Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle : March 2024

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

It’s great to see the sun shining and the spring bulbs starting to bloom, Easter is just around the corner swiftly followed by the birthday of Cockermouth’s most famous son, William Wordsworth (born on April 7th, 1770). Soon the town will be awash with daffodils thanks to Cockermouth Rotary Club, as from March 23rd the town celebrates with a host of golden daffodils, more info here.

We’re bringing professional live theatre to Cockermouth this month with The Metamorphosis. As the seasons change the environment around us this month it seems well timed to have this modern adaptation of Kafka’s story of transformation on the Kirkgate stage.

March also sees the return of our celebration of all things literary. This year including workshops! Kirkgate Literature Festival brings together a broad variety of authors and poets, including something for the kids too! Scroll down for more info.


We mentioned in last month’s chronicle that we were gearing up for a busy wedding party, here’s Ellie to tell us about her special day with us.

“We viewed the Kirkgate last year and knew from our first visit that it was where we wanted to have our wedding. The staff were very flexible and transparent throughout the booking process, allowing us to decide what worked best for us and to make it happen.

Throughout the whole process, the staff and volunteers were incredibly helpful, and communication was great. A special thank you to Katie, who we honestly can’t thank enough – every email packed full of queries (most of them very obscure) was answered, every request was met with a yes and we were always welcomed with our tape measures.

What a transformation! We’re yet to clean off the blackboard, it looks so pretty!
The staff liaised with our suppliers directly and took a lot of stress away from us, the flexibility in being able to set up the day before and allowing all our suppliers access as and when needed helped massively with all the logistics. There was always someone on hand, and we knew we were in safe hands.

We were able to use all of the equipment (microphones, PA systems and lighting), as well as having support there to help with any technical difficulties (not that we had any!). The band also loved having their own dressing room! The upgraded kitchen was perfect for our caterers, and we were able to have fantastic food.

I can’t imagine any other venue having people run it who are as enthusiastic as the Kirkgate team – the love the staff and volunteers have for the place shines through! We had big plans and a vision of how we wanted the day to be and through the hard work and passion of everyone there we were able to make it a reality.

Everyone went above and beyond during the set-up, the day itself and the clean-up. We turned up the next day expecting a huge days graft ahead of us – but the volunteers had selflessly worked to tidy our mess, washing glasses and saving personal belongings which had been disregarded. Another huge thank you to Penny, Rachel and Tess, who worked tirelessly all day and provided service that was second to none.

We had the best day and wish we could do it all again.
Thank you to the whole Kirkgate team!”

We wish Ellie and Kieran many many happy years together, it was an absolute pleasure to be part of their special day. If you’re looking for a venue for an event, whether it’s for a private reception, a public event or a regular meeting, you can find more information on our website.

Saturday 16th MarchMild Peril Theatre present The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka. Franz Kafka’s story of a misfit trying to adapt to his busy world is as relevant now as it ever was. This new adaptation of a classic tale of alienation explores the many aspects of modern life which conspire to isolate us from each other, and what it is about being human which brings us closer together.

Book your tickets here.

Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th March, Kirkgate Literature Festival
A packed weekend! Jacqui Currie MA, a Cockermouth based Lecturer in Creative Writing for the Open University, starts the weekend with ‘What’s your story? An introduction to writing real lives workshop’ on Saturday morning, more info here. Saturday afternoon’s author talks bring us Harry Navinski talking about his DCI Suzanna McLeod series and his new book The Last Walkfollowed by Wajid Hussain to tell us about his work Dear Deddy-ji. This poignant collection of letters to his late father delves into loss, grief, and personal growth across cultures and identities. The afternoon sessions conclude with Sara Barnes, who went from cycling for miles in the mountains to not being able to walk without pain following major surgery, this Lake District author discovered the power of cold water and used it to unlock her creative and romantic self.

