Our list of some of the best-looking arts and cultural events in Cumbria this year. This is what we have pencilled in the diaries so far, check back for updates and keep up-to-date with what’s happening for Outdoor Art & Adventure, Museums & Galleries, Festivals & Performance and Family Fun whatever the weather.
Here are our picks
Diaries at the ready for ongoing outstanding culture in the beautiful Lake District! With its vibrant literary legacy and the UK’s first forest for sculpture, this celebrated cultural landscape provides an abundance of inspiration and exploration throughout the year.
If you fancy more Cumbrian cultural delights, this season promises an impressive line-up of unmissable art, theatre and festivals!
From celebrations of classic literature and classical music to international comic art creativity and world-class contemporary art – there’s some Lakes Culture for everyone!
RUNNING ACROSS 2019…
// CELEBRATING JOHN RUSKIN 200th ANNIVERSARY
John Ruskin (1819 – 1900), circa 1840. An engraving after G Richmond.
John Ruskin (1819-1900) was a writer, artist and philanthropist. As an author he commanded international respect, attracting praise from figures as varied as Tolstoy, George Eliot, Proust and Gandhi. He championed many of the tenets of the welfare state, and inspired the founders of the National Health Service, the formation of Public Libraries, the National Trust and many other cornerstones of civil society in the last one hundred years. His influence reached abroad in such areas as women’s education, the minimum wage, child labour, and environmental protection and has served both as a restraining influence on unbridled capitalism and a moral conscience for the nations of the world
He wrote on many things: art and architecture, nature and craftsmanship, literature and religion, political economy and social justice —a dizzying variety of subjects. He also worked tirelessly for a better society; the depth and range of his thinking, his often-fierce critique of industrial society and its impact on both people and their environment, and his passionate advocacy of a sustainable relationship between people, craft and nature, remain as pertinent today as they were in his own lifetime.
Ruskin made his home at Brantwood, overlooking Coniston, he made his home here for the last 28 years of his life. The Ruskin Museumwas established in the heart of Coniston village soon after his death. Both now offers a fascinating insight into the world of John Ruskin.
There will be exhibitions throughout the year at Brantwood, The Ruskin Museum and Abbot Hall Art Gallery.
// INCANDESCENCE: TURNER IN VENICE, Brantwood
Until 4 August 2019
This exhibition marks the first ever public exhibition at Brantwood devoted to Turner. It showcases Turner’s magnificent Venice: the Piazetta with the Ceremony of the Doge Marrying the Sea, together with a suite of watercolours from Turner’s visit in 1840 which chart the passage of light across the hours of a single day.
In Venice Turner expressed the many elements of his artistic inspiration in the all-consuming energy of light. History, society, architecture, boats, sea and sky –all melt together in a timeless luminescence. Turner’s Venice became Ruskin’s Venice and Turner became one of the great shaping forces of Ruskin’s life.
// COMMON CAUSE, Brantwood, Coniston
15 May – 5 August 2019
Japanese pots from the display at Common Cause: John Ruskin, Japan and the craft tradition
Alongside ‘Incandescence’, a display of pots from the Mingei (folk crafts) tradition and its Ruskin connections featuring work by Ogata Kenzan, Shoji Hamada, Bernard Leech, Tomoo Hamada, Edward Hughes and Martin Miles Moore, with calligraphy by Mitsuko Takahashi.
Find out more here.
// RUSKIN, TURNER & THE STORM CLOUD, Abbot Hall Art Gallery
See Ruskin masterpieces in Cumbria: his home and inspiration
2 July – 5 October 2019
The exhibition will include more than 100 works and stretch across five rooms. It is one of the biggest exhibitions in the UK during the 200th anniversary of John Ruskin’s birth (8 February 1819).
Ruskin, Turner & the Storm Cloud will be the first in-depth examination of the relationship between both men, their work, and the impact Ruskin had in highlighting climate change.
// RUUP by Birgit Õigus, Grizedale Forest, Hawkshead, Sat Nav Postcode: LA22 0QJ
RUUP by Birgit Õigus in Grizedale Forest (photograph by Amelia Harvey)
To celebrate Grizedale Forest’s 50th Anniversary of arts and creativity in the forest, the Forestry Commission and Lakes Alive Festival have co-commissioned RUUP by Estonian artist Birgit Õigus. Located on the Carron Crag Trail, one of 8 walking trails, in this impressively scenic woodland landscape, RUUP is derived from the Estonian word Ruupor which translates as megaphone. The sculptures respond to the Lake District location creating structures intended to encourage people to pause and listen to the sounds of the forest, to act as shelters for walkers and also become mini stages for live performances.
