Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle : January 2024

Welcome to the January 2024 edition of the Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle.

Happy New Year!

We hope you’re managing to stay warm and cosy, and keep those January blues at bay. It’s time to get the kettle on, put your feet up, and browse through the first Chronicle of the year with us. There’s lots going on, as always, and some new faces to introduce you to.

This month we’re shining a light on creativity, with features on the artists that are currently displaying their work in our Egremont Room bar (Keith SnellRuth Charlton and Roxanne Denny) and a piece from our Costume Coordinator, Maggie. We are working towards making more use of the Georgian Fair costumes. These were donated to Kirkgate Arts when the Georgian Fair committee disbanded, some years ago. They have been in use by local drama groups and schools over the years (including for our very own Dorothy Wordsworth show in 2022) but, thanks to the hard work of Maggie and her team, they will be advertised for hire more widely very soon.

The creativity doesn’t stop there! This month sees the launch of a new strand of activity in Cockermouth, crafts@Kirkgate promises to bring all sorts of new skills for you to learn, starting with Linocut with Vega Brennan on Saturday 3rd February.


The recent refurbishment of the Egremont Room in the Kirkgate Centre has given us the opportunity to extend the visual arts aspect of the Kirkgate’s arts and heritage remit. The room has generous hanging space and glass display cabinets that are great for mounting heritage exhibitions, but between such exhibitions can also be used to showcase the work of local artists. Currently, three artists have their work on show, with ceramic figurative art, fused glass work, including jewellery, and photographic prints being featured. All the work is for sale and can be purchased through the Kirkgate box office.

Keith Snell is an international award-winning photographer whose photographs focus on the natural world, including wildlife as well as landscapes. He is a member and past chairman of Keswick Photographic Society and holds distinction awards from the Royal Photographic Society (LRPS), the Photographic Society of America (MPSA) and the International Federation of Photographic Art (EFIAP). His photographs have received over 35 international medals and more than 200 commendation ribbons.

A photograph of a polar bear on melting ice was exhibited and commended in the 2015 Sony World Photography Awards and an image of penguins diving was commended in the 2017 Bird Photographer of the Year. He has also had prints regularly selected for the prestigious Edinburgh International Festival Photographic Exhibition. The work on display in the Egremont Room reflects recent polar expeditions and safaris, but also includes more local wildlife. His website ( and Instagram account (@drkeithsnell) show more of his photography.

RD Glass is run by Roxanne Denny from her home studio near Cockermouth. Her first introduction to glass was when she began her Applied Arts degree in 2005. Whilst trying her hand at ceramics, silversmithing, woodwork and metalsmithing, she fell in love with glass as it allowed her to combine her love of colour and light. After gaining her BA(Hons) in 2008 she set up RD Glass to continue to explore glass fusing and to have the freedom and control to create her own designs.

Now an award-winning glass artist, she produces unique and limited edition fused glass items from bowls and coasters to wall art and jewellery, all in her signature bright and abstract style. She is strongly influenced by colour and pattern and as such many of the designs feature bold, vivid colours and abstract or geometric patterns. She also likes to overlap colours and uses mixtures of transparent and opaque glass to manipulate light and cause reflections.

She teaches fused glass courses from her studio and at select venues throughout the county and enjoys producing work to commission as it allows her to make different pieces including splashbacks, tiles and windows.

Visit to see more of her work and galleries which display it.

Ruth Charlton‘s work has always had a strong figurative element, with particular emphasis on facial expressions.  She became interested in sculpting figures when she was studying ceramics at Bath Academy of Art in the late 70’s. Since then, most of her work has been on a small scale.  She creates miniature portraits in clay (mostly porcelain and white stoneware with the subtle use of underglaze tints for colour). Working in porcelain enables her to make fine, detailed faces but she also enjoys the freedom of working in a stoneware terracotta, producing more abstract figures.

Further information can be found on Ruth’s website 
Etsy shop


Saturday 20th January8pm we welcome back Keith James with a tribute to the great Cat Stevens. This Concert is performed as a gesture of belief in the possibility that harmony and understanding between us all may be interwoven into today’s World. He weaves the story of Cat Stevens’ life from his early pop career, life threatening illness and spiritual journey around a performance of his beautifully crafted and memorable songs. Proceeds and audience donations from this tour of concerts will go to the UNICEF UK Syrian Children’s appeal.
Book your tickets here.

