Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle : September 2023

Welcome to the September 2023 edition of the Kirkgate Quarter Chronicle.

Although we had a spell of unseasonably warm weather to start the month, there’s certainly a nip in the air as autumn arrives. We’re very glad of our new double glazed windows, now in the auditorium as well as downstairs in the bar, to keep the draughts out!

September is another busy month, with the Taste Cumbria Food Festival just around the corner we thought we’d ask some of our volunteers to join in our Food Festival Fun quiz, quick fire nosh related questions to celebrate all things food.

The new season also sees some changes to the Kirkgate Arts & Heritage team, we’re welcoming a new volunteer to our board of trustees, a new member of staff in the office and there’s a change of role for our former company secretary as Rob Higgins takes on the role of Chair.


Instead of our usual volunteer of the month feature, we wanted to focus on two volunteers on our board of trustees, and find out the answers to the real questions of the day, such as- Marmite, yes or no?…

Sue Cliff joins the board of trustees this month, and we’re very much looking forward to having her on the team. You’ll no doubt recognise Sue from the Cockermouth Country Market, or through her work with the Cockermouth Emergency Response Group. Sue’s passion for community is just what we need in a trustee.

  • What’s your strongest food related memory from childhood?

My mother was a dreadful cook (most of the time) so I learned to cook very early. My Nana- her mother who lived on Thirlmere Avenue made the most amazing Victoria Sandwich- buttery, crispy edges and home made jam- lush!

  • What’s your go-to comfort food, and why?

The only thing Mum got right was macaroni cheese- without a cheese sauce method- tried to make it like that for years but failed miserably!

  • Are you looking forward to the Taste Cumbria weekend, what are you most excited about?

Brought up in Derby there is only one team my family support. They are playing Carlisle on 23rd and the family are coming to see it! They will have to sit with home supporters though so that will be interesting. I do like the buzz of the Taste Cumbria event, so daughter in law and I will be off to sample some goodies while the men spectate!

  • What do you think is the ‘Taste of Cumbria’?

Lunch loaf and also Rum butter- a memory from my Nanas at Christmas.

  • And the age old question- Marmite, yes or no?

Oh yes, but only on toast, not as beef stock!

Rob Higgins has been our company secretary for a number of years now, and we can’t think of anyone better to replace Sue Moses as Chair of Kirkgate Arts & Heritage. Sue is still a trustee, and is always popping in to the office and helping with all sorts of events and behind the scenes work, but she officially hands the role of Chair on to Rob this month. So is Rob a fan of Marmite?….

  • What’s your strongest food related memory from childhood?

My Mum’s cheesecake – the best buttery biscuit base ever.

  • What’s your go-to comfort food, and why?

It’s got to be pork pies – the bigger the better.

  • Are you looking forward to the Taste Cumbria weekend, what are you most excited about?

The sheer variety of food on offer (especially pork pies) and the multiple opportunities to sample local gin!

  • What do you think is the ‘Taste of Cumbria’?

Difficult – for me it is the Kirkstile’s steak pie but sticky toffee pudding is a very close second.

  • And the age old question- Marmite, yes or no?

A very important question – absolutely yes.


If you’re interested in joining the volunteer team you can find out more on our website 

All volunteers are provided with thorough training and a lot of support. People are welcome to start doing simple tasks and, as familiarity and confidence grow, to move on to more interesting and rewarding positions. It’s a great way to meet new people and a rewarding way to become involved in the arts or local heritage activities.


Our Friends group is also 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 get free membership of our Friends group.

Find out more and join here:

This month is jam packed with live music, workshops and more. Take a look at our top picks for September…


Chris Wood is a musicians musician, he’s worked with folk stalwarts such as Martin Carthy and Andy Cutting, and supported Joan Armatrading on her 2012 tour. His songs are intelligent and soulful. Described by Folk Monthly as ‘the Ken Loach of songwriting’ he isn’t afraid to address issues and confront them with compassion and empathy. You can catch him live at the Kirkgate on Saturday 16th September at 8pm (doors 7pm). Click here for tickets.
Then there’s our monthly Jazz@Kirkgate event on Sunday 24th September at 7.30pm. Yet again the Jazz@Kirkgate team have surpassed themselves on quality, as we welcome back The Jake Leg Jug Band for a night of footstomping, American prohibition era style music. Doors open at 6.30pm, snap up your tickets here.


There’s a battle on when it comes to cinema… but we know you’ll agree the best way to watch a film is on the big screen. Streaming might be quick and convenient but imagine the crucial moment in a thriller being ruined by the washing machine going to spin cycle, or the punchline of a well timed joke coinciding with the cat having it’s zoomies over your lap. Avoid the household distractions and come along to watch films as the director intended, top quality surround sound and pixel perfect image.

