Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle : May 2023

Welcome to the May 2023 edition of the Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle. It’s a bumper Bank Holiday month and we have a bumper KQC for you too.


Big Screen
We love being Cockermouth’s cinema. The fabulous sound quality and big screen impact of our film screenings and live streaming can’t be beaten. So don’t stay home for your film fix, come and enjoy the real cinema experience with us!

The latest films are on every Friday (7pm, doors – with your online pizza orders from Fermento delivered to your table in our bar – from 6pm), Monday (8pm, doors 7pm) and Wednesday (matinees with subtitles 2pm, doors 1pm). At half-terms there are family films throughout the week with extra daytime showings.

Coming up in the next 4 weeks: The Whale (15), starring this year’s Best Actor Oscar winner Brendan Fraser; Women Talking (15) starring the extraordinary acting talents of Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley and Frances McDormand; Pinocchio (PG), a brilliant new take on the classic tale billed as a ‘stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy comedy-drama’; Blue Jean (15)a story from recent British history highlighting just how personal the political can be; Allelujah (15), another heart-warming and moving slice of British life, starring national treasures Jennifer Saunders, Judi Dench and Derek Jacobi.

Pinocchio is screening during the May half-term week and there are multiple extra chances to bring all the family, including matinees – check dates and times on our website

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is our half term family film, tickets are just £3! Click on the image for dates and times, and to book your tickets.
Special Screenings
Sunday 14th May (3pm, doors 2pm) Thriving – A Journey into Regenerative Farming (U)
 In May 2022 Clare Dyson set out with her seven-year-old Welsh Cob, Merry, to ride over 150 miles through the Lake District, wild camping along the way. Clare’s aim was to find a vision of hope for the future. By visiting farmers who are adopting regenerative practices along the route Clare wanted to see first-hand how people are simultaneously producing food whilst boosting biodiversity and mitigating climate change.Saturday May 27 (7pm, doors 6pm) National Theatre Live – Best of Enemies, a  blistering political thriller from top British playwright James Graham starring David Harewood (Homeland) and Zachary Quinto (Star Trek).Sunday 11 June (7pm, doors 6pm) Finite: The Climate of Change (12A) –  concerned citizens in Germany put their bodies on the line to save the ancient Hambach forest from one of Europe’s biggest coal mines. Sponsored by Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion North Lakes.There’s more!
Upcoming music includes folk, jazz and special shows featuring the songs of Leonard Cohen and Elton John. And there are great shows over the next four weeks at Kirkgate Arts Out West venues in Dean, Whitehaven, Ireby, and Millom.
Check out all the details and book on our website


We’re ticking off more of our planned improvements and repairs at the Kirkgate.

The latest has been tackling the fire escape. It’s looking very smart now, having been shot-blasted, painted and refurbished. It looks like it will last into the next century! Fire Escape 2.0 will get its debut when the next practice fire evacuation happens.

We’re excited to be taking delivery next month of new chairs for the Egremont Room, with new floor covering finishing off the look. New windows in the auditorium to match those installed on the ground floor last year won’t be far behind.

Our thanks go to all the generous donors and grant-makers who are helping us with these upgrades. If you would like to make a contribution, large or small, to the ongoing work, please make a donation through our website at or contact Emma Heys, the General Manager, on

Volunteering opportunities
Keeper of the Costumes – 
after all the fancy titles we heard about during the Coronation, we came up with this one for a special new volunteer vacancyThis is perfect for anyone interested in fabrics, dress-making, or historical costumes. Kirkgate has a store of garments that were collected or created for the regular Georgian Fair that used to be held in Cockermouth. These are available for hire and now the current custodian (Win Cornwall – thanks for everything!) is moving on so we are looking for someone, or a team, to take over. To find out what’s involved please get in touch with General Manager Emma on the email address below.

Reviewers – the local press rarely does reviews now, but reviews can be a great way to get a flavour of all the films, music and theatre that are put on at venues like the Kirkgate and Arts Out West halls. The Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle has been a huge success, with nearly 4,000 subscribers now, and we’d like to start including reviews as well as encouraging more postings on Trip Advisor and social media, so if you’d be interested in writing for us, please contact Emma.

Become a heritage volunteer
You can get involved in Kirkgate’s Heritage Group any time. The heritage volunteers meet regularly to look after the local history collection, deal with inquiries, conduct research, prepare publications and plan public events such as exhibitions, workshops and talks. Contact them on

Best Friends
Our Friends group is an important support to Kirkgate. Ticket exchange is only one of the benefits of being a Kirkgate Friend. Most important is the knowledge that you are helping keep a vital community organisation going.

All volunteers automatically receive free membership of the Friends organisation.
Find out more and join here:

Become a Friend of Kirkgate Arts & Heritage


With food supplies under strain these days, whether it the cost of food, bird flu hitting egg production, or trade arrangements with Europe affecting food imports, it’s putting the role of our farmers under the spotlight. This month, Gloria Edwards of the Heritage Group reflects on past times for the Cumbrian farming community.

‘The work of farmers in the production of the nation’s food has always been important, and in this part of the country farming has always been a strong feature of local life.