Set in the heart of the Lake District National Park – a UNESCO world heritage site – Grizedale Forest was the first place in the UK to develop art in the landscape and is ‘the UK’s first forest for sculpture’. You can enjoy RUUP and over 50 other artworks in the almost 25 km² of woodland throughout the year at Grizedale Forest.
Find out more here
// 2019: The Wordsworth Trust
Until December 2019
2019 will be one of the most exciting years in the Trust’s history, as they redevelop the Town End site as part of their Heritage Lottery Funded project Reimagining Wordsworth. Throughout 2019 and early 2020, they will be opening a new café and learning centre, opening up previously unused outdoor spaces, expanding and modernising the museum, and carrying out careful restoration in Dove Cottage, bringing it even closer to the home William and Dorothy would have known.
As a result of this project, there will be some changes as to what visitors are able to do in 2019. As with any kind of building work, the timings and exact details of the work and therefore what will be open may change.
From 1 March onwards, when Dove Cottage is closed, there will be a special alternative experience held in our library, the Discover Wordsworth talk. These hour-long sessions will include a film of Dove Cottage narrated by one of our experienced guides, plus time to view the library with objects and manuscripts on display. They will run every hour, on the half hour, every day of the week.
The best thing to do is to check their website or call ahead before you visit to find out the most up-to-date information.
// CULTURES COLLIDE, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle
Until Sun 26 Jan 2020
Cultures Collide exhibition
Exploring links between Tullie House’s Japanese and Cumbrian collections, Prism Arts Studio Arts have reimagined the George Howard gallery in Old Tullie House creating a collaborative exhibition whilst some of Tullie House’s Pre-Raphaelites are on tour in Japan.
This exhibition displays collections originating from both countries side by side, investigating landscape, industry, tokonama, home life and even some cats. The display includes works by Sheila Fell, Utagawa Hiroshige, Thomas Bushby, Katsushika Hokusai and Percy Kelly. Some have never, or infrequently, been exhibited at Tullie House. Standard admission charges apply.
More information here.
// A DESIGN LINEAGE: THE RUSLAND MOVEMENT, Blackwell, Arts & Crafts House, Windermere
Until 9 June 2019
Stunning contemporary furniture inspired by the Arts & Crafts Movement and Blackwell itself.
From workshops in Greenodd on the edge of the Lake District, The Rusland Movement’s creations stand the test of time, becoming heirlooms of the future. Its talented team of craftspeople draw inspiration from their Cumbrian surroundings to create pieces inspired by nature.
Select pieces on display throughout Blackwell include an elegant cocktail cabinet, sofa and chair, desk, sideboard, bedside table, mirror and drawer unit.
Since it opened in 2001, Blackwell has built up a reputation of displaying contemporary work by craftspeople who have been inspired by Blackwell’s Arts & Crafts architecture and design.
The team of nine dedicated craftsmen and women at The Rusland Movement combine traditional techniques and innovative thinking to create flawless pieces that blend the design aesthetic synonymous with the Arts & Crafts Movement with contemporary style.
Visitors to Blackwell can explore how pieces of furniture are sketched, realised in 3D models and crafted in the Cumbrian studio just 20 minutes from Blackwell. They can also meet the team and gain an insight into The Rusland Movement’s creative process in Monthly Meet the Maker events. There is also a programme of lectures and talks taking place in Blackwell’s stunning Main Hall.
Find out more here
// ARTISTS ROOMS: ALEX KATZ, Tullie House Art Gallery
Until 16 June 2019
Discover this must-see exhibition of works from Alex Katz (born 1927), a highly recognisable and admired artist who has inspired generations of artists and influenced advertising and popular culture since coming to public attention in 1950s New York.
With their bright and bold palette, Katz’s paintings present a modern American take on the classical themes of portraiture, landscape and flowers. His immediately recognisable style draws on American and European painting traditions and is influenced by the work of Matisse and Monet. At the same time, the crisp stylised surfaces of the paintings have an affinity with pop art.
This must-see exhibition features works selected from the ARTIST ROOMS collection, providing viewers with the opportunity to see Katz’s trademark portraits and some lesser known, large scale landscapes, here in Carlisle for the first time.