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 where possible 2pm, doors 1pm).

This month we’re showing Oppenheimer, swiftly followed at the beginning of October by Barbie.

All our feature films for the year are now bookable on our website and soon our film programming team will be checking out the Oscar season choices for the new year. Check out all the details and book on our website.


John Lebbon returns this month for another night of belly laughs. Saturday 23rd September, 8pm (doors 7pm), is our next Comedy@Kirkgate event where John will be joined by Kieran Lawless and Fran Garrity. Read more about them here and be sure to book – the comedy nights are always popular!

There are limited spaces available with Kirkgate Youth Theatre for this term, if you know a budding young actor (aged 9 to 13) who would like to join our friendly group they can contact Tish by email It’s a great way to make new friends and develop confidence while having the freedom of a safe and friendly place to express yourself. Tish and the team are incredibly supportive and we’re really proud of the nurturing environment that our Youth Theatre provides. We look forward to seeing what they produce in conjunction with our heritage project ‘In My Shoes’.


As well as volunteering with us for many years, Helen Walker has been sharing her culinary expertise and leading one of our Cooking@Kirkgate workshops this month. ‘Waste not, want not’ saw Helen guide us through making the most out of every bit of produce, making jams and chutneys from leftover fruit and veg.

We asked her responses to our food festival fun quiz…

  • What’s your strongest food related memory from childhood?

Apple batter pudding with golden syrup – a real treat.

  • What’s your go-to comfort food, and why?

Always used to be Heinz Tomato Soup but it got too salty. Now crisps/savoury snacks.

  • Are you looking forward to the Taste Cumbria weekend, what are you most excited about?

I am not a Taste Cumbria fan, a lot of the stall holders are from outside Cumbria. Usually away so do not get excited by it.

  •  What do you think is the ‘Taste of Cumbria’

Have to say Cumberland Sausage although as a vegetarian I do not eat it.

  • And the age old question- Marmite, yes or no?

A definite YES.

There are more workshops to come, keep checking the website for upcoming events, and keep your eyes on your inbox for our fortnightly updates.

We have another Helen to introduce to you, this time it’s our new Community Projects Officer Helen Johnston with her answers…

  • What’s your strongest food related memory from childhood?

My mum was a childminder, so there were often other children around. She’d get us all baking, jam tarts, fairy cakes or icing biscuits, to keep us busy.

  • What’s your go-to comfort food, and why?

A peanut butter kitkat chunky is my sneaky go-to if I need a pick me up.

  •  Are you looking forward to the Taste Cumbria weekend, what are you most excited about?

I’m looking forward to trying some tasty street food and seeing one our shows at Kirkgate Arts, maybe Moscow Drug Club or the Comedy@Kirkgate on the Saturday.

  • What do you think is the ‘Taste of Cumbria’

I’ve got a sweet tooth, so ice cream on the beach at Allonby or a nice bit of gingerbread.

  •  And the age old question- Marmite, yes or no?

I think I’m a bit of an odd one, because I don’t mind Marmite, but I can take it or leave it!


The Heritage Group return with their monthly illustrated talks from October. Earlier in the year the group put together an exhibition to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Mitchells Auction Company, this month’s talk will be dedicated to Mitchells and their important place in the towns history.

Make sure you book for the talk, as they are very popular! This one will be on Thursday 5th October at 2pm (doors open 1 hour before so you can get a free cup of tea or coffee and settle in) you can book on our website here.

The Heritage Group are currently working behind the scenes on an exhibition for our ‘In My Shoes’ project, all about Millers Shoe Factory. Look out for more information on that soon.

This month we welcome back the annual Bernard Bradbury Memorial Lecture with a very special evening of images, spoken word and music. The event is already sold out!

Historian Angus Winchester, musician/composer David Ashworth and photographer Rupert Ashmore reunited recently to walk from the confluence of the Cocker and Derwent rivers in Cockermouth town centre up the Lorton Valley to the source of the Cocker in the fells beyond Buttermere. For one night only, the friends present the photography and original music (live and recorded) inspired by their journey, with readings by Angus Winchester from his 2019 book The Language of the Landscape – a Journey into Lake District History. They are joined in conversation, exploring their memories and reflections, by their former classmate, journalist and broadcaster Marion Bowman.

‘Landscape and Memory – the Cocker Valley revisited in words, music and pictures’ is at 7.30pm on Saturday 30th September.

Above are just a few of the beautiful images Rupert Ashmore took on his Cocker Valley journey.

We asked Gloria Edwards, from the Cockermouth Heritage Group, what she thinks about marmite…

  • What’s your strongest food related memory from childhood?

My strongest childhood food memory has to be school dinners, specifically a pudding which we called ‘fly cemetery’ – a rock-solid base embedded with shrivelled-up currants, perfectly disgusting.  Fortunately, school fish and chips on a Friday more than made up for it.

