Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle : January 2023

Welcome to #Kirkgate 2023. In this first newsletter of the New Year we send you our best wishes and hopes for health and happiness, joy and jubilation. Coming along to the Kirkgate Centre or an Arts Out West venue could do wonders for you in all those areas, so we look forward to seeing you!


This year #Kirkgate aims to bring you ever more great entertainment and cultural experiences.

We have the first of our new quarterly Comedy@Kirkgate nights on January 28, regular live music, and films three times a week.

Fermento pizza nights are back, from 6pm, before the Friday film screenings – order in advance online at and mention Kirkgate in the comments box, Carla and the team will contact you for payment, and we will then collect on your behalf and deliver fresh pizza to your table in the bar.

Jazz@Kirkgate resumes on January 22 at 7.30pm with The Dean Stockdale Quartet’s celebration of the music of the great Oscar Peterson.

National Theatre Live shows begin on January 29 with The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s gripping and timeless study of a witch-hunt.

Our monthly illustrated local history talk returns on February 2Kirkgate Youth Theatre’s new term has started and a book festival for springtime is in the pipeline. With workshops on photography and storytelling, plus all the activities put on by community groups such as Soundwave’s new weekly Cockermouth Creative Collective for 11-19 year olds (featured below), there’s something for everyone.

What’s on your doorstep

Search our website by category or date to find what tickles your fancy
Follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram @KirkgateArts.
Get a printed list of all the events coming up every month at the Kirkgate Centre – available at the Box Office, open Mondays and Fridays 10am – 1pm.


On Saturday, January 14, we held our first ever digital photography workshop, You In Time, led by Cockermouth School’s photography teacher Felicity Cromack. It was a great success, selling out and adding a new area of the arts to our opportunities for ‘joining in’.

The work of pioneering local Victorian-era photographer Fred Nainby from the Kirkgate’s Local History Collection was used as a reference point for participants to create their own photography, encouraging reflection on the changes in our lifestyles. Our Community Projects Officer Chloe was at the workshop over the weekend and explains more;

“Local photographer and school teacher Felicity Cromack led an inspiring photography workshop at the Kirkgate Centre.

Mobile phones are the most accessible photography medium and are capable of doing much more than many people realise!

Participants were guided through their phone camera functions, including ISO, EV, shutter speed and white balance. Manual control of these functions gives the photographer more control of the image they are capturing.

Once participants understood how to use these tools they were encouraged to get creative, snapping images of one another against historical style backdrops.

The ‘You in Time’ photography workshop juxtaposed the modern experience of today with a historical style from the past. Fred Nainby’s work (which we have in the Kirkgate Heritage collection) was used as inspiration, resulting in eye capturing and atmospheric portraits.

The workshop was funded by Arts Council England, and open to all ages.”


Photography features strongly in the Kirkgate archive. We hold many images showing life as it was in days gone by and we like to bring them out and use them for various activities to inspire and inform people. We have a fascinating permanent display of large-scale photographs of old Cockermouth across the ages in the Egremont Room, our ground floor community hall. Sometimes scholars work with our collection, for example a researcher who was exploring social history through the photographs of local weddings that we hold.

Last month’s Kirkgate History and Heritage article featured images of wintry scenes taken from the glass slides of a 19th century Cockermouth man, William Youdale. Here, Gloria Edwards of the Heritage Group expands on who William Youdale was, and the significance of photography in the history of Cockermouth and district:

William Youdale lived at Daltonleigh, a large house opposite Parkside Avenue. He was a master draper with a business on Main Street, who later joined forces with a Mr Tunstall, then in Market Place (the present lingerie shop, Jacy’s).

William had a life-long involvement in all aspects of photography and produced a notable collection of glass slides of local interest.  His skills and knowledge also extended to early moving images.  He gave regular slide shows in the area, using his magic lantern.

Several years ago Kirkgate’s Heritage Group acquired the magic lantern, a set of glass slides, and lecture notes from the Helena Thompson Museum in Workington. Kirkgate’s heritage volunteers have taken care of them since then. They form an important part of the local history collection of which Kirkgate Arts and Heritage is the custodian, and for which plans are being developed to provide bespoke facilities for storage and public access.  Additionally, part of the acquisition were two beautiful mechanical kaleidoscope magic lantern slides (also known as chromotropes), each with a brass crank handle that could be turned to show the kaleidoscopic patterns as the light shone through them.

The magic lantern was made in Glasgow from mahogany with brass fittings. Below are two magic lantern images produced by William. One shows a bear being led along Main Street (probably from a visiting circus) outside what is now The Hunters Bar public house.  The other image is a 19th century view of Main Street.
Photography developed strongly from the mid/late 19th century into the 20th century and Cockermouth had many talented photographers, including Fred Nainby, Bernard Green, William Shilton, Thomas Irving and Herbert Bowley.  Interestingly, Fidler’s Almanac of 1869 carries an advert for ‘Hunter’s Grand Camera Obscura’ operating from what local residents know as the Pepperpot House on the Fitz Road/Lamplugh Road junction. The camera obscura (a ‘dark room’) at the top of the building, and the equipment within it, allowed members of the public to enjoy panoramic views ‘animated with thousands of moving figures’ of the surrounding area – all for just sixpence (2½ p. in today’s money)!