Back in March 1947 farmers were dealing with the effects of a severe winter (1946-7), when animal fodder was scarce and they were weeks behind in their ploughing programmes.  They were recovering from the hardships of the war years.  Additionally, there were growing national and local protests at the levels of bureaucracy involved in food production.

In those post-war days everyone recognised the need to increase food production to build the economic strength of the country, but some farmers felt there were unnecessary controls as well as an insufficient labour force.

In the ‘Cockermouth and District Advertiser’ (7 March 1947) one of those farmers, Mr G. Hird of Broughton, wrote a detailed account of one day in his life as a farmer to illustrate the amount of bureaucracy that accompanied his uphill struggle to make a living from the land.  He is happy enough at 5 a.m. when he wakes up, thinking how good it is to be his own master, but things go downhill as the day progresses, and a whole army of visitors pay a call:

“…the lady milk sampler to test for purity of the milk; police to sample quality; County Veterinary Officer to examine dairy cows; person complaining because a light was on early and asking him to be more careful; sanitary officer to inspect byre and dairy; drainage officer to inspect field; demonstrator to show how to cure a pig; pest officer asking about rats;  poultry instructorclean milk demonstrator;  bull licensing officerCounty Advisory Officer regarding crops to be cultivated; Outcrop Coal Department officerBoard of Trade official to quiz him as to how much he spent on repainting doors and spouts; police (again); milk recorder to see milk weighed for Recording Society; police (again);  Enforcement Officer to inspect a pig that has been killed.…”

In addition, there is a power cut, meaning his lunch is not ready until 1.30 p.m. (when he is reportedly too ‘skezmezzled’ to eat it), and his tractor breaks down (it cannot be repaired for three months!).  Word arrives that the local Council wants some of his dairy pasture for a new housing estate.  He goes to bed at 11.15 p.m., ripping the worn sheet as he gets in – the end of another action-packed day.

The lesson is probably not to take the people behind our food production and food supplies for granted.

above: DPs (Displaced persons) from Moota working on the land just after WWII.
below: William Gibson’s farm at Buttermere (around WWI period).


This regular slot features people, businesses, voluntary groups and others who hire the Kirkgate to put on their own activities, shows and public events. This month Karen Lillie who hires our ground floor community hall, the Egremont Room, tells us all about her passion for getting everyone fit, strong and mobile.

‘I’m Karen Lillie, otherwise known as The Bodywork Coach. I have the pleasure of using the Kirkgate for my Pilates classes on Tuesday evenings.

I have been in the fitness industry for nearly 30 years now, teaching exercise to music, Spinning(R), kettlebells and Pilates based classes. I run my own business, Bodywork Biomechanics and Massage.  I offer Remedial/Sports massage and biomechanics assessments, keeping clients moving freely, treating and preventing injuries.  I use Pilates together with rehab exercises as part of my programmes.

My main sport is running (I love running the Lakeland trails) and have recently finished the London Marathon, my third Marathon in 3 years. It was an incredible experience. I have completed a couple of Half Ironman Triathlons (1.2 mile/1.9k swim, 56 mile/90k bike, and 13.1 mile/21.2k run) and I enjoy shorter triathlon distances. My other passion is wild swimming in the lakes in all weathers and all winter.

I started teaching Pilates in 1998 and can’t recommend it enough to keep us all mobile and strong. Pilates has played a huge part in keeping me injury free at the age of 57 and I intend to keep teaching running, cycling and swimming as long as I can.

My Pilates clients’ ages vary from 80 years old to 18, any gender. It’s for everyone no matter what your ability or starting point, I cater for all. One class uses strength exercises and light hand weights (optional). The other class is more traditional mat-based Pilates using foam rollers and massage balls for fascia work.

I have been teaching at the Kirkgate for just over a year now. The central location and the ease of parking make it an ideal venue. Teaching at the Kirkgate and working with the staff is a pleasure. I love the feel of the centre and the recent refurbishments are a credit to those who have contributed to making this a successful community space for the people of Cockermouth. I’ve lived here since 1994 and taught Fitness in various venues around the town during this time. The Kirkgate is definitely one of Cockermouth’s hidden gems.

If you are unsure if Pilates is for you or just want to have a chat about anything Bodywork and Massage just get in touch. E: M: 07831 681639

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 spaces, facilities and extensive technical equipment. We have a modern kitchen, there’s free wifi and we’re right next to a car park with 3 hours free parking. More details here.


Our featured volunteer for this merry month of May is Helen Walker who is a familiar face to many customers, and a Star Baker for Kirkgate events. Helen’s here to tell us how she fits volunteering for Kirkgate in with the rest of her busy life.

‘If I am not in the kitchen, away in the motorhome or at the Kirkgate you will find me in a lake.

I have always liked to swim and love to be in, on, or around water but have never enjoyed swimming in a swimming pool. I find it boring and I do not like chlorine. So when I retired from my career as a Community Midwife, I decided to make the most of the stunning lakes around us, did a ‘course’, learning how to be safe, and have never looked back. Now I swim most days throughout the year and if I am not able to swim I get irritable – ask my husband Stephen, who also volunteers at Kirkgate. When we are away in our motorhome, Mags, I am looking at bits of water thinking “can I swim in there?”