Admission charges apply. www.tulliehouse.co.uk/events/artist-rooms-alex-katz
// REFUGE: THE ART OF BELONGING, Abbot Hall Art Gallery, Kendal
Until 29 June 2019
Martin Bloch, Scorched Trees, 1943
The exhibition is part of Insiders/Outsiders – a nationwide arts festival taking place throughout 2019 to celebrate refugees from Nazi Europe and their contribution to British culture. The show examines displacement within artists’ work and the adoption of new landscapes. Itfeatures works from Lakeland Arts’ collection including Kurt Schwitters, Hilde Goldschmidt, Hans Coper, Lucie Rie, Lucian Freud, Frank Auerbach and Martin Bloch. The selected works focus on the personal experiences of the artists, offering poignant, emotive and, sometimes, challenging stories of migration, home and belonging.
This exhibition particularly focuses on the work of two artists who came to the Lake District during the Second World War: Hilde Goldschmidt (1897-1980), a successful Expressionist artist, and Kurt Schwitters (1887-1948) who is widely recognised as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
Considered by many to be the first multimedia artist, working in paint, collage, poetry and installations, Schwitters was seen by the Nazis to be a ‘degenerate’ artist. Born in Hannover, Schwitters developed his own style of abstract art which he called Merz. Like most German artists, Schwitters was driven out of Germany by the Nazis, and fled to Ambleside, Cumbria.
The exhibition will also include works by Josef Herman and Oskar Kokoschka and will feature a selection of loans from both public and private collections around the UK. French-German artist Jean ‘Hans’ Arp (1886-1966) will also be included. Although Arp fled to Switzerland, he had a resounding effect on British Surrealist art and communicated regularly with his friend Schwitters while he lived in Cumbria.
Find out more here
// FLUGBLÄTTER, Kendal
A project by Birgit Jensen, Cross Lane Projects, Kendal
Until 18 May 2019
Flugblätter, which translates as ‘flyers’ or ‘flying letters’, sees 130 artists share their artistic responses to globalisation in an innovative and thought-provoking exhibition.
To create the show, artist Birgit Jensen approached artists she knew from around the world, inviting them to contribute an image and accompanying text by email – each contribution reflects a different perspective on the transformations of our society in recent years – whether philosophical, social, political, economical or ecological – including reflections on the changes the artists have experienced locally in the 41 different countries in which they live.
// WHERE IS PETER RABBIT WITH GRIFF RHYS JONES, Bowness
Until 1 September, no shows on Fridays
Hop onto your seats and immerse yourself in the magical world of Beatrix Potter. Watch with delight as your favourite stories and most beloved characters are brought to life in this theatrical spectacular, with beautifully handcrafted puppets, enchanting original songs and a spoonful of magic. Look out for the ferocious Mr. McGregor, reach heady heights with Jemima Puddle-Duck, do the laundry with Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and of course, fall in love with the naughty Peter Rabbit.
More information and booking here.
// FREE RANGE COMEDY FESTIVAL, Brewery Arts Centre, Kendal
16 – 19 May 2019
Justin Moorhouse: Northern Joker on 18 May.
When the UK’s top touring comics and shows hit Kendal for a week of laughter and madness at the Freerange Comedy Festival, you’re guaranteed a trip to remember. Each year, comedy stand up takes over the Brewery Arts Centre for several days of performances and events.
// SHINRIN-YOKU at Whinlatter Forest
Saturday 18 and Saturday 25 May 9:30am to 12:00pm
Forest bathing or Shinrin-Yoku is a natural wellbeing therapy originating from Japan. Gentle walking and mindfulness practice, we will open up all our senses to take in the forest atmosphere, whilst breathing in healing essential oils emitting from the trees. With gentle walking enjoy a relaxing and insightful journey, tuning in to nature and our inner selves, culminating with a traditional tea ceremony and reflection on our experience. Forest bathing has been scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, lower blood pressure and improve concentration and memory. Moderate level of fitness required.
// REIMAGINING WORDSWORTH ON TOUR 2019, various locations
May – August
Curators from Wordsworth Trust
This year Wordsworth is on the road. From May to August the team from Wordsworth Trust will be out and about running pop-up sessions in Cumbria, sharing their love of Wordsworth and exploring some exciting projects that they’d like your knowledge and help with.
These free pop-up sessions introduce William Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy, and their life at Dove Cottage in Grasmere, where they lived from 1799-1808. You will get to know this remarkable family through exploring reproductions of their letters, notebooks and journals, as well as finding out how some of the world’s best loved writing came to be. They’ll also bring along one or two original items from the collection to give a sense of how they handle and use museum artefacts to bring stories to life. You don’t have to be a poetry buff to enjoy these sessions.
21 May | 7.00-9.00pm | Whitehaven Archive Centre
25 May | 11.00am-12.00pm | Workington Library
29 May | 2.00-3.00pm | Ambleside Library
12 June | 10.00-11.00am | Ulverston Library
18 June | 2.00-3.00pm | Seaton Library
3 July | 2.00-3.00pm | Cockermouth Library
12 July | 11.00am-12.00pm | Culterham Hall
19 July | 1.30-2.30pm | Wigton Library
3 August | 11.00am-12.00pm | Maryport Library
Find out more here.