Become a heritage volunteer

If you would like to get involved in Kirkgate’s heritage work and join the volunteer group that meets regularly to look after the collection, deal with inquiries, conduct research, prepare publications and plan public events such as exhibitions, workshops and talks, please email:


Every month we feature one of the community groups or businesses who hire the Kirkgate to bring their own special magic to the Kirkgate mix. This time, it’s Soundwave Cumbria who have launched a new weekly music club for 11-19 year olds at the Kirkgate. Emma Dockeray from Soundwave explains more:

On January 12 we were excited to launch a new music club at the Kirkgate. We are a music charity based in West Cumbria. We formed 12 years ago and work across the west of the county with young people and the wider community. We offer free weekly music sessions for young people, run community choirs, deliver music provision in primary schools, run a recording studio and much more.

Our activities take place in Workington, Whitehaven, Keswick and Parton, and it’s great to be starting to make music in Cockermouth too. The new music session is called ‘Cockermouth Creative Collective’. It is held every Thursday from 5pm to 7pm and is for 11-19 year olds who are interested in music. Whether you like to sing, play an instrument, want to learn to write songs or even join a choir, this is the music club for you.

It’s important that our offer is inclusive to all young people so the sessions are free. The Cockermouth Creative Collective is led by 3 trainee music leaders, Caitlin, Charlotte and Eve, who are all musicians in their own right. Come and be part of the collective! We look forward to making some noise with you.
For more information go to 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.


In each KQC we feature one of our brilliant volunteers. This month as we look forward to the great music we have lined up in 2023, we asked Kev Farish to tell us all about his life with Kirkgate as one of our music volunteers:

I first started getting involved with the Kirkgate after 2010’s Midsummer Festival (now known as Cockermouth Live). My band, Crow Dog, had a slot at the festival and afterwards I contacted the festival team with some ideas for improvements. I subsequently became directly involved in helping to organise Cockermouth Live for the next 12 years. My role included developing and managing the festival website, recruiting local bands for the festival and, in some cases, securing the headline acts for the Saturday night at Kirkgate including Dr Feelgood (2018), Kiki Dee (2019) and Kathryn Tickell (2021). It was a special thrill for Crow Dog to be the support act for Dr Feelgood on the Kirkgate stage – that was a really memorable evening. The photo is from that evening (that’s me in the hat!).

My areas of expertise are Sound Engineering and Electrical Engineering. Having been in many local bands, I acquired lots of practical knowledge regarding putting bands on. I often operate the Kirkgate’s sound system for various live events, which I particularly enjoy. I had previously helped out on the main stage at the Maryport Blues Festival.

Prior to retiring from Sellafield in 2014, I was (and still am) a Chartered Electrical Engineer. I was able to provide a safety review of the Kirkgate electrical distribution system to the Board of Trustees, highlighting some issues requiring attention. I subsequently provided a full specification for the improvements that then followed and were carried out by a local firm.

I’m also now involved with the Kirkgate’s Safety & Maintenance Group, the committee made up of trustees, staff and volunteers that meets regularly to advise the staff and Board on what needs doing to keep everyone safe and the building in good order. Apart from really simple tasks, usually done by staff and volunteers, the serious work is always carried out by professional local contractors.

Become a technical volunteer

If you would like to get involved in volunteering on sound engineering or being part of the charity’s safety and maintenance work, please get in touch with our operations manager


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

become a friend of Kirkgate Arts & Heritage


It’s good to have opened the Big Red Door to the public again after our Christmas and New Year break. Already, 2023 has started with a swing – our sell-out Great Big Kirkgate Quiz which raised welcome funds to help us pay our bills. Many thanks to our special Quiz Master, Toby Gaffney, who always pulls out all the stops to make the Quiz one of Cockermouth’s best nights out of the year.

Fundraising will be a big issue for Kirkgate this year as our annual energy bill is going up from around £5,000 to over £20,000. Nevertheless, we are very pleased to be hosting one of Cockermouth’s Warm Spots, on Mondays, 10am – 12noon. We’d love to see you – drop by the Kirkgate and say ‘hello’ at this free coffee morning, and enjoy some company after doing your shopping, working, getting the kids or grandkids to school or taking a walk.

We held our Annual General Meeting on January 12 and reported a surplus of income over expenditure in the last financial year, 2021-22, boosting our reserves. This was very welcome because, although we always aim to break even and balance the books, the reality is that we need to even out any loss-making years with years that show a surplus. We are a not-for-profit charity, so there are no shareholders, and having healthy reserves is crucial to coping with the lean years, keeping the ship afloat and looking to the future.

Legally we are a limited company as well as being a charity. The AGM is where members of the company – there are around 50 of them – hear from the Board of Trustees, receive the annual accounts and Trustees’ Report, and appoint the Trustees for the forthcoming year. New trustees (who are also directors of the company) have recently joined us and Kirkgate Arts and Heritage is in good shape despite the current energy challenge – and the many other challenges that trustees and staff manage behind the scenes to provide Cockermouth and West Cumbria with an important and ever-evolving cultural and community asset. If you are interested in becoming a member of the company or a trustee (both are voluntary positions), please contact the chair of the Board, Sue Moses, on We’d love to hear from you! Being a trustee is a very rewarding role. If you would like a copy of our 2021-22 Annual Report, drop me a line on

Finally, returning to the fundraising theme, if you would like to help us with our energy costs, please make a donation here and select ‘your donation’ or contact me to discuss any fundraising events you would like to organise. As the saying goes, every little helps, and we will be very grateful for whatever help you can give. Giving your consent for us to claim Gift Aid on your donation adds another 25% to your donation, at no cost to you. You can do this when you make an online donation, or email me to ask for a hard copy of the Gift Aid consent form. Thank you.

Emma Heys