  • What’s your go-to comfort food, and why?

This would have to be buttered toast (and it has to be butter), with the option of a dollop of marmalade on the side – simple, ready in a couple of minutes, and instantly delicious.

  •  Are you looking forward to the Taste Cumbria weekend, what are you most excited about?

Very much looking forward to the Taste Cumbria weekend, and  mingling with the crowds.  It’s always fun to browse the stalls, tasting samples or catching  demonstrations.  The town always has such a buzz about it with the street-based events, and bring in lots of people from other local areas.

  • What do you think is the ‘Taste of Cumbria’

The Taste of Cumbria has to be Cumberland Sausage bought from a local butcher – so meaty and substantial, it has no comparison.  We have friends who take home large quantities to go in their freezer.

  •  And the age old question- Marmite, yes or no?

I do like the satisfying savouriness of marmite on toast – but not when there’s marmalade on offer!


Our improvements continue, this month the big job is the former bar upstairs, and redecorating the front stairs and lobby to match the much more sophisticated looking back stair. Cast your mind back to the teeny tiny bar, before we ever heard of social distancing… It was cramped, badly positioned, and a downright pain! Our poor bar volunteers had to keep the washing up as quiet as possible during a show, which is difficult if you’re hand washing for a crowd of 100! The bar is now well established downstairs, so we’ve converted the former bar space into a small meeting area, breakout room, staff chill out zone. Somewhere to make a cuppa and have a moment away from the phone ringing, or for customers to take a bit of time out from a show, should they need it.

We’re hoping this will all be finished by the end of September, watch this space!

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 or contact Emma Heys, the General Manager, on


It’s all about food this month in Cockermouth, with Taste Cumbria returning in just a week or so. We’re almost ready to harvest our produce, planted by children from Mary Platt Nursery earlier in the year. The Cooking@Kirkgate workshops are picking up pace for the autumn too, with seasonal culinary delights coming up throughout the coming months. Helen Walker‘s useful tips on reducing waste in our September workshop is followed by the return of Manon Plouffe with ‘Plant based food with locally sourced autumnal foraging’ on the 20th of September and ‘Cooking with all the trimmings’ on the 27th.

We have a lot going on, both at Kirkgate and with our Kirkgate Arts Out West venues, over the food festival weekend and beyond. Our new Arts Out West season is now bookable on the website, alongside the new films, right up to the end of the year. I’m particularly looking forward to seeing Moscow Drug Club that weekend, and there is an expressive and emotive performance coming to the area with Unbroken in October. It’s dance but not as you’d expect…

It’s a new term for our Youth Theatre, if you have any young creatives who would be interested in joining do get in touch. You can find out about their past productions and projects, as well as how to join, on our website, or contact Tish on the email address above.

It’s also a new term for Helen Johnston, as our new Community Projects Officer. Helen returned to Cockermouth recently and joined the office team at the start of the month. Already we don’t know how we managed without her! A keen interest in history and the arts makes her a perfect fit for Kirkgate Arts & Heritage, and we’re very happy to have her working with us. Helen is taking the reins of the various projects that are already underway, including Cooking@Kirkgate, funded by the Community Lottery Fund, and “In My Shoes” (funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund). We’re looking forward to announcing the Oral History events associated with that project very soon.

As mentioned above there are more changes to the team for the new term. We’re delighted that Rob Higgins has stepped up to be our Chair, he has worked with us for some time as company secretary and we have no doubt he will do a superb job at the helm. We also welcome Sue Cliff as a trustee, we know her energy and enthusiasm will be a great asset to Kirkgate Arts & Heritage. Find out more about them, and Helen Johnston, on our website, under ‘meet the team’.

Before I go, here are my answers our Food Festival Fun quiz…

  • What’s your strongest food related memory from childhood?

My grandma lived with us when I was young and as she was a cook in service before she had kids and my mum and dad both worked full time allot of the cooking was done by her. We ate very traditional but always amazing food her Tatie pot is probably my strongest memory

  • What’s your go-to comfort food, and why?

Macaroni cheese was the first savoury dish I ever learn to cook and has remined my go to since then. My kids love it to so that makes for family harmony although they do like to play my husband and I off against each other for who makes it best.

  • Are you looking forward to the Taste Cumbria weekend, what are you most excited about?

I love to see town busy and there is always such a lovely buzz around marketplace. I am also very excited that we have managed to get such good acts for that weekend with two amazing music acts with the Moscow Drug Club and the Jake Leg Jug Band as well as a Comedy night on the Saturday.

  • What do you think is the ‘Taste of Cumbria’?


  • And the age old question- Marmite, yes or no?

That’s a hard ‘No’ from me!

Emma Heys