// DANIEL COOPER, Brantwood, Coniston
8 June – 23 July 2019
Super Scintillator by Daniel Cooper.
Dan Cooper’s relationship with Brantwood began in 2008 when he worked in the house and gallery. During his time walking around Brantwood and east of the lake, Cooper continued his own personal artistic practice by painting and drawing his observations of light, cloud and fell. Using charcoal burnt on the Brantwood Estate and mixed media, Cooper found himself immersed in the ever changing weather and skies, creating work that he would quote today as being the result of “a highly emotional connection to place”. Dan Cooper was Brantwood Artist in Residence in 2018. The exhibition is in the Severn Studio.
More information here.
// MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING, Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House
This amazing spectacle takes place outside on Friday 28 June at 7pm.
A summer production at Blackwell that’s not to be missed. Five actors with all manner of musical instruments present an inventive take on Shakespeare’s Much A Do About Nothing. This is a rip-roaring comedy of quarrels, deceptions and a frustratingly stupid man called Dogberry…
Brought to Blackwell by the acclaimed Three Inch Fools – who have performed at over 100 different venues, to almost 35,000 people. With a reputation for staging innovative and vibrant productions in all kinds of grand locations, Three Inch Fools bring their talents to Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House. Blackwell will be open for picnics from 6pm. Please bring your own seating (camping chairs and blankets) and dress for the weather.
Tickets are priced: Adults £16, under-18 £8, family (two adults and two children £40)/ Under 10s Free. Tickets here.
// CABARET MECHANICAL THEATRE presents
FANTASTIC FAIRGROUND FACTORY, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Carlisle
Saturday 29 June – Sunday 6 October 2019
A touring exhibition from Cabaret Mechanical Theatre.
Discover the secrets of the fairground with exhibits designed to baffle, bemuse and bewilder.
The Fantastic Fairground Factory exhibition allows visitors to peek behind the scenes at the mechanical marvels, games, automata and hands on activities of the funfair.
Experience all the fun of the fair (and the science behind it!) with marble runs, zoetrope, optical illusions, buzzwire races and highly humorous automata in a magical vibrant setting for all ages to enjoy.
More information here.
// AUTO – DESTRUCT, Kendal
Cross Lane Projects, Kendal
Exhibition: 29 June – 31 August 2019 (Gallery open: Wednesday – Saturday, 12 – 6pm)
Curated by Cedric Christie, Pascal Rousson & Stacie McCormick, with works by: Steve Carr, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Cedric Christie, Jean Luc Dubin, Lee Holden, Graeme Miller, Simon Liddiment, Stacie McCormick, Elena Montesinos, Owen Oppenheimer, Ben Philpott, Jay Price, Pascal Rousson, Rebecca Scott, Gavin Turk and Tisna Westerhof.
Auto-Destruct, a group exhibition of works relating to and reflecting upon the nature of our aspirational technological inventions and the destructive nature they become. Many of the works regard the automobile as the device that was seen as liberation, independence a revolution for mankind, that has in fact led to wars, contributed to climate change and is responsible for over 3000 deaths a day. The ubiquitous vehicle is not scrutinised for its monstrous reality and current car branding still sells a lifestyle as a symbol of wealth & glamour and independence.
The exhibitions title is inspired by the work of Gustav Metzger (1926, Nuremberg – 2017, London). Metzger’s career was about alerting us to the risks in our deluded pursuit of technological progress, and of humans being eclipsed by their machine selves. Auto-destructive art was inherently political; also carrying anti-capitalist and anticonsumerist messages. The exhibition examines themes of our fascination and capacity to be seduced by world changing inventions and technologies that may or may not lead to improvements.
// ROOTS, Farfield Mill, Sedbergh
10 July – 28 August 2019
Ceramics by Green Door artist John Davenport
A major exhibition from the region’s premier artists collective which will see Green Door members take over the Howgill and Dover galleries at Farfield Mill with a range of 2D and 3D work.
More information here.
// LAKES ALIVE, Kendal and surrounding hills
This year, throughout Kendal town centre and the surrounding hills there will be a vibrant programme of contemporary work which audiences can watch, take part in or actively help to create. We have illuminations, digital delights, intimate performances and unusual happenings throughout the weekend.