On Saturday evening Dr. Dave Camlin presents an inspiring evening of music and discussion of his recent book exploring the potential of music making as a resource for sustainable development. Join Dave, the Sing Owt and Wild Chorus community choirs, and special guests from around the world for a fun evening imagining a world where making music is an integral part of our social fabric. More info and tickets available here.

Sunday morning begins with another workshop, this time for younger literature fans, as Rab Ferguson encourages us to bring our imaginations to life with an alien making workshop! Rab will be teaching the group how to make up their own aliens and stories, through drawing and writing. Everyone will leave having started their own alien story, with encouragement to keep going. Young participants in the workshop will even get their own signed copy of Rab’s book ‘The Late Crew’. Book here.

On Sunday afternoon the author talks continue with best-selling children’s author, Helen Haraldsen, on how she finally achieved her goal of becoming a published author 15 years after she wrote her first book, Little Pearl.

We continue the afternoon with Jill Clough ‘The Making of Cassie Clearwater’. Where do ideas come from? Jill Clough’s latest novel grew out of the killings of Derrick Bird in West Cumbria, which led to intense media interest, as well as the police warnings sent out across the area to hospitals, tourist centres, schools where half-term work was being carried on. These killings sparked psychological profiles, a major police investigation after the event, comments in parliament. She was struck by his shooting so many people in the face: obliterating identity. This resonated with an unpublicised “killing” of a different kind, when children taken into care are passed from one foster-home to another. How do they retain any sense of identity?

Our final author of the weekend is Katie Hale taking us through a journey delving into her family history, which exposed some difficult truths. In this event, Katie will talk about the research process and read poems from her new book, ‘White Ghosts’

To round of the weekends literary events we have our very own Poets Out Loud providing a friendly platform for those wishing to share in the written word.

Sunday 31st March, 7pm, NTLive: The Motive and the Cue Sam Mendes (The Lehman Trilogy) directs Mark Gatiss as John Gielgud and Johnny Flynn as Richard Burton in this fierce and funny new play.
Book your tickets here.

Saturday 6th AprilThe Joshua Burnell Band Expect hooky melodies drenched in warm, retro-synth textures, reverbing guitars, lush harmonies and words that make you think. Imagine The War On Drugs meets Genesis with “lashings of Peter Gabriel stylings,” – The Guardian. This one’s for fans of Stranger Things, 70s art rock and everything in between.
Book your tickets here.

This month we hear from one of our very versatile volunteers! Ros has helped us in several roles over the years, find out more below…

“Hi, I’m Ros Edwards. I have been volunteering at The Kirkgate for a good 10 years. I started as a front of house for the cinema nights which were only on Mondays then. We had tickets from the local printers which after a systems update were superseded by tickets printed directly from the computer. These have now been replaced by the current ticketless system.

On a busy evening I helped my sister, who was then on the bar rota, after that I was on the bar team. We were in the little bar at the top of the stairs it got very congested. Now we are downstairs and have a kitchen with a dish washer and storage space it’s all so much easier.

After about a year I was asked if I would like to join the box office rota. It took a lot more people to cover opening six mornings a week; currently it is only two. Consequently, I no longer get as many shifts.

I don’t take any of the organisational roles. I keep it simple and do whatever, whenever a lay person is needed. None of it is too onerous, in fact I enjoy it. I like to do different things. All of my roles have seen many changes both in practice and personnel. Everyone is very friendly. Anyone who believes in the importance of supporting the arts in the community as I do, and has an interest in a volunteer role, I would definitely recommend joining.

For me personally, my volunteering led to my discovery of the Poets Out Loud group. It has given me a creative outlet and introduced me to some talented and lovely people. We meet on the second Wed of each month in the Egremont room at 8.30pm to share our words. This month we have been lucky enough to be given an hour slot from 5pm on 24th March, squashed between the end of the Kirkgate Literary Festival and the Jazz. Which is not a bad place to be: I’d be delighted if you came to join us.”

Ros (second from the left) sat enjoying one of our Poets Out Loud evenings.
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.