Saturday 27th January2pm, is the first of our National Theatre Live shows of 2024, with Joseph Fiennes as Gareth Southgate in Dear England. Our Helen’s sister went to see the live show, here’s what Alison shared with us… “Dear England is a captivating play that showcases the world of football and Gareth Southgate’s significant influence. Joseph Fiennes delivers a standout performance as Southgate, with Will Close bringing humour to Harry Kane. The play successfully recreates the tension of a World Cup campaign and penalty shootout, blending suspense with comedy and themes of hope, teamwork, and national pride. It’s a must-watch for football fans of all ages, and non-fans will enjoy the spectacle. A compelling watch for all.”
Book your tickets here.

Saturday 3rd February, 10am, Crafts@Kirkgate: Linocut with Vega Brennan will be leading a half-day course which will take you through all you need to know about creating and printing a beautiful single-colour linocut. Linocut is a great way of creating striking designs with strong graphic qualities. It is a great way to start learning about printmaking as once you have cut your block, it is easy to print.
Book your place here.

Saturday 3rd February8pm, it’s time for some more outrageous entertainment from the team at FEVER with another Drag Cabaret Night. This month alongside Summer Salt will be special guests Angel PinksAura and Tristan Treble. This time hosted by Sue Pertrouper!
Book your tickets here.


This month we feature Maggie Reddish, who has one of the more unique roles at Kirkgate Arts which you may not even know existed! As curator of our collection of Georgian Fair costumes Maggie works with a small but dedicated team, who are taking the time to make the most of the collection for us. A task that is much appreciated, if not always in the limelight at events.

“I was brought up in Carlisle and visited Cockermouth regularly growing up – trips to the shoe factory, the antique place in the Old Courthouse and food in Norham Coffee House staples of an 80’s day out here.

Music was a large part of my life at school – I play piano, violin and flute. I played the violin in a number of orchestras and took part in various music festivals. Since moving here I’ve taken up the ukulele and started playing in the U3A and Flukes groups.

I moved away from Carlisle around 25 years ago – first to Aberystwyth to study geology, Leeds to study geochemistry then Nottingham to crush endless coal samples for chemical analysis for my PhD researching ancient climate. I finally weaned myself off university with a PGCE in Leicester and began teaching – most of the time at a Dame School in Derbyshire. Bliss!

I have two daughters who pack an awful lot into their busy lives. The oldest is a senior ecologist living in Manchester with her partner. The youngest lives in Nottingham with her partner working as a psychologist in the NHS.

I began my volunteering journey with the National Trust at Stoneywell in Leicestershire. I worked as a conservator and ‘host’, leading tours around the property. I was able to attend a number of NT courses to better understand how to conserve textiles and other objects.

I moved back north in 2019 and I’m lucky to live right in the centre of Cockermouth. After the hustle and bustle of Nottingham, the tranquility here is a gift I’m thankful for every day. I wanted more time to do the things I’m interested in so I no longer teach. I work (hide?) in the bakery in Sainsburys, finishing by 10 most days so I’m free to get out and about exploring with my two border terriers Wilf and Amos.

My Mum was a keen and very talented embroiderer and she encouraged this interest in me. I’ve got far too many projects on the go and a head bursting with too many ideas! I’ve taken my embroidery skill set a bit further and studied a course in hand embroidery with the Royal School of Needlework at a studio in Durham.

I’ve been attending many of the events at the Kirkgate since coming to live here. From my experience at the Dame school, I understand how important volunteers are and how hard they work to make these important community resources viable. With my background in embroidery and conservation I was really interested to hear about the Georgian costumes the Centre is custodian of and very happy to come on board as part of the team looking after them. At present we are cataloguing the collection and photographing it ready to make it available for hire by theatre groups, schools and the wider public who might just like to dress up for a period dinner party.”

Maggie enjoying the sunshine with Wilf and Amos.
If you would like to find out more about volunteering with us visit the ‘get involved’ page on our website for details of all the ways you can contribute to keeping Kirkgate Arts & Heritage thriving.