Sign up to receive the newsletter at http://lakesalive.co.uk
// Art Trail, various venues
28 and 29 September 2019
Work by Liz Ford Slater
The weekend of 28 and 29 September sees Green Door artists taking part in the much anticipated Art Trail in venues across South Cumbria and North Lancashire. The depth and breadth of members’ work will be on display including ceramics, drawing, glass, mixed media, painting. photography, printmaking, textiles and wood, as well as smaller items such as jewellery and greetings cards.
Some artists will be giving demonstrations and all of them are looking forward to talking about their work and how they create it. All Trail venues are open on Saturday 28 and Sunday 29 September and a number are also opening on Friday 27 September, especially in the evening, so everyone can get a head start on their Trail visiting. Look out for timings in the catalogue as you plan your route.
Find out more here.
// SHOWS AT THE OLD LAUNDRY THEATRE, Bowness
13 September, 7.30pm – The Turn of the Screw (By Box Tale Soup)
Award-winning Box Tale Soup present a new adaptation of Henry James’ disturbing story, featuring puppetry and a haunting original soundtrack. Edinburgh Fringe 2018 sell-out show. At an isolated estate, a young governess arrives. Before long she fears there is something darker in the depths of Bly House, and battles to save the children from the mysterious figures who seek to corrupt them.
18 September, 7.30pm – Shackleton’s Carpenter
Shackleton’s Carpenter Harry McNish, was the only man who challenged The Boss on the Antarctic ice floes. Shackleton’s Endurance sank in Antarctica, leaving the 28 strong crew stranded. McNish, brilliant carpenter and shipwright, defied Shackleton, but his skills played an absolutely vital role in saving the entire crew. For all his bravery and ingenuity, McNish was one of the very few who were never awarded the Polar Medal. Now, alone and destitute, one still night on the dockside, he challenges him one last time. How did he antagonise the hero of Antarctica? How does he come to terms with it?
20 September, 7.30pm – Pamela’s Palace
In the glittery underworld of combs, curlers and hormonal imbalance, time is running out! Pamela is the hard won queen of a buzzing beauty salon, but behind the glitz and the glamour, the Salon of the Year competition threatens to bring the walls of her suburban palace crumbling down. Lovesick Tiffany’s body clock is ticking, bashful Bronwyn ‘needs to talk’, and attention-seeking Pamela has age-related problems from her head down to her camel-toe.
21 September, 7.30pm – Orlando
Orlando: Who is she? Who is he? Who are we? Find out in the life-affirming, comedic tale of an immortal poet, whose gender cannot be pinned down, whose spirit cannot be caged, and whose irreverent, romantic adventures across British history – from the 1500s to the present day – provide a magic-realist exploration of human identity; personal, sexual and national.
More information and booking here.
// OLD LAUNDRY THEATRE, Bowness
4 October – 26 October – Tell me on a Sunday
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Don Black’s classic Tell Me on a Sunday is a one-woman show that charts the romantic misadventures of a young English girl in New York in the heady days of the 1980s. Brimming with optimism, she seeks success and love. As she weaves her way through the maze of the city and her own anxieties and heartaches she begins to wonder whether she’s been looking for love in all the wrong places.
More information and booking here.
//THE LAKES INTERNATIONAL COMIC ART FESTIVAL, various venues Kendal
11 – 13 October 2019
The family-friendly Lakes International Comic Art Festival returns for its seventh year. Taking over the scenic town of Kendal, on the edge of the Lake District, for a weekend of wonderful events, activities and workshops.
The world of comic art is a diverse and spectacular place, bursting with creations that transport us to other dimensions and stories that explore the world and our place within it. With nearly 70 comic creators, from 14 countries, this year’s festival promises another epic line-up of super heroes, future worlds, fantastical creatures, zombies, crime fighters, politics, satire, documentary, comedy, manga and much more.
Find out more and book your festival pass here.
// EXHIBITIONS at Sizergh Castle, Kendal
Until 27 October 2019, Tuesday – Sunday, 12-3.30pm
The Sizergh Silk Road: from Goa to Antwep
Follow the threads of Sizergh’s textile history from the Anthony and Cleopatra Flemish tapestries, to the newly rediscovered bedspread of James II in the exhibition new for 2019.
Cecilia’s Story: A Life in Letters
Uncover the story of Sizergh’s 18th century lady of the house, Cecilia Strickland, as her experiences of love, loss and hope are brought to life inspired by her surviving letters.
// WINTER EXHIBITION Upfront Gallery, Unthank
5 November 2019 – 12 January 2020
The Upfront Gallery are hosting a Winter Exhibition from popular, local art co-operative Green Door; a new group exhibition of exciting and eclectic art.
work from Elizabeth Shorrock
More information here.