson).

Christmas this year will be tough for many people too. Maybe there’s a lesson from a 1930’s newspaper comment to ponder:

‘Christmas Gifts That Money Can’t Buy: the glad smile of a child; the tender light in a loved one’s eyes; the warm clasp of an old friend’s hand; the wag of a dog’s tail; the knowledge that Christmas cheer has come to someone less fortunate than yourself, through some act of yours’.

Our Warm Spot on Mondays, 10am – 12noon, continues in the New Year. Drop by the Kirkgate for a free coffee morning and enjoy some company after doing your shopping or taking a walk.

You can donate to help us welcome Cockermouth townspeople to our Warm Spot here.


Kirkgate is dedicated to providing creative, cultural and heritage experiences with and within the communities in West Cumbria. You can support our mission by becoming a Friend. From £30 a year you will enjoy various benefits including:
•    Ticket exchange
•    Priority or exclusive invitations to special events such as the Cockfrock preview
•    Occasional newsletters updating you on future plans and new developments at Kirkgate Arts and Heritage



Look out for our fornightly listings emails, and pass this link on to your friends to keep them up to date with what’s on 

Search our website by category or date to find what tickles your fancy

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @Kirkgate.

Get a printed list of all the events coming up every month – available at the Kirkgate Box Office, open Mondays and Fridays 10am – 1pm.


On behalf of the whole Kirkgate community we have sent our condolences to Billy Bowman’s family on the sad news of his death.

Billy was an icon of the town, an outstanding champion of both our musical heritage and the musical talent in our community.

For many years, he supported our efforts at Kirkgate, selling tickets to our events at his music shop in Lowther Went in the years before online sales. He was a natural choice of judge for our ‘Kirkgate’s Got Talent’ show. We all loved the entertainment he and the band provided for our 20th anniversary dinner and dance 7 years ago.

We have been very fortunate to have had Billy, the band and the family’s shop in our midst, and the best tribute to him will be to ‘Keep Music Live’!


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.

Emma Heys