This year the Kirkgate Quarter welcomes a new venture! You may have spotted Market Place Print Studio just around the corner from us, after their launch event last month.

Market Place Print Studio is a new, creative art space opened in Cockermouth run by young couple Emily and Jack. The studio offers a wide range of printing and creative workshops for all abilities. At the heart of the space is a large printing press that prints etchings, linocuts, monoprints and more. The space also offers Open Access for printmakers and artists to use the facilities for their own projects. There is also a little shop selling artwork.

Emily and Jack say, “…we want to create a space that is very community facing; a studio that feels welcoming and encourages playful and imaginative learning and artistic development.”

Upcoming Spring workshops include some Easter Specials suitable for 10 yrs plus such as the  “Introduction to Lino” on the 3rd April and a Tetra Pak Printing half day on the 5th April. These are beginner friendly workshops and a lovely Easter holiday activity for guardians to enjoy with younger ones. We also have a two day etching workshop “Drawing from Life” on the 11th and 12th April where participants will draw outside from the local Spring flora and fauna and landscapes. The drawings will then be developed into an etching back at the studio. Due to popular demand we have added an additional “Printing Spring” workshop on the 27th April too. These are just a few examples of what we have to offer this Spring!

Book workshops on our website at or pop in to see Emily or Jack at 21 Market Place, Cockermouth.


With the first early daffodils emerging it can only mean that Spring is really on its way.  Living in Cockermouth, and Wordsworth’s birthplace, it is only natural that thoughts turn inevitably to his iconic poem ‘I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud’ (more popularly known as ‘Daffodils’).  I wonder how many people know that it was actually his sister Dorothy who first wrote about the glory of daffodils as a piece of prose in her Journal – 15th April, 1802.  These days Spring flowers seem to make their entrance quite a bit earlier than around 200 years ago. Dorothy was recording what she observed on a walk at Glencoyne Bay in Ullswater:

“…I never saw daffodils so beautiful, they grew among the mossy stones about and about them, some rested their heads upon these stones as on a pillow for weariness and the rest tossed and reeled and danced and seemed as if they verily laughed with the wind that blew upon them over the lake, they looked so gay, ever glancing, ever changing …”

William wrote his poem two years later in 1804.  He acknowledged the close relationship that he and his sister had, going for walks, observing nature and discussing in detail what they had seen.  When he wrote his poetry it was Dorothy that he turned to for comment, and he greatly valued her support.  It was Dorothy who wrote out his poems and sent them off for publication.

Cockermouth continues to celebrate the wonderful poetry produced by William Wordsworth.  Our images show a procession of children during the 1950 commemoration, when daffodils were laid during a ceremony in Harris Park.  There is also a picture of William, and an early view of the Dorothy and William Wordsworth fountain in its original location in the park.