Whilst I was still working, I kept an allotment and, not one for allowing produce to go to waste, started making jams and chutneys which I sold for charity. When I retired, I joined Cockermouth Country Market and sold at their weekly market in the United Reformed Church on Main Street, increasing my range of preserves and adding baked goods as well. In doing this I no longer had the time to maintain the allotment so gave that up having rearranged the garden at home to accommodate the fruit bushes required for the jam making. Unfortunately, Covid, rising costs and strict labelling regulations has put producers off, so the market has had to close. I am still making and selling from home and occasionally at other events – look out for St Helen’s Homemade.

As well as my role as a Front of House volunteer at the Kirkgate, I also bake when required. Cheese scones are my ‘go to’ and always seem to go down well (they’re irresistible! – Ed). So that we cater for all dietary needs I will usually make a vegan cake but will turn my hand to anything.

Volunteering gives the opportunity to see a wide range of shows, including music, drama, and film. I have enjoyed many events that I would not have chosen to see. Included in this are the Arts Out West performances which I also attend as a volunteer.

It really is a hard job!’

Helen wears a limited edition Kirkgate T-shirt. You can help us raise funds – buy yours for £10 from or on your next visit to the Kirkgate.


You’ll have noticed a foodie flavour to this month’s newsletter, so when thinking about who could be business owner of the month, we instantly thought of well-known Cockermouth caterer Manon Plouffe. French Canadian by birth, Manon moved to the area after meeting her future husband who was on holiday in Canada and she has been a West Cumbrian resident for almost 30 years. Here’s her story:

‘I’ve been passionate about food and cooking from an early age and I’ve always enjoyed home cooking.  As a child I would harvest fruit and vegetables from my mother’s garden and we would create dishes together from whatever was available.  I have fond memories of cooking with my grandmother from whom I learned the recipe for my very popular Queen Elizabeth cake.  As a teenager I used to gather round kitchen tables with my friends and their mothers’ world-inspired cookery books. We’d choose a country, then set about making a feast to celebrate that particular culture and heritage.

My travels across South America and Europe as a young adult reinforced my taste for world food. For a long time I had an ambition to have my own bistro and it was eventually made possible through a small legacy from my father, allowing me to create Wild Zucchinis on Station Street, then Main Street, which served Cockermouth for over 8 years. This followed a career in social care, mental health and psychotherapy.  Social responsibility has always been one of my core values and I’ve actively supported local people and charitable causes. The bistro was a food hub for residents and workers during local floods, and I used to open on Christmas Day, offering a full three-course meal to everyone who wanted to come along.

Today things have come full circle.  I now have my own grandchild and I want to spend time with her, so Wild Zucchinis focuses exclusively on outside catering for private events.  I’ve always enjoyed giving cookery lessons and doing demonstrations including at the Taste Cumbria festivals, so I’m looking forward to being involved in the Kirkgate’s new Cooking at Kirkgate project (see General Manager Emma’s letter below). You can contact me on Instragram @wildzucchinis or at

In appreciation of her efforts for the community, Manon was recognised as a Beacon of Light by the then Prime Minister in 2016.


The food and health theme of this month’s KQC is because we’re pleased to announce our success in winning funding from the National Lottery for a community project that will put our new kitchen to great use.

Cooking at Kirkgate is a food and cooking project that will centre on workshops to be held every month over the next two years. Some raised beds for growing fruit and vegetables will also be built in our yard as part of the project, and the produce used in the workshops. The idea is to bring in experienced professional local cooks and chefs to run sessions. People can learn more about cooking skills, eliminating food waste, cooking with home economics, health or the seasons in mind as well as cooking for pleasure and special celebrations. At its heart will be the basic cooking skills we all need – this might be attractive to young people leaving home for the first time, for instance – and we’re involving the Food Bank in trying to help people make the most of the food available to them.

The new project fits in well the community-oriented activities that we offer alongside our arts, entertainment and heritage events. The reality of flooding for so many of us is an example. We’ve always got involved in flood recovery in Cockermouth so we’re pleased to be hosting Cockermouth Emergency Response Group’s Householder Help Yourself Day, on Tuesday May 23, between 12.30pm and 6.30pm. This drop-in event will be packed with useful information from a number of organisations to help you with your household flood resilience. Even if you don’t live in the flood-prone centre of town, you can still be hit by flash floods elsewhere and the hazards of torrential downpours and surface water run-off affecting homes and roads. Don’t miss it.

And we’re starting a run of monthly Table Top Sales, the first of which will be on Saturday 27 May. It’s a fun way to reduce clutter and waste, earn cash from your unwanted items, or to pick up some pre-loved bargains. For more information about Cooking at Kirkgate, contact our Community Projects Officer Chloe Maitland on For all our community events check the ‘Join In’ or ‘Special Event’ categories in the What’s On section of our website.

Emma Heys