New Leader at Cockermouth’s Kirkgate

Cockermouth’s entertainment and cultural hub, the Kirkgate, has appointed a new General Manager to take forward its revived programme of creative arts, entertainment and community activities following the closures caused by Covid-19.

Emma Heys, of Greysouthen, will take up her new post with the charity next week (September 13). Ms Heys has had a long association with Kirkgate Arts and Heritage, most recently as a trustee and volunteer.

“When we had to close because of the pandemic last year, our 25th year, Emma stepped in on an unpaid basis to temporarily manage the unprecedented situation we were facing,” said Chair of Trustees Marion Bowman.
“Then, during the closure, the Board decided that if we were to survive for the next 25 years, we needed to restructure the organisation and recruit a paid General Manager. There is still so much that is uncertain about the future but since re-opening we have been working hard to offer safe ways of socialising and a new programme of entertainment to our community.

“We were delighted that in a strong field of applicants Emma emerged as the unanimous choice to lead our revival in the next phase of Kirkgate’s development.
“With the help of the government’s furlough scheme, we had been able to weather the complete collapse in our earned income last year but this restructure means that unfortunately we are now having to make one member of our team redundant,” said Ms Bowman.

“We are sad that Chris Bridgman, our Artistic Director, will be leaving us at the end of September. Since he joined us, Chris has done a lot of exciting work bringing innovative touring and local theatre companies, and diverse music and dance acts to our stage.
“Although we are doing less live professional theatre now, we certainly aim to maintain his legacy, especially at the Arts Out West village halls in West Cumbria and through Cumbria Family Arts Network who help us bring the most fun and inventive professional shows for children to Cockermouth. We want to thank Chris for his service to our audiences and wish him well for his next move.”

Ms Heys is standing down from the Board of Trustees to take up her new post. She said: “I am very much looking forward to my new role. There is so much potential to build on what has already been achieved by the staff and volunteers. They provide a brilliant venue that musicians love to perform at. The wonderful Kirkgate Heritage Group keeps our fascinating local history alive. There’s a fantastic film programme every week and a steady calendar of community events such as the upcoming annual Beer Festival.

“Cockermouth is very fortunate to have an entertainment hub for all the community to enjoy which is so friendly and down to earth. It adds such a lot to local life. My own daughter attends the Kirkgate Youth Theatre and I’m thrilled I’ve been able to go from starting as a volunteer when my children were little to becoming the General Manager.”