Gloria Edwards


Bob Pritchard continues the history of the Kirkgate Centre.”I think it’s fair to say that when the Kirkgate Centre first opened its doors, none of us really knew what we were doing; there was a lot of “suck it and see” what works, what brings audiences, what flops. But as time went on we became more confident to seize opportunities as they came along. The legendary jazz singer, art critic and raconteur GEORGE MELLY was giving a talk at the late-lamented Theatre in the Forest, Grizedale Forest on a Saturday Night. Could he come on to the Kirkgate on Sunday (May 17 1998) and regale us with his scurrilous anecdotes about a misspent life?  Well, yes he could, and his fee was quite reasonable. All he needed was: someone to collect him from Hawkshead, someone to arrange an afternoon’s Salmon Fishing in the Derwent, four star hotel accommodation, and supper after the show with half a dozen Kirkgate volunteers. Oh, and some-one to take him to Penrith Station on Monday morning!I duly collected him, on a gorgeous spring day, from Grizedale Arts’ bijou hotel near Hawkshead. Could we find the grave of one of his heroes, the artist Kurt Schwitters, in Ambleside churchyard? Yes we could, eventually. Could we stop to sample the local brew? The Kings Head Thirlspot duly obliged. Could he be taken to the spot near Isel bridge for fishing – and being interviewed by the Times and Star’s very own Viv Patterson –  and collected again afterwards, and taken to his hotel, and collected, and sound checked. A full house enjoyed his rambling performance. Which continued in effect at the Allerdale Court Hotel. Yes, he was quite deaf, but also clearly a talker rather than a listener!How very different from the late, great Linda Smith, who we were lucky enough to have on the stage only a few months before she stopped performing and succumbed to cancer at a tragically early age. I had always been a fan and googling her discovered that rather than having a theatrical agent, she worked through an organisation called “Writers Republic” and despite her radio fame she was affordable. Imagine my surprise when she actually rang me up at home one teatime and the gig was on! (13 May 2004) She was no diva; her dressing room rider was a cup of tea. She loved being in an audience where everyone knew each other, and, of course, knew our caretaker, Peter Rothwell, who featured in several of her anecdotes. One of my favourite evenings of the last 25 years. Was it yours?Then there was the legendary keyboard player Alan Price. I’d seen him and his trio at Rosehill, enquired of his agent, and by slotting us into an existing tour as a last night gig on an otherwise unprofitable Sunday evening, we secured him. Yes, it’s the real Alan Price, not a tribute act! He performed with a trio including Zoot Money, and in the course of the evening revealed how the music industry had cheated him out of enormous amounts of money at the height of his fame, while he simultaneously racked up large debts to the Inland Revenue, and that’s why, when he should have been enjoying retirement by the proverbial pool, he was playing the 120 seat Kirkgate Centre in darkest Cumbria on a Sunday night (26 June 2005).  I was rather annoyed that he was cancelling his overnight accommodation and heading back to London through the night. He explained that he was doing the entire concert on painkillers with a raging toothache and needed to get back to his dentist. I had felt the first half was a bit underwhelming, but when he got to the encores, all the famous old numbers were belted out with style and the whole place rocked.  Anyone else remember this?And finally, one that got way. When the late Ken Dodd announced that he wanted to perform in every theatre in the land, we were onto him. However, when it came down to it, and he was over 70 at the time, he sent me a lovely letter saying he now realised he should concentrate on larger venues, but he wished us well in Cockermouth. Come to think of it, the Duty Manager probably wouldn’t have welcomed a gig that didn’t finish till 2am!”More “Best Nights” to come. Send us your memories, either of the show itself or behind the scenes, to

The energy in the office is certainly picking up now the days are brighter, and how lovely to see blossom on the trees! We’ve got our daffodils at the ready to join in with the decorations from the 23rd, which is just in time for our Literary Festival. All the events mentioned above are on our website, ready to book, so get in there early to make sure you catch all the talks. We’re also opening up downstairs as a pop up book sale for the afternoon events, with both new and second hand books available.

Spring brings many changes, which is the theme of our live theatre show this month as Mild Peril Theatre bring The Metamorphosis to our stage. It’s great to see the return of professional touring theatre after the struggles of recent years- let’s show how much we appreciate it and fill those seats! Many smaller venues and touring companies have not survived the double whammy of the pandemic and cost of living crisis so now more than ever it is vital that we support these hard working creatives.

While we are on the subject of booking tickets, did you know that on average two thirds of our ticket sales are in the last week before an event? This does lead to some nibbled fingernails on occasion! If you’re thinking about booking for an event but want the reassurance that you can change your booking, or get a refund (if for whatever reason you can’t attend), then our Friends of Kirkgate Arts & Heritage scheme is for you. For just £30 per year you will not only be supporting Kirkgate Arts, but you are also entitled to refunds, ticket exchanges and exclusive access to special Friends events and news. Click here to find out more.

We look forward to seeing you at an event soon, don’t forget to book!

Emma Heys
General Manager

The Kirkgate Centre and Arts Out West are managed by Kirkgate Arts.
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