We’re giving Gloria this month off, as she’s busy working with the Heritage Group, and our Community Projects Officer (Helen) on more of the In My Shoes project. Keep a look out for upcoming announcements!

Instead we’re looking at our very own history and heritage with Bob Pritchard.

Did you know that next year The Kirkgate will celebrate its 30th birthday? To have survived and thrived for thirty years, largely driven by volunteer effort, is a remarkable achievement, and one which should be celebrated.

Some-one, some day, will have to comb through the archives and extract an official history – maybe they’ll get a PhD out of it, but that’s not me. I want to tell the behind-the-scenes story of this amazing enterprise, by inviting our volunteers, past and present, to send in their anecdotes and reminiscences. But don’t worry if you’ve only recently discovered the Kirkgate, you can still tell us about your favourite gig in a section provisionally entitled  THIRTY BEST KIRKGATE NIGHTS

So let’s get this unofficial history started, with CHAPTER ONE: BEFORE THE BEGINNING , (or WHY DID WE NEED A KIRKGATE CENTRE?)
Going back into recent, and not-so-recent history, Cockermouth had let all its public halls go.
Who remembers the old public and dance hall, where the ex-NatWest building, now Dominos and Costa, stands on Station Street? Or the Ballroom behind Grecian Villa when it was the Fire HQ (now The Manor House hotel)? Or the Grand Theatre and Cinema (now ex-Limelighting) with its nicely refurbished façade? When Graves family closed the cinema they put a covenant on the building saying it could not be used for public entertainment (i.e. they wanted Cockermothians to patronise their cinemas in Workington and Keswick).

In  1983 Cockermouth began its long-lasting twinning with Marvejols in Lozere, southern France. Marvejols had a large and well-appointed “Salle Polyvalente” (multi purpose hall) which Cockermouth couldn’t help envying. In 1984, the Town Council took over the Brethren Chapel on High Sands Lane and converted it into the Victoria Hall (now The Vikki hot-desking workspace).  Inspired by this CADS was formed. All this and more you can read about in Greg Greenhalgh’s excellent pictorial history of Amdram in Cockermouth going back to 1906 and  published by the Cockermouth Museum Group (Beg, borrow or steal a copy!) ISBN 978-0-9551845-2-9

CADS put on some of its early variety shows  (Christmas Crackers) in Victoria Hall but it was much too small so through the 1980’s and 90’s there was a search for larger premises. At the beginning of 1990 Allerdale BC suggested demolishing the ex-All Saints School building (vacated in the early 1970’s) to make more car parking spaces, so the Civic Trust stepped in to save building as a community hall and town museum, finally acquired for £1 in 1993 .  Through indefatigable fundraising by Barbara Colley and practical preparations by Peter Colley (architect and ex-townplanner) the Victorian Building was converted into the Kirkgate Centre, much as we see it today , and opened in 1995. It was fitted out as one of the early beneficiaries of the National Lottery.

If you have memories you would like to share? Get in touch at

Next time : CURTAIN UP – THE OPENING NIGHT  (24 January 1995)

Some scanned images of the centre, just before it was rescued from demolition


It’s good to be back in the office after a well earned rest, we’re all thrilled to be hitting the ground running in 2024 with a sell out Quiz on our first weekend back! If you haven’t experienced one yet do come along to the next Great Big Kirkgate Quiz. Toby Gaffney does an incredible job putting together a really entertaining, as well as challenging, set of multimedia quiz rounds.

It’s hard to believe that the centre has been open almost 30 years, what a lot of changes it has seen in that time. We have a few volunteers that have been with us right from that first event, and we’re in no doubt many customers on our email list reading this very Chronicle will have been in the audience, or even volunteers themselves. What a wonderful ongoing journey to be part of, I wonder how the centre will look in another 30 years? Let’s keep our story going and find out!

So what will 2024 hold for us here at Kirkgate Arts? All sorts of new skills that’s for sure, with our crafts@Kirkgate events launching this month. Creativity in the kitchen too as a new season of cooking@Kirkgate will be available to book very soon, keep an eye on the website for details.

Emma Heys